As an organization striving to achieve social justice, Anglicare Tasmania wanted to better understand how the support it provides has an impact in people’s lives. So, it decided to shift away from looking at outputs to measuring outcomes.
With around 1000 staff statewide, Anglicare Tasmania provides support to a diverse range of people. Its services include disability, aged care and mental health support, as well as counselling and housing services. It also has a Social Action and Research Centre dedicated to better understanding and addressing poverty and inequality.
We're starting to see a shift in Australia towards thinking about outcomes.
Each year, thousands of people engage with Anglicare Tasmania which has offices in every region of the state - Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie, Sorell, St Helens and Zeehan - as well as a range of outreach services. Anglicare manages a number of specialist accommodation facilities, and also delivers tailored support to older Tasmanians and people with disability living independently in their own homes.
The organization’s mission describes providing opportunities for people to “reach fullness of life”. And Anglicare Tasmania’s strategic objectives emphasise client-centred services that use innovative, evidence-based approaches. But how is it possible to measure outcomes for people in real time? The leadership team was eager to find way to effectively measure how Anglicare services were contributing to the overall quality of people’s lives.
Traditionally, Anglicare Tasmania was measuring the outputs that were outlined in funding contracts. But this didn’t give an accurate picture of the outcomes linked to its service delivery.
“We're starting to see a shift in Australia towards thinking about outcomes – how have we been able to improve somebody's situation,” says Ellen Nicholson, Coordinator, Social Action and Research Centre at Anglicare Tasmania.
“This is starting to filter into some of the language that government is using. We're seeing that funders are starting to put conditions saying that you must measure outcomes. Anglicare Tasmania wanted to be on top of this and set the stage for the future.”
With limited time and resources, Anglicare needed to identify a good place to start.
Ellen began with:
“I identified two different options of good models and presented those because I knew that I wouldn't have the space and time within the organization to develop it from a program logic perspective,” Ellen says.
It was a way to introduce measurement into the governance framework, develop a measurement culture and set up the tools and processes. This meant that when it came time to look at program logic, the organization would have everything set up to do the groundwork.
The only way to create a measurement culture is by demonstrating the value to stakeholders. For Anglicare Tasmania, getting buy-in from nurses and ground staff was vital.
“I knew from my previous work that it has to be about the client for the workers to really engage. We use outcomes measurement as a quality improvement tool for the practitioner on the ground. They can use it to open conversations about change then and there.”
Surveys can be done as a self-completion tool, or with the client. Anglicare has found that many elderly clients who receive community aged care services prefer to go through the survey with an Anglicare worker.
“This is also an opportunity for the practitioner to offer some thoughts around a client’s care planning. For example, if they were going through the survey together and noticed that a client scored low on personal safety, they could then have discussions about personal safety within the person’s home and the environment.”
This element is something that practitioners have really valued, as they can often make a positive difference straight away.
“Practitioners now have a broader look at someone's whole quality of life, rather than just staying focused on the things they're there to do. It’s actually a way of instigating change.”
Anglicare Tasmania wanted to create a program that was sustainable – one that will be around for a long time, and is easy to use. Something that is not resource intensive is also important.
Governments often don’t commission administrative functions that would be required to run more labour-intensive measurement programs. So keeping the program simple and easy to use, that won’t eat up the capacity of staff was critical.
“The only way it was going to be sustainable was if people who were collecting that information could use it themselves in some way. It would then become part of their everyday practice, not something that was an add on.”
For Ellen, Socialsuite met all these requirements - making collecting and managing data and reporting outcomes easy and fast.
“Socialsuite has been a really good enabler of making outcomes measurement happen. If we didn't have something that was easy to use at all the different levels, the program would never be sustainable,” Ellen explains.
“And because of the way Socialsuite works, and how intuitive it is, we also have a way of looking at outcomes from a team and organizational perspective. We can look at what investments we need to make and what that would look like – and how we can support our communities to improve their quality of life.”
Top tips from Ellen:
“And you don't have to invest hours and hours into program logic modelling if you don't have the time or resources to do that. Don't feel that you have to put this on hold until you do. Because you might be waiting way too long and miss out.”