Having a Big Impact

Bridget Allan is doing the job most organisations want done. She is looking at everything that happens at McAuley House, our service for women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and working out what can be done better to support the 20 or so women who live there.

Bridget is the Project Manager for Big Impact, which began after McAuley Community Services for Women won the Impact100 Melbourne $100,000 grant late last year. She is well placed to do the job after more than three years as a case worker at McAuley House.

McAuley House supports women to become independent byproviding medium term accommodation, meals, and intensive and individualised case management, a health and well being program, recreational activities and ongoing links through an outreach program. Big Impact is a robust plan to help us achieve better integration of services and coordinated care so that women know how they can begin their own journey to independence and well-being.

“As a case manager I know how things develop in isolation. When you are working with a woman, you recognise a need she has and you respond to it. Each day a woman will ask for help with an issue or help to do something and you respond,” Bridget said.

Big Impact means we can step back, look at how things have evolved, and with input from the women themselves, we can develop a model, a way of working, that is more structured and client centred.”

“When someone feels safe, they will thrive. Big Impact is about strengthening internal programs and processes to ensure women receive the best service possible. Ultimately we want to design a service that supports women to gain the skills to live independently so that they never enter the homeless cycle again. Big Impact has allowed us to do this.

Big Impact is now ready to pilot some changes that mean a woman coming to McAuley House will be assessed, using a strengthened process, and this information will be used to help her develop short and long-term goals that will be reviewed after three months.

Most of the women coming into McAuley House struggle with more than one complex problem and find it difficult to navigate the service system to meet all of their needs. Most have become homeless as a result of trauma, family violence, social isolation, chronic health issues and significant mental illness. A strengthened case management model means workers can respond to individual needs in a structured and planned way. A new focus on internal information sharing and integration across programs such as the Peer Sister Program and Me Project (Self development group) means that women receive a seamless and holistic service response.

In the past year 93 women were supported by McAuley House. All were homeless; 30% had experienced family violence; 34% were referred from a hospital or mental health service; 73% had a mental health diagnosis and chronic physical condition and 47% came from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Bridget said one of the great benefits of Big Impact was the collaboration between staff and the women, who have experienced family violence and homelessness, to develop a better way of working that will enhance their recovery, wellbeing, and independent living skills.

Note: Impact100Melbourne has announced their 2015 theme which will focus on ‘Creating learning and earning opportunities for Melbourne's youth’.

Bridget Allan – McAuley’s Big Impact for Women Project Manager, was invited to present at Impact100’s launch to provide an update on the Big Impact project aims and outcomes thus far. Bridget outlined 10 major program improvements which are underway as a result of generous grant won last year. Read the presentation here.