Great Yarmouth Community Trust – A Case Study

Great Yarmouth Community Trust is a charity that supports local children, adults and families to allow them to reach their potential. The Trust’s core objectives are to relieve poverty, promote education and improve wellbeing within the community. The three main initiatives carried out are community building activities, targeted services for children, families and young people, and social enterprises.

Registered in 2001 the Trust was initially established as part of the governments Sure Start programme which set up children’s centres in disadvantaged areas to provide early years childcare and drop in activity sessions. The first site was the Priory Centre which provides affordable childcare and training and education for parents. The past fourteen years have seen the Trust set up seven pre-school nurseries as well as expand into education and training. The driver for expansion into other specialisms was the austerity measures of 2008. Government cuts meant that the Trust had to move from being over dependent on the children’s centres and instead find other ways to generate income. Horatio House which provides education for excluded students was set up along with Nexus Engineering which trains children and young adults into engineering professions.

Sam Hubbard

Sam Hubbard

The Challenge

When Carol Elkerton joined the Trust as Director of Business Support in 2003 she was tasked setting up infrastructure across the whole organisation. From her joining in 2003 the Trust has expanded from 6 members of staff to 150 in 2017. As this growth has been incremental the Trusts IT and telephony had grown in an ad-hoc fashion with Carol inheriting existing systems as a site was acquired. Upgrades had to happen on an “as and when” basis due to the lack of spare funds. In 2016 Carol decided that it was time to investigate an alternative telephony solution for the organisation. With different systems across the site, communications were disjointed and often unreliable. Managers frequently complained that the system had fallen down and they were unable to make or receive calls. As the old systems were on traditional telephony if there was a storm the phones would go down. With parents and young adults relying on being able to call to enquire after their child or for support, this needed to be addressed.

The Solution

The Trust’s local IT Support company recommended that Carol considered a VoIP system due to the fact that it would unify all sites on one cloud based system. Firstcom were approached and presented their recommendations to Carol, the Chief Executive and the Board of Directors. Firstcom proposed cloud based system Universe as the best solution. Adam Crisp, Firstcom’s Chief Technology Officer explains: “The main advantage of a cloud based system is that it removes the need for investment in on-site equipment that soon becomes outdated. With cloud based systems you get new releases automatically, meaning you always have the latest technology without having to upgrade.” With sixty five users across seven sites, a cloud system unifies all users so that they can communicate seamlessly, using extension short dials and transfer irrespective of their physical location. Great Yarmouth Community Trust’s cloud system was provisioned in late 2016 and included a new IP Wan for cloud access and the latest Cisco telephony handsets.

Adam Crisp

Adam Crisp – Chief Technology Officer

Sam Hubbard

Another Happy Universe Customer

The Outcome

After six months of using the Universe system, Carol is pleased with its reliability and flexibility. Unifying all sites on one system has brought structure, efficiency and stability to their communications and Carol no longer has to contend with managers who are frustrated when the phones have gone down. Not only was the system affordable but the fact that it is subscription based means Carol knows what her telephony costs are up front. There are no nasty surprises in the form of call costs, and for a charity where all funds are already allocated, accurate budgeting is critical.

We spoke to Sam Hubbard, the Universal Services Manager at Gordon Road Family Centre who relies on the Universe app when she is off site carrying out outreach activities. Sam finds the app invaluable for checking her voicemails and using short dials to call back into the centre.

“I would highly recommend the system to organisations like ours. It is modern system that does the job really well and I feel that as a charity we are really lucky to have it.”

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