We spoke with Faith Parmenter, the Senior Management Support Officer at Leeds Autism Services, a charity dedicated to helping to create a more autism-friendly society.
I’m Faith Parmenter and I am the Senior Management Support Officer at Leeds Autism Services.
We are a charity that works with autistic adults and their families/carers, providing care and support; we aim to create a more autism friendly society by promoting understanding and acceptance of autistic people. We provide support both on site and in the community enabling people with autism to access activities, attend appointments and generally experience life in the same way as everyone else; enabling people with autism to live life to their fullest potential. There shouldn’t be any barriers to them preventing them from having the same access to the facilities and the things they enjoy or want to experience, just as you and I do. We provide training and consultancy work and have worked with a number of organisations to raise awareness and help implement better strategies when working with, or supporting, autistic people. We also hold events, like our free annual autism convention, Autisticon, recently held at the Leeds Playhouse and we’re a partner of the Leeds Waterfront Festival Autism and Neurodiverse Friendly Event which happens every August. We work with other organisations, providing advice and support, and improving understanding and acceptance of autistic people, which is what we are all about!
So, our Support Workers not only work on site but are out and about in the community as well, and at the end of support sessions, paperwork has to be completed amongst other things, and would need to be done on a laptop or PC, usually when they were next on site. Our aim was to become paperless or reduce as much paperwork as we could and become more efficient – both in time and money. As part of that we moved our systems to the Cloud and wanted every Support Worker to be able to access these systems. However, in considering how to put this in place – we needed to be aware that not everyone had access to a mobile phone with the right capacity to run our systems, and we needed to consider and be aware of, the data protection implications as well. Obtaining the mobile phone handsets allowed us to achieve this. It also allows better communication amongst all staff as everyone uses Teams on their mobiles and can relay information wherever they are.
It allows us to be more efficient – any changes are live and instantly accessible. Staff are able to get paperwork done sooner without necessarily having to come into base so it’s up to date quicker, which means communication is better. There’s a more cohesive way of working because people are in more frequent contact – not just via phone, they’re using Teams as well. Everything is up to date, and everyone can access it. So, for instance, we might have a session in the morning with a service user and then a different person may have to support them in the afternoon – there will be updates and notes on there that will be relevant to the next session.
I’d been asked to source approximately 100 mobile phones. It was a case of scouring the web looking for suppliers. Specifically, if I could, people who worked with charities and would have an understanding of our needs and potentially where we were coming from in terms of funding and money/cost implications. I stumbled across GoodCall purely by accident and from that moment, we engaged with them specifically.
Obviously, budget was a huge thing for us, and we had certain specific criteria/needs in that we needed to able to work within data protection to ensure that all our systems were being accessed safely and securely. We also wanted to be able to set limits on the phones so that staff could access what they needed to access in terms of the systems that we were using, and only the apps we wanted them to have access to. Additionally, not everyone is a tehno whizz and people get used their own phones, so we wanted something that was easy and simple to use and could be implemented smoothly; it needed to work smoothly and needed to be straightforward as well.
Very much so, yes; and I think the reason for that is they have worked with charities and have that understanding of where we’re coming from. I said to them “I’m quite concerned about keeping it within this budget. Was it feasible to do all that we wanted?” It wasn’t an issue, they worked with us and managed to find a package for us where we could access the number of phones and on the best tariff to meet our needs, and still remain within our budget.
It certainly impacts the decision. Not only could they get us the best deal, but primarily we would prefer to work with an organisation whose ethics and ways of working are similar to our own, so they’ve got that understanding. It’s also nice to be able to support smaller organisations. You know, they’re supporting us and we’re supporting them.
We were on quite a tight time scale from getting ourselves working and up on the Cloud to ensuring everyone could access systems on their new handsets – we had a deadline of when we wanted these rolling out to staff and GoodCall were really prompt, their turn around, once they knew what we wanted, was very quick, so that was extremely helpful.
It’s been excellent! We’ve had a couple of minor issues, nothing huge. But again, getting hold of someone was really easy. There was a problem with the billing, the billing is through EE and being able to break down the cost of each individual phone [was] easily resolved. We found a workaround as Bridget worked with us and we managed to resolve that. It wasn’t easy because it wasn’t GoodCall’s fault, but GoodCall bent over backwards and managed to help us resolve it, so I can’t fault the customer service side of things.
Almost certainly for a number of reasons! Service, it’s like you don’t feel out of your comfort zone – nothing is too much trouble, and you always know pretty much who you’re going to be speaking to – you build a rapport/working relationship with that person. Whilst it’s only a phone, you think you know what you going to need – but then the fact that [GoodCall] could start asking the right questions and I could say “yes, we are going to need that” and “can we do this?” was really, really helpful. So yes, I definitely recommend them. And then the back-up afterwards and support once we had everything in place, it wasn’t like “right, you’ve got your phones, off you go”. They continued saying “we’re here if you need anything and continued to support us.” Now, I know if I contact Bridget or Elaine, I’m going to get a response straight away. They’re really responsive and very helpful.
To learn more about Leeds Autism Services and their cause, please visit their website here: https://www.leedsautism.org.uk/