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CCS Disability Action is the largest pan-disability support and advocacy group in New Zealand. It provides a range of support services to more than 5000 people and receives around NZ$30 million ($19 million) in government contracts each year.
Working with disabled people and their families since 1935, the organisation’s goal is to empower so that people have more choice and control in their lives. But 2019 saw external factors conspire against it.
In the face of funding freezes and soaring costs across the disability sector, CCS recognised that it must take its destiny into its own hands and drive change from within.
The news of no funding increases in the 2019 Budget had already caused CCS to cut back on its charity services, including the provision of advice to families, work on accessibility with local councils, and other advocacy work.
Having been forced to pare back these services, and redirect resources from charitable initiatives to make up for the shortfall in backing from national leadership, CCS was essentially inverting the traditional model of government support.
“We are subsidising government at this moment to provide quality services to people in the community,” David Matthews, CCS CEO1, told Radio New Zealand.
With government contract funding remaining out of step with rising rent and facility running costs, CCS recognised its position was unsustainable. Like many others in the sector, it faced an existential crisis.
Regardless of the root cause of the problem, CCS wanted to ensure it could continue to serve the community and began to audit its systems and processes to identify possible cost-savings.
The executive management team conducted a particularly detailed review of the organisation’s existing client management system (CMS). Manual and digital processes, system application functionalities, database structures, core funding contracts, service delivery, people and operational structure, budget allocation and reporting requirements all underwent systematic evaluation.
The objective of this process was to highlight operational inefficiency and process bottlenecks. In particular, the team sought improvements in the functioning of the group’s accounting practices, donations processes, system automations and overall management of internal resources.
As a result of the audit, CCS installed a new framework and adopted new technologies including cloud data storage and predictive reporting analysis, to reduce the manual burden associated with some of these tasks.
Even while funding stalls, demand for the organisation’s services continues to increase, and the digital transformation project has allowed CCS to deftly sidestep funding issues and maintain an impactful level of support for disabled people nationwide. This has been vital to the future success of the group, which has an important advocacy element in shaping society’s attitudes towards people with disabilities. If the impact of funding cuts was felt in CCS’ delivery of service to its users, the signal this would have sent to the disabled community could have had disastrous consequences from an engagement and morale perspective.
The organisation is already benefitting from a much more sustainable financial outlook, and annual savings of $300,000 through the streamlining of operations outlined. System automation has replaced less efficient manual tasks, as well as removing duplication of work and improving overall quality of service.
During the course of the project, other improvements aimed at boosting efficiency became apparent, and CCS has identified the opportunity to consolidate its HR, Incident Management and Client Management. Without the initial introspective audit, such reforms might never have become apparent.
Socrates famously acknowledged that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and embracing this mantra for introspection – in the face of external pressures and dwindling support – has enabled CCS to continue to support disabled people and their families throughout New Zealand.