Future of youth care specialists uncertain?
Louise Rouwhorst, chairman of Trias Board of Directors, tells about Accezz improvement project.
Trias provides various types of support for both parents and children. This includes home help services, emergency aid, crisis care, 24-hour care, foster care and divorce guidance and counselling. The organization also advises and coaches various professionals. “Trias’s entire mission lies in the hands of its staff. Our team is passionate about helping to ensure the most normal childhood possible for every young person in need of help,” says Louise Rouwhorst, chair of Trias Board of Directors.
As a result of new legislation and regulations in youth care, however, Trias recognised the need to work more efficiently and facilitate changes in staff awareness and behaviour. To implement this and make sure everything went smoothly, Trias chose to work with Accezz.
Was youth care previously not result-oriented?
“So much has changed in youth care in recent years, especially in terms of funding. Youth care organisations used to receive a budget for individual care programmes for each client, subsidised in advance. This guaranteed income meant we were able to enter into a tailored care programme with a child and its family. The introduction of new laws and regulations now compels local authorities to place greater emphasis on outcome,” explains Louise.
Does this mean that youth care was previously not focused on results? “Not at all,” according to Louise. “But ‘results’ are now regarded differently and I can certainly understand the confusion. Trias’s way of working is still strongly focused on results and our systematic methods, which involve supporting children and also taking their environments into account, ensure our organisation is known for achieving high-quality outcomes. Many of our employees have special higher professional education qualifications and our recruitment policy strictly selects on a number of quality factors.”
However, local authorities are now increasingly looking at costs. In some cases, organisations that have slightly lower-skilled staff or freelancers with less experience receive priority as they are able to provide care at cheaper rates. Louise says, “But they are unfortunately not always able to achieve the desired results, which means children and young people and their families still end up with us eventually. In the meantime, the casus may have become more serious. It’s unpleasant for our clients because they often already have trust issues and must deal with yet another organisation. Fortunately, we have well-qualified staff, but it doesn’t always make our work easier.”
How do you maintain quality of care?
Youth care organisations are now funded based on ‘invoicing on completion’: the care provider sends an invoice to the relevant local authority, specifying the number of hours spent on the client.
“This funding method calls for a completely different way of working. It demands a lot in terms of how we operate and manage employees and presents various challenges for our organisational culture,” says Louise.
The other consequence of the Child and Youth Act 2015 was an imposed 25% funding cutback. Louise adds that this puts pressure not only on the workforce but also on the quality of care and asks, “How do we maintain the quality that Trias holds so dear?”
When she joined Trias as a director, Louise noticed that the organisation was not sufficiently prepared for the new laws and regulations that emphasised business aspects. She says, “Staff was concerned with preparing a child as well as possible on his or her future, not with the commercial side of the profession.”
As soon as the new laws and regulations took effect, care workers were required not only to provide care but also to ensure that the timekeeping was correctly recorded, so the help provided would be paid for. “Obviously it’s quite a big demand to suddenly require staff to indicate how many hours they expect to invest in support,” says Louise. “If you’re a car mechanic, you can easily estimate how long it will take to replace a timing belt, regardless of the vehicle’s make, model and year. I hardly need to explain that it works differently for children and young people who have so many issues and experiences. Supporting a child isn’t something you can make a precise prediction about, no matter how experienced you are.”
The change in funding method and the 25% cutback made Louise wonder about the best way to maintain the quality of care which Trias values so much: “I knew that I would never be able to manage the necessary changes on my own, so I started looking for an organisation that could support me in this. I eventually asked Accezz to facilitate the process and provide us with temporary support during the transition.”
How do you make the right choices?
The process with Accezz has delivered essential results. Accezz listened to what staff had to say and took clients’ needs into account. It has helped Trias to develop a way of working that allows staff to extract factual and measurable information, which has made management data more transparent and insightful.
Louise concludes, “Accezz has provided our management with good support and guidance in obtaining the necessary information and making the right choices. Because we needed to focus on different aspects of our work, I made the decision to restructure the organisation and manage it based on the ownership and task maturity of the staff and teams.”
Louise Rouwhorst, chair Board of Directors, Trias
“The process with Accezz has delivered essential results. Accezz listened to what staff had to say and took clients’ needs into account.”