An independent fostering agency, The Children’s Family Trust was founded in 1945. With four regional offices across the UK, the charity works with over 100 local authorities supporting foster placements from Durham in the north of England to Hampshire on the south coast.
The Children’s Family Trust was facing a number of IT challenges, following a period of rapid growth. This included supporting the flexible working requirements of staff across the country, while also ensuring all sensitive data relating to fostering was kept safe.
After doubling in size over a four-year period, the charity decided to recruit a new IT partner that could support its operations nationally. “We don’t have a lot of internal IT knowledge and had previously worked with a small IT company but we needed to find a partner that had deeper resources,” said David Homer, finance director at The Children’s Family Trust.
Probrand was chosen as that partner, supporting a mixture of on-premise and cloud based servers and applications. The remit involved facilitating remote and paperless working for up to 50 users across the UK and helping the charity upgrade to larger regional offices.
Given the sensitivity of the information the charity holds, however, Probrand was also required to review the charity’s security policies in order to ‘safeguard’ critical data.
David added: “We have a lot of staff out and about, often carrying physical documents. We wanted to help them go paperless and at the same time adopt simple measures that would address our security concerns.”
Probrand carried out a free Cyber Essentials assessment, which identified a number of ways the organisation could secure systems and processes. Probrand then implemented a number of cyber security measures and developed a series of data security policies to be adhered to by the charity’s staff.
A review of the charity’s IT estate also resulted in a legacy email server, that had been experiencing capacity issues, being replaced by cloud-based Office 365 – a solution which was better suited to a highly mobile workforce. Instead of replacing servers in the charity’s regional offices, staff around the country are now supported by one main server at head office. The data on this server is protected by a cloud back-up solution.
Windows-based computers were also rolled out, after it was discovered that staff had regularly encountered problems sending documents to local authorities from their Apple computers.
Following these changes to The Children’s Family Trust’s IT security practices, the charity has been awarded the government’s Cyber Essential’s accreditation.
David said: “We are now a lot more confident in our security processes since Probrand took the lead and introduced new measures. There is of course a trade-off when it comes to the practicalities of how staff work. For instance, our computers now require us to re-enter passwords after a short period of inactivity but we see this as a necessity when our staff are frequently out and about.”
With cyber security measures in place alongside documented internal security policies, The Children’s Family Trust is now able to provide peace of mind to local authorities in regards to data protection.
David said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the near future, local authorities make cyber security a key requirement for all fostering agencies. Cyber security is an issue for every company, but it’s especially pertinent for a fostering agency.”
More efficient IT infrastructure
By centralising infrastructure at the head office, it is now easier for the charity to implement changes and update their IT solutions. With the support offered by Probrand, The Children’s Family Trust is now looking to continue evolving its IT infrastructure to facilitate secure flexible working.
“Any problems with our servers would affect a lot of people so having things based in one location is making maintenance a lot easier,” said David. “We’d eventually like to move more in to the cloud and we’re working... to see what else can be done to improve the way we work".
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