LIFT Off with Liquidlogic Finance @ Northumberland Council
Northumberland County Council used several in-house, unlinked systems for a number of years to record financial information in children’s services. The council took the decision to move to a dedicated finance platform in 2019, which led to the implementation of the Liquidlogic Integrated Finance Technology (LIFT) system.
Speaking about the selection of LIFT, Julia Simpson, Business Support Manager for Children’s Services and Project Manager for the LIFT project says: "As well as LIFT ticking all of the boxes in terms of functionality requirements, we were also mindful that our existing relationship with the Liquidlogic team was strong. We liked the idea of an integrated social care and finance system, with a familiar user interface, icons and search facilities. In addition to this, our previous system hadn’t supported the production of reports on the whole costs pertaining to individual children and young people – this was an essential tool that we couldn’t continue to work without."
A Systematic Approach
During the early planning stages, the team at Northumberland took the decision to divide the implementation into two phases; phase one covered all payments made by the Family Placement Team including adoption and foster care payments. Phase two includes payments from locality offices, client transport and direct payments. Speaking about the approach, David Sanderson, Business Improvement Analyst for Children’s Services comments:
"We took the opportunity to review financial processes and procedures which had been in place for a number of years at the council. Going forwards, we wanted to make sure that we captured all relevant information and recorded it in a more logical way. The team at Liquidlogic supported us with this by questioning our traditional ways of working and suggesting where efficiencies could be achieved. We effectively performed a health check for our finance procedures, which resulted in us adapting our processes to the LIFT platform to make sure that it worked as efficiently as possible."
The council segmented phase one further by service area, these groups were split into Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs), residential providers, adoption and foster care. Payments relating to each service were identified in the previous ‘Boarded Out’ Access database and mirrored in LIFT. Julia Simpson explains the reasoning behind this:
"We ran our previous system in conjunction with LIFT for an initial payment run which helped us to identify whether there were any anomalies. We wanted to approach this logically by service so that we could both get to know the system and highlight discrepancies – there were very few. It gave us confidence that LIFT could handle the payments before we switched over to it 100%.
In chronological service area, we ran payments for Adoption (which was low risk, given that payments remained fairly static), Residential Providers, IFAs and finally Foster Carer payments, which by its very nature sees fluctuating payments. This was the real test in terms of our configuration and evidence of how the system would improve efficiencies and it worked really well. We were even able to identify historical cases of overpayments with LIFT."
Prior to go-live, the council had a number of face-to-face meetings planned with the LIFT team. As the scale and danger of the Covid pandemic progressed, it became obvious that meetings would need to be moved online. This worked well for the council, David Sanderson explains:
"We had weekly virtual sessions with the team at Liquidlogic. This enabled us to focus on different elements in bite sized pieces, digest what we had seen and test between sessions. Liquidlogic was very accommodating and keen to answer any queries that came out of these sessions."
Phase two is underway and will support locality offices in making payments, deal with direct payments and client transport. Whilst these transactions tend to be smaller, there are many of them. Julia Simpson comments: We are looking forward to phase two rollout, so far LIFT has delivered on its promises. When the system is bedded in, we would like to move more commissioning services into LIFT such as hospice payments or payments to disabled children.
Julia Simpson concludes:
"As existing users of the Liquidlogic social care system, we have found LIFT very easy to use. The interface is familiar, the workflow is logical, the system is self-explanatory and having worked closely with Liquidlogic, we are confident that we will be able to produce more purposeful reports from the LIFT data. We went live on time with Liquidlogic and the team has been a great support throughout the project and continue to be."