Homeless 2 Home (H2H)
Housing SA, Department for Families and Social Inclusion

The Problem

In December 2008, the Federal Government released ‘The Road Home – The White Paper on Homelessness’. It is a policy position paper, outlining the framework of the Federal Government’s response to homelessness in Australia. As a result South Australia entered a federally funded National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) with the Commonwealth Government, as did the other Australian states and territories.

Each jurisdiction was given a sum of money to improve their homelessness service sector – each approach was a Federally approved, State decided strategy. The aim of this partnership is to facilitate significant reform that will improve our responses to reducing homelessness and attaining the targets and outcomes of the NPAH, the White Paper and the State Strategic Plan.

Prior to the implementation of this policy, homeless people and those at risk of homelessness needed to ensure that the service they accessed was suitable for them. In instances when someone approached a service that did not cater to their needs they would be referred to an appropriate service elsewhere. This practice required clients to repeat their story at each service and caused delays in service provision. For example, a woman experiencing domestic violence who approached a youth service would be turned away and redirected to a specialist domestic violence service. In crisis she may not have been able to follow up with the right agency for her immediate needs and become disengaged from the sector.

Similarly, service delivery was not consistent across all agencies. There is a strong evidence base that recommends case management as the most effective means to support people who are homeless or at risk to access and maintain long term secure housing. Prior to the reform, there was a significant variation in the quality of services delivered across services. A client may have received a low-level information and advocacy response at one service and a high quality intensive case management response at another. Furthermore, there was little integration of integrated practice across the sector and collaboration by homelessness services to work together towards outcomes for clients.

The reform of the sector also had implications for the equitable allocation of funding and resources across the State. Previously funding to agencies had been relatively ad hoc and the allocation of funding was not planned with concern for equity in the distribution of services across the state.
Further considerations in the reform process were the resources required within homelessness services to address the requirement to report periodic homelessness data to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). This requirement was time consuming and detracted from the time agencies were able to make available to clients.

The result of these considerations was the development of Homeless2Home (H2H); a web based client information and case management system providing a secure, centralised client repository to assist non-government organisations in providing quality case management support services to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in South Australia.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
H2H facilitates integrated service delivery and referrals across the sector, enabling each agency to act as a gateway to access services under the ‘no wrong door’ policy. There are 41 Government and Non-Government organisations delivering 75 programs through 97 service outlets state-wide. Through daily use, State Government can now actively monitor programs to ensure funding and resources are apportioned to those most in need. The system offers common intake, assessment and case management processes; clients only need to tell their story once and agencies can better tailor service responses. This removes the problem of repetition and duplication and improves the quality and consistency of service responses across the sector.

H2H is the first integrated homeless system where all client data is centralised, enabling the client to engage with the whole sector as they choose. Although case management software does exist, a review of products in the marketplace showed they could not provide the flexibility that is required when supporting homeless clients and the diverse pathways that their lives can take. To obtain homeless services a person does not need to meet any eligibility criteria or prove who they are in order to receive help. This not only proved to be an unusual concept for off the shelf packages, even with customised configuration, but went against the culture of current SA government on-line systems.

As H2H is web based, implementation was low cost. The only cost to agencies was time spent in training/learning the system, allowing agencies to prioritise using funds supporting clients.

Processes were standardised during the requirements phase and implemented prior to the H2H application deployment.

H2H enables flexibility of service delivery. Being client centric, better outcomes are provided for homeless people. Although the reform standardised the process, there is no standard path for homeless clients. Each person’s journey is unique and the system needed to be able to cope with that. H2H records as much information as possible. This illustrates how people engage with the homelessness sector by showing what service was used, where it was provided and the reason why they have disengaged (when applicable). This background history assists subsequent agencies if the person comes back into the sector. As such the system does not have many mandatory requirements and has multiple paths that can be followed and changed at any time.

The reform supported that client-centric, multi-agency collaborative approach by implementing an integrated online case management system that also respected the need for sensitivity and potential danger of exposing information for vulnerable clients, for example children and victims of domestic violence.

