Centacare Catholic Family Services
“Penelope is excellent and cost effective”
Centacare is a community service agency in Adelaide, South Australia, that provides more than 80 services to its clients. In 2013, they moved from paper and spreadsheets to Penelope case management software.
Reasons Penelope was chosen
- Web-based system that provides a single source of truth for multi-service organisations
- Recommended by other not-for-profits already using it
- Athena founders’ background in social services and understanding of service delivery
- Penelope’s built-in DSS module allowed compliance with government reporting requirements and reduction of duplicate data entry
Benefits from Penelope
- Records now stored in secure system that provides overview of clients and access to data reporting
- Streamlined processes thanks to automated workflows and notifications
- Data collection and reporting made easier by configurable
- Penelope smart forms and flexible reporting and data export options
- Ease of DSS reporting and NDIS claim submission
Centacare is the official community service agency of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, dedicated to delivering responsive, flexible, and effective services to the South Australian community without regard to religion, race, culture, sexuality, gender, or economic circumstance.
Offering programs in a range of sectors, including disability, family, youth and children, health and well-being, employment, education and training, homelessness and domestic violence, Centacare operates on the principle that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
Services at Centacare are available to everyone and provide safe, inclusive, and high-quality care that fulfills the organization’s vision of a community where people can experience the opportunity to reach their full potential.
We caught up with Kathy Knightly, Centacare’s Client Data Systems Manager, to learn more about how the organization is using Penelope to track their services, including those covered by DSS and NDIS.
Why did Centacare choose Penelope?
In 2013, Centacare was operating some 80-plus services with client records kept on paper, Access databases, and spreadsheets. We were looking for a system which would be the single source of truth and web-based, and which would be accessible from every computer and every device in the office or out in the field. Other not-for-profit organizations were using and recommended Athena Software’s Penelope, and we learned the owners’ background was in social services, so an understanding of service delivery was appealing.
A key decision to choose Penelope was due to its connection to the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services (DSS) data system which meant we weren’t only investing in a case management system but we could also enter the Government’s data requirements into Penelope and it would automatically transfer across to the DSS data system, therefore alleviating double entry.
“We weren’t only investing in a case management system but we could also enter the Government’s data requirements into Penelope and it would automatically transfer across to the DSS data system, therefore alleviating double entry.”
What was your deployment like?
Hindsight tells us that, back in 2013, we had unrealistic expectations of how difficult deployment can be if you don’t go about it the right way with planning, end user training, and change management.
Penelope was installed on premise and we worked with a contractor to implement approximately 30 services over two years. In 2016, prior to the Australian Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) being rolled out across Australia, we chose to engage Athena Software to assist us with implementing our Disability Services in preparation of the NDIS release.
As we already had some years of experience with Penelope, the Athena staff worked with us to structure a project plan and conduct workshops with the first few services. We were trained as trainers so that we could we continue with the implementation of the services by ourselves, knowing Athena were there if we needed help.
What are the pain points that Penelope is solving for Centacare?
The initial pain points that were solved were the client records now being contained in a safe and secure system where managers could access a complete overview of their services and access data reports. Processes within the administrative staff, clinical staff, and management have been streamlined particularly with the use of workflows and triggered reminders and notifications.
Custom reports have been a focus for the various funding bodies we are required to report to quarterly, bi-annually, and yearly. Some reports, taking weeks to prepare prior to Penelope, are now completed and sent to our funding bodies within half a day due to extracting the data in usable Excel formats.
We have created documents in Penelope to capture custom data and trained staff to complete them during the normal course of their work day. This has made the funding body reporting quite seamless. With the introduction of Tableau, we now can connect to the live data within Penelope to provide demographic dashboards for managers.
“We have created documents in Penelope to capture custom data and trained staff to complete them during the normal course of their work day. This has made the funding body reporting quite seamless.”
How does Penelope assist Centacare with tracking and delivering NDIS services?
To be able to create custom smart forms using the document feature in Penelope has assisted our staff who meet with clients and their families, discuss their needs, and sign their NDIS Support Agreements and Schedules within their own home. Policies are set up to track their plan expenditure and the appropriate NDIS support codes allocated. Being able to extract a CSV file to upload direct to the NDIS Portal for claims is quick and easy.
What are some of the benefits you’ve seen from using the NDIS features in Penelope?
Fortunately, the roll out was gradual for Centacare and some of the issues in the early days of the NDIS were out of the control of Centacare and Athena, so we worked closely together to resolve those issues. There is still a long way to go in the NDIS space as it is always changing and evolving, but Athena are willing to listen and work with us.
Do you have any recommendations for other organizations who are considering Penelope?
If a fully mobile friendly interface is required for your workforce, then Penelope won’t be the product for your organization (yet). It is coming, and we wait with bated breath. From a general use and reporting standpoint, Athena has been extremely accommodating in allowing us access to the back-end to pull data out that’s collected with our own custom smart forms developed in-house. This is a very powerful feature of Penelope.
We have found talking to other organizations already using Penelope about their experiences and knowledge are invaluable.
“Athena has been extremely accommodating in allowing us access to the back-end to pull data out that’s collected with our own custom smart forms developed in-house. This is a very powerful feature of Penelope.”
Would you recommend Penelope to other organizations? If so, why?
If the shoe fits, definitely! For DSS-funded programs, it’s a no-brainer. While there were teething problems early on, it is now a huge time saver for all staff from the frontline to managers. We can see NDIS-funded programs going the same way. While the integration isn’t system-to-system like DSS, the file export for payments certainly lightens the load.
Penelope is excellent and cost effective for the majority of our services where other data systems are not mandated. The developments being made to the product will see it become even more helpful in the growth of our operations.
“It is now a huge time saver for all staff from the frontline to managers.”
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