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Providing care one person and community at a time

Amicus is a local Victorian NDIS provider. Working one person at a time, they support people of all ages with a disability and vulnerable children to dream big and to live a good life. Dog and Bone has been working with Amicus on an IT Strategy and Information Management Framework. I got to chat to Georgena Stuckenschmidt, who is head of corporate services at Amicus. She spoke to me about her resonance with their core values, the importance of supporting people and communities one at a time and the role technology plays in keeping the Amicus community going.

Working across Victoria, including in Bendigo, Echuca, Shepperton and Loddon to name a few, Amicus takes an individualized approach to care. The NDIS provider’s support ranges from ongoing in-home care, management and coordination of people’s various health appointments and access to services, to short term respite accommodation and family support services for children at risk. The organisation has a strong focus on respect of individual needs and empowerment. “We don't say person-centred, we say person directed, because we really want individuals to direct the way that we can support them to live their best life,” Georgena tells me.

“We don't say person centred, we say person directed, because we really want individuals to direct the way that we can support them to live their best life.”

When I interview Georgena she has been at Amicus for 12 months which began in the depths of the 2020 lockdown. It wasn’t the first time she had joined the Amicus community. “I worked for Amicus 25 years ago, but it was a tiny little organisation, and I was the finance manager then. Most of the work was group support services and I just loved the organization,” she tells me.

So after 13 years at St Luke’s, as CFO, and Anglicare Victoria, managing their publishing business, Georgena returned as the Learning and Development Manager at Amicus and was later asked to step into the role of Corporate Services Manager.

Despite the years between her roles at Amicus, Georgena says it is those same values she connected with 25 years ago that has brought her back to Amicus.

“Even though there are different leaders, the visioning, and the values are the same. I have a very strong alignment with these values and that's really why I'm still here. The people that we work with, but also the people that I have around me in the office, they’re just beautiful people,” Georgena tells me.

A one-by-one approach

Amicus believes that getting to know the communities they work in, one place at a time, and truly being part of those communities is imperative to providing the care the participants need. This is why even though there is room for growth in regional Victoria, Amicus still takes care to approach each new area with the same amount of attention and engagement, by having a local presence and hiring local staff.

They have the same philosophy when it comes to understanding each individual they work with. “Amicus takes the approach of one person at a time. So we deliver very few group support services. Most of our support is one-on-one. For example, a lot of Support Independent Living or SIL programs are a group house models, but ours is not. Our model is one person in their own home.” Georgena shares with me the importance of prioritizing this individualised care.

“AMICUS takes the approach of one person at a time.”

From 24/7 in-home care to supporting individuals for a few hours a week, Amicus provides a range of services to assist people to live their best life and participate in their community. This ranges from caring for people by helping them with everyday tasks like showering, dressing, or eating to taking individuals out so the wider community are able to get to know them and they are able to get to know the wider community. Georgena tells me, “We try to encourage people to have, a full and rich life and also have community-valued roles.”

Supporting individuals and connecting community

Amicus also provides support coordination which helps people with complex needs navigate the various specialists or allied health services that they may need access to. A person may need quite a few different services so having this support is essential.

The importance and value of focusing on each persons’ individual needs can be seen especially through Amicus’ Behaviour Support Program.

The program involves carers monitoring and documenting behaviours of concern and creating a behaviour support plan. “This allows rotating carers to understand how best to deescalate situations based on the individual’s needs and patterns of behaviour which creates a much safer and happier space for people receiving care,” Georgena informs me.

It also means that if over a period of time an individual’s behaviour reveals they need access to additional supports or services the documentation completed through the Behaviour Support Program will allow carers to put forward a clear case to the NDIS for the extra support required.

As well as ongoing support, Amicus provides short term accommodation in their Castlemaine respite house. This is a precious resource which simplifies complex situations for people going through a major transition. People who make use of the respite house might have had an aged parent or guardian who has passed away or may have been in hospital themselves and in need of care before returning home or being transferred to a SIL arrangement. Many of these situations would be extremely challenging for the individuals and their support networks without such accommodation being made available.

Technology’s crucial role in Amicus’ work

Like almost all businesses technology plays an important role in Amicus being able to deliver on its promise to the community. Amicus relies on a mostly remote work force as is the case for many community service organisations. Being connected and having a single source of truth for their workforce is imperative to the work they do.

COVID and subsequent lockdowns has shown more than ever the flexibility, reliability and opportunities technology brings to the organisation. This past year has highlighted the resilience possible with the right technology.

“The right CRM provides workers with the important information they need to provide care; it also means the quality of their care is consistent. Good communication software is crucial, access to information wherever workers are, a single source of truth and using technology to build on our security to protect not only our privacy but more importantly our clients’ privacy.” Georgena explains to me.

“The right CRM provides workers with the important information they need to provide care; it also means the quality of their care is consistent.”

With Amicus already delivering services across multiple locations and with plans to continue expanding their presence in regional Victoria and along the border, technology enables them to deliver on their mission. “We don’t want distance to impact on the level of service delivery to participants or the effectiveness or efficiency of the work we do.” Georgena tells me.

“We don’t want distance to impact on the level of service delivery to participants or the effectiveness or efficiency of the work we do.”

Whether it’s record keeping, information flow, communication, having all their data secure in one place that can be accessed by the appropriate people or apps that mean they don’t have to do things manually, “it all enables us to provide quality care to people and contribute to those communities we work in.” says Georgena.

“Without the technology we use workers would be flying blind,” Georgena goes on to explain. Consistency and quality of care has been a theme of our conversation and are the principles Amicus lives by.

“Without the technology we use workers would be flying blind.”

Ensuring resilience for now and in the future

Over the next few years the NDIS provider is looking ahead to broadening their offering, “we’re interested in getting into allied health, things like occupational therapy, speech pathology and so on. We have recently transitioned to a company limited by guarantee so we can operate across the border,” I’m told by Georgena.

“Dog & Bone providing us with an IT roadmap and risk assessment was fantastic,” Georgena shares with me. “[Dog & Bone] coming in, doing the risk assessment, and then actually working through it together really helped us and also gave us a really clear strategy to take to the Board. We had a really well-constructed plan, risk metrics and a really clear pathway and overall budget, it was really great. Getting experts in the field to support us with our IT strategy, just gives us a really huge head start.”

Most delightfully, Georgena also speaks to the interpersonal aspect of the work Dog & Bone and Amicus have done together. “What I liked was that it was fun as much as anything! The personalities in the room were great and you weren’t made to feel silly, you could ask any questions you needed to. Overall, it was just fun and exciting, and we didn’t feel stressed or pressured.”

“Overall, it was just fun and exciting, and we didn’t feel stressed or pressured.”

I’m sure there will be a collective blushing from the team that delivered the Amicus project when they hear this feedback. It’s exactly the kind of thing we love to hear at Dog & Bone. We take our work seriously but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and make friends along the way.

We wind up our chat and it’s clear that Georgena is passionate about the world that Amicus seeks to create through their work. “We know that every person has the ability to play a valued role in the community and in society. We believe in a just world with equal opportunities where everyone can contribute and feels they belong,” she says.

Even lovelier is the admiration and care Georgena has for her colleagues, “it’s just gorgeous, you know, they're just very caring people and you can tell that they've got everybody's best interests at heart. It's a really exciting time to be part of that and to bring some of the skills and some of the learnings that I've had to help make that happen.”


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