H2H reports homelessness data to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on behalf of all agencies, and it reports more frequently, with more than double the amount of information as previously. Reporting is now daily and is not a separate activity. Thus reporting across the sector is consistent and evidence based and improves service delivery as agencies spend less time on reporting and administration tasks and more time with clients.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
H2H is a joint Housing SA initiative from the Homelessness Strategy Directorate in partnership with Housing ICT. Both the Homelessness Strategy Directorate and Housing ICT are divisions within Housing SA.

Housing SA is part of the South Australian Government’s Department for Communities and Social Inclusion. At the time of implementation the Minister was the Hon Jennifer Rankine. The current Minister is the Hon Ian Hunter.

Design, development and implementation were undertaken in partnership between Homelessness Strategy and Housing ICT, and in consultation with homelessness agencies, the large majority of whom are non-Government Organisations.

Stakeholders, other than the clients who are the prime focus, include NGO’s across South Australia, Families SA, Housing SA and SA Health as major users of the H2H system. Families SA lies within the Department for Education and Child Development And SA Health lies within the Department of Health and Ageing.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the national agency for health and welfare statistics and information, is a key reporting agency.

The Housing Leadership Group (HLG), comprising all Housing SA Directors, is a key part of the H2H governance structure, providing financial management and control and reporting regimes. HLG are accountable to the South Australian Housing Trust (SAHT) Board, the statutory authority that assists people to secure and maintain affordable and appropriate housing.

The Australian Government’s Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is a key source of funding. SA Cabinet approved the budget although the funding was provided Federally.

A specially formed SHS Sector Reference Group is part of the ongoing H2H review processes. The purpose of the reviews is to validate outstanding requirements and provide input for future enhancements. It is anticipated that these will be implemented by the end of 2012 and provide a roadmap for future development of H2H for the following year.

H2H recognises and reinforces one of its guiding principles in that a true partnership built on trust and respect between the owners of the system, the users and the clients they support, can have substantial outcomes with multiple benefits for its various stakeholders. In a recent Commonwealth Government publication, data provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported South Australia as having the lowest rate of re-entry into the SHS Sector, in comparison to all other jurisdictions. This is a strong indicator of the success of the SA reform policy, and indicates people who receive support in the South Australian SHS Sector are more likely than in other jurisdictions to be successfully supported to end their experience or risk of homelessness.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
A macro-objective was to help the Government of South Australia meet three national targets to reduce homelessness by reducing the number of South Australians experiencing homelessness; reducing the number of Aboriginal South Australians experiencing homelessness, and reducing the number of South Australians sleeping rough.

A further objective, under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, was to provide “better connected services” by establishing a case management and client management system. Practical objectives of that system were the capacity to provide a client register with standardised case management tools and processes, common intake and assessment tools, common referral tools and pathways, and improved data collection and reporting capability.

A key objective was to make the system available to NGO agencies, therefore setting it apart from other case management systems currently used. This new system linked SHS services and improved integrated service delivery, ensuring a smoother pathway for clients accessing the homelessness service system and providing more robust data collection around homelessness and the risk of homelessness. Previously there was no such coordination or connection in the service sector and no government based systems available to NGOs.

The Housing Leadership Group approved the initiation of this project and a steering group was established to oversee the three months of requirements gathering which was the initial phase of this project.

The development, design and implementation were a project within the Housing ICT program. Part of Housing ICT’s strategy is to store and manage large amounts of data for all systems and for all clients using Housing SA services information and is not limited to homelessness data. H2H now resides as an embedded part of the Housing ICT strategic plan embracing future technological advancements, thus taking the pressure off agencies to keep up with current technologies and storage methods.

An objective of the implementation phase was to have as seamless a transition as possible from pre-existing agency systems or paper based methods to H2H. The strategy of migrating client data and providing prior training allowed agencies to log on and start supporting clients via H2H straightaway.
In addition to the objective of user uptake from day one, the capture and reporting of data to the AIHW was a mandatory requirement which has been successfully achieved by building data capture and reporting processes into the system rather than having them as an additional process. The evidence of this is that South Australia as a jurisdiction, has successfully reported homeless data to the Federal Government for 100% of agencies as opposed to approximately 80% submission rate for other jurisdictions.

