During the 2018-19 financial year, a core priority was putting in place the people, processes and technology that will enable our organisation to meet current and future requirements. Our goal is to achieve a high performance culture that creates real results for those who entrust us to undertake our work.
An integrated organisation
Our merger with Access has significantly changed and strengthened our organisational capability and moved the two organisations under a single Board and governance structure. While the merger came into effect in December 2018 (see page 20 for more), the integration itself is an ongoing project.
Integration of corporate services was the focus of the first stage of our merger, which concluded during the financial year. SSI and Access corporate services teams have focused on harmonising their systems, people and processes in order to make this integration as seamless as possible. For example, we reviewed our finance teams, systems and processes and created a transition roadmap that left us with a single group finance function.
Other areas of corporate services have also played a big role in integration. During the discovery phase of the merger, our facilities team inspected 11 Access locations and identified WHS issues that were later resolved. Our legal team successfully deregistered four business entities operating under Access and managed a number of compliance activities. Our IT team has also successfully managed a significant increase in demand for IT needs due to the merger, geographic expansion and an additional 252 staff who joined SSI in the financial year.
In FY2019-20, we will embark on stage two of our integration, which will further reduce duplication. For the most part, Access will continue to operate as it does now. However, over time we will look for ways to operate more effectively as one organisation with common processes, policies and systems. Ultimately, we hope to create more efficiency and opportunities for collaboration. Already, we are working on joint projects such as Homelands – a Refugee Week music tour that drew more than 2,000 attendees across Queensland and NSW.
We are adamant that the delivery of services will remain local. We recognise the importance of having staff embedded in the communities they support; it’s why our settlement staff are co-located with our member organisations around Sydney. As one organisation, SSI and Access can get the most value from our limited resources, while safeguarding the quality, ethical services our clients value.
No wrong door
At SSI, we often talk about our services wrapping around individuals to meet particular vulnerabilities. But, in order to do this, we need a seamless internal referral process that maintains our “no wrong door” framework and approach.
In the reporting period, we developed an Internal Referrals Hub hosted on SSI’s intranet to make this process easier for frontline staff. The Hub includes critical information for all SSI programs, including referral criteria. It aims to address frontline employees’ knowledge gaps and create more consistent internal referral practices. An online referral form then gathers the information needed to facilitate stronger, client-centred referrals and practice in line with our strategic plan.
The Hub was launched in June 2019 with a six-month pilot phase, which includes communications, monitoring and a review to learn what works and refine as needed. Early data indicates the Hub is assisting frontline staff to make more internal referrals and has improved awareness of the breadth and diversity of programs SSI offers.
Investing in our people
Investing in our workforce and its development is a core priority for SSI. In 2018-19, we introduced initiatives designed to build a strong culture and to attract and retain the innovative, values-driven people who will help our organisation meet its future requirements.
A key change in our talent acquisition was the introduction of competency-based recruitment and selection practices to ensure fair and consistent recruitment outcomes based on merit. The Australian Network on Disability also recognised SSI as a Disability Confident Recruiter, in line with our ongoing priority to ensure our workforce diversity reflects the communities we work with (see page 28 for more).
SSI rolled out a tailored leadership development program, Lead@SSI, to strengthen our leaders’ capability and capacity. This program enhances leaders’ ability to achieve their performance goals, which are directly linked to our strategic plan.
We also brought our strength-based approach to service delivery into the workforce with the introduction of a new performance coaching model, Achieve@SSI. This requires all employees to set three to four annual achievement goals that build on their strengths, including things they enjoy and are good at.
Achieve@SSI also requires people to identify three SSI values and state how they will apply these values in their achievement goals. Staff members are then supported by a learning plan that helps individuals address their development needs.
The results of our investment in people and culture was quantified in a staff survey in March 2019. Our aim was to increase our previous employee engagement capital score of 66 per cent by one percentage point, which we did — achieving a 67 per cent engagement score. This puts SSI above our sector average of 60 per cent.
The same survey also tracked significant increases in our people’s understanding of SSI values (+19%) and their belief that SSI is committed to our values (+12%). This is a great result that we believe was boosted by our new performance coaching model.
Trauma Informed Framework
During the financial year, we successfully developed a Trauma Informed Framework (TIF) that incorporates current research, industry standards, and SSI’s family and community settlement knowledge. This was subsequently implemented across the organisation.
TIF offers all staff and volunteers 10 principles that guide our approach to working with families, individuals, children, communities and partners, as well as with one another. More than 320 staff and volunteers have received awareness education to assist their understanding of the impact of trauma and how to shift towards a trauma-informed approach in their own work practice.
It is important that SSI continues to recognise the lived experience of all clients, staff and volunteers and the impact that trauma has and can continue to have on people’s lives. We encourage culturally responsive and supportive conversations within the organisation to continue to ensure that our services and endeavours do no further harm by inadvertently triggering and exacerbating symptoms.
Foster care excellence
In November, SSI’s Multicultural Foster Care Program received a five-year accreditation as a designated agency under the Office of the Children’s Guardian NSW Standards for Permanent Care.
This is the highest achievement possible under this process and builds on our previous accreditation we received upon launching the program in 2014. In order to achieve this accreditation, we demonstrated our capacity and compliance across 23 standards that cover every aspect of the care we provide. This included the way we engage with children and young people in our care to respond to their needs; the work we do to recruit, train and support foster carers; the way we recruit, support and supervise staff; and the way our organisation operates to have the highest standards of governance and service delivery.
During the year, SSI also worked in partnership with culturally diverse communities to build understanding of the role of foster care. Through community consultations, we improved our own understanding of the issues influencing attitudes towards pathways to permanent care, such as adoption and guardianship. SSI also advocated extensively in the sector to raise awareness of the needs of children from culturally diverse backgrounds in the care system.
Permanent care offers children and young people more secure childhoods and is a key focus for the NSW foster care system. We were proud to support foster carers towards this goal during the year, including two longterm foster carers, who secured legal guardianship of three children with support from SSI, their extended families and the community. This was a wonderful result that creates safety and stability for the children and security for the carers.
Strengthening risk and compliance
Over the last 12 months, SSI has extensively revised its monitoring and reporting of risk and compliance with the aim of providing our management team with timely, comprehensive information on which to base decisions and plan for growth. These efforts also mean that SSI will continue to tailor services so that are they are responsive to the needs of clients.
During 2018-19, we undertook extensive work with our organisation and board to establish our risk appetite. This has translated into a detailed risk profile and has enabled us to operationalise an online risk management tool to decentralise the oversight of program and business area risks.
We also improved our capacity to identify and respond to risk and to ensure we are complying with legislative and contractual requirements and industry standards. Our comprehensive Quality Management System supports the implementation of our risk management system (based on ISO 31000) and an “audit ready” organisational approach. By adopting a risk-based model for internal audit, and working closely with program managers and content experts, SSI has continued to maintain ISO 9001 certification across all services in NSW and Victoria.