A further objective for the project was to prepare to meet the eventual requirement for a connected response across all of Housing SA, including social and community housing, in providing new housing opportunities to high need clients. H2H helps to meet this objective by providing a scalable cross-agency case management platform enabling different agencies to identify common, high-need clients.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The H2H project was broken down into key development and implementation steps and spanned 727 days in total from June 2009 until March 2012.

The Cabinet process regarding the National Partnership took eight days in June 2009. An agreement was reached and the H2H initiative commenced at the end of that month.

The initiation phase spanned a little over nine months from June 2009 during which project governance was established with tracking and reporting structures created. Stakeholders from a cross section of agencies were consulted over a period of three months from July to September 2009. An Outline Business Case, along with the requirement specifications and high-level solution options, were delivered in this phase.

In phase two, the project team was formed comprising a variety of policy, strategy and training resources from the Homelessness Strategy Division and resources from the Information Communication Technology team at Housing SA.

In November 2009 the Housing Leadership Group approved a Solution Options paper which included a risk analysis, project delivery plan, funding options and ways to measure success. Governance plans were also developed including those of Project Management, Change Management, Communication, Quality Management and Risks, and Issues Management.

An Outline Project Management Plan was written outlining the project overview and structure, work schedules, organization and people, dependencies, risks and issues management, quality planning, financial and change management, and project management controls.

The Business Case was also developed in December 2009 that described the initiative, outlined strategic context and alignment, the relationship to other projects, market research, options identification and analysis, financial considerations, economic evaluation of all options, risk analysis, project delivery plan for preferred option, timetable, project management structure, change management, measuring success and assumptions made. The decision to proceed with the project was made Wednesday 20 January 2010.

The solution phase was from December 2009 until June 2011. In this third phase the Project Management Plan was finalised. Detailed requirements were gathered and finalised in February 2010. The approved solution was designed, developed and built from April 2010 to June 2011. The system testing was executed from May 2010 to April 2011 and user acceptance testing was supported from January to April 2011.

Training documentation and materials were developed from March to April 2011.
The Deployment Plan was developed.

Phase four saw the Implementation Plan developed and approved in June 2011 and training to users was provided from this date and is ongoing. Support documentation for the system was prepared.

A client (data) migration plan was developed in June 2011.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
A significant obstacle was that the various homeless sector agencies were not users of government systems to record client information. Further, such cooperative system sharing was not common practice between Government and Non-Government entities.

Previously the role of the State government was more of a regulatory nature, for example policy and legislative development, contract management, processing of funding applications and performance monitoring. However, the process of system implementation, starting with the requirements gathering phase, opened the door to a more collaborative and proactive approach to the way agencies support their clients. This phase involved numerous visits to metropolitan and regional areas and consultation meetings with stakeholder groups where the vital trust and relationship building started. Agencies felt they were being listened to and this consultative and collaborative approach resulted in comprehensive and focused requirements.

The process of overcoming the obstacle was more than simply a problem-solving exercise. The process not only established the cooperative environment that was instrumental to the success of the project, but also H2H inspired and provided the means for the sector to evolve from individual agency based models to a singular client centric model, with embedded management information.

Through agencies’ daily use of H2H, the picture of a client’s pathway will develop showing their movement in, through and/or out of the homelessness sector. This means that the State Government can now actively review client interactions with the Sector, their outcomes and individual agency performance. Reporting is now based on fact rather than opinion. Transparent and objective reporting enables a more client focused service response targeting needs and location with the overall aim of providing better outcomes for clients.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Funding for the project was provided by the Australian Government. The South Australian Cabinet approved the budget. Expenditure up to implementation phase was approximately $AUD2 million. The Housing Leadership Group (HLG) in Housing SA provided financial management and control and reporting regimes.

Human resources used for the initiative comprised two teams, one from the Homelessness Strategy Directorate and one from Housing ICT.

Housing ICT provided a team of 12 full time and an additional 6 part time staff from September 2009 until launch date 1 July 2011. These team members had skills sets that included project management, business analysis, systems architecture, user development, systems development and systems testing.

The Homelessness Strategy Directorate comprised 4 full time staff from September 2009 until the launch date of 1 July 2011. These team members engaged in intensive consultation with the homelessness sector to understand their requirements of a web based case management system and partnered with ICT in managing the project, providing business solutions, testing the system and rolling out training to 800 staff across the Homelessness Sector.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The development, design and implementation of H2H were a project within the Housing ICT program. In terms of sustainability, the benefit of developing H2H within Housing ICT is that it has access to the resources required to grow with the requirements both technically and functionally. H2H now resides as an embedded part of the Housing ICT strategic plan embracing future technological advancements including development, maintainability and accessibility. This has taken the pressure off Agencies needing to keep up with current technologies and storage methods.
The strategy also encompasses storing and managing large amounts of data for all systems. Thus this benefit transfers to all Clients using Housing SA services information and is not limited to Homelessness data.

Other states have expressed an interest in purchasing H2H. This interest is strengthened because the AIHW has encouraged the H2H model as it is client centric; therefore, it provides better outcomes for homeless people.

Also in terms of sustainability, the H2H process shapes the way homeless data will be collected and reported in the future. South Australia is the only state government that provides AIHW reporting on behalf of the agencies. The intention is that reporting now results from the use of the system on a daily basis and is not separate activity. This means that reporting across the sector is consistent and evidence based. Further, this improves service delivery for the community as agencies spend less time reporting and on administrative tasks and more time with the clients.

Further, in terms of transferability, the initial targets for this system were Government funded agencies assisting those who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness. However the foundation has been laid for access by non-funded agencies and extension of the client base beyond the homeless to those who could benefit from a case management framework.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
H2H has been successfully implemented across South Australia and is a ‘showcase’ example of an integrated web-based case management and client information system. H2H allows agencies to communicate via the system (i.e. online referrals) and share consented information. H2H is performing well in promoting consistent, integrated case management practice across the sector and as a data collection tool to report on the national minimum data set for homelessness.

A further impact extends beyond the initial targets (i.e. government funded agencies assisting those who are homeless or at risk) by laying the foundation for access by non funded agencies and extension of the client base beyond the homeless to those who could benefit from a case management framework.

An important lesson was how to meet the challenge of fulfilling all user requirements. Requirements were prioritised to ensure all mandatory, high and medium priorities were targeted within the initial release. Expectations were constantly managed within the sector to ensure they received a system that would be invested in over time with ongoing enhancements to improve the user experience.

The ability to deliver all requirements was challenged by time constraints from the Commonwealth-imposed deadline to ensure the system was capturing federally required data. An important lesson was that as part of the relationship built with the sector, the prioritisation of requirements for initial implementation had to proceed with an understanding between all parties that this was an evolving system and future releases were scheduled that would progressively address outstanding requirements.

A significant lesson was how to address the major requirement of ensuring client confidentiality and security. The ability to protect clients, some of whose lives could be in danger, was paramount. If the system solution could not do this, then it would not have been accepted by the sector.

This meant approaching security from different angles, one being how people access the system and, once accessed, how they saw the information, not only within their agencies but within other non-related agencies.

The outcome is that access to H2H is via a secure, three layer portal managed by the Department of Justice. The three layers are Statenet, the Justice web-vault and H2H log in security, the most secure method in Australia.

A useful lesson emerged from the need to make the system user-friendly and intuitive. This was addressed by implementing multi-functional behaviours on the Home Page to provide an overview based on the individual user’s role and current assignments. As a result, the page provides a consolidated view of the user’s work load in addition to clients awaiting case management support and quick links to access further details. This empowers users to manage their day to day work easily and efficiently.

Lessons from the implementation of H2H also impacted work practices. For example, the move to electronic referrals rather than phoning and faxing and automatic transfer of client data has resulted in increased work productivity. Case files are secure with flexibility of being provided to those who have consent. Previously this required forms to be completed manually and faxed.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Housing SA, Department for Families and Social Inclusion
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Megan Short
Title:   Quality & Compliance, Housing ICT  
Telephone/ Fax:   +61 (8) 8415 4163
Institution's / Project's Website:   www.sa.gov.au/h2h
E-mail:   megan.short@sa.gov.au  
Postal Code:   5001 DX 550
City:   Adelaide
State/Province:   South Australia
Country:   Australia

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