Family Fund is the largest independent grant-giving charity in the UK providing valuable help to low-income families caring for severely disabled or seriously ill children aged 17 and under. The Fund supports families by providing grants relating to the needs of disabled children and young people and in 2012-13, distributed over £33 million to over 64,000 families.
In 2008 Family Fund enlisted the services of Stone, ICT services provider to the UK Public Sector and Education, enabling the Fund to provide families with quality IT equipment. Without access to the latest IT equipment many children would be without the means to pursue their hobbies and aspirations.
Achieving the vision
Family Fund’s vision to create opportunities for families raising disabled children across the UK is achieved through the support of the four UK Governments. This funding provides crucial support to families who provide care for their disabled or seriously ill children. The grants awarded through Family Fund make day-to-day life easier and fund essential items such as washing machines, fridges and clothing; in addition to sensory toys, computers and much needed family breaks.
Over the past six years, Family Fund has seen an increase in families requesting computers and iPads, as many children increasingly use the internet to communicate and want to prepare themselves for further education at college. Claire White, Director of Finance for Family Fund, explains, “We have seen a significant rise in the number of families requesting ICT equipment, many citing communication with friends and family as their primary reason for needing the equipment, especially for those children spending long periods of time in hospital. As well as enhancing communication links and developing IT skills, families request PCs to help carry out other tasks such as the weekly food shop through online shopping, which can be a stressful process for the carer and a disabled child.”
Family Fund place great value on responding to the needs and requests made by the families they help. In 2008 the charity put out a tender for businesses to provide reliable high specification IT hardware with a flexible product package to offer their beneficiaries. Prior to putting out the tender, Family Fund had learnt from experience that flexibility would be a valuable component to any proposal. White explains, “Prior to working with Stone, we purchased our equipment from the ICT provider already in place throughout our offices; however, we soon found that this arrangement was unable to meet the consistently changing needs of the families we support, which became a real problem. In some cases, families would discover that a laptop would suit their needs more than the desktop they had originally requested. This caused problems for our previous supplier who was unable to make an exchange. As such, it became a priority to select an IT hardware supplier that could accommodate our families changing requirements – this was a key reason why we chose Stone and is something Stone has successfully demonstrated since we began working with them in 2008.”
Wrap-around service as a key differentiator
Families eligible for a grant from the Fund can choose from one of five ICT options to best suit their needs; iPads, StonePC Tower Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks or the Classmate 2-in-1 device – all provided with the latest Windows or Apple Operating Systems as standard. In addition to seeking out a flexible service for families, the Fund required a reliable customer support service. White comments, “Our aim was not only to provide the children and families with state-of-the-art ICT equipment, but also a reliable and speedy support service should a family experience any hardware issues. Stone was able to offer a three-year warranty and insurance package that covered the equipment against accidental and behavioural damage. Stone has its own CRB checked engineers who, where possible, will service equipment in the family home causing minimal distress to the children and disruption to the families.”
Stone provides this personalised service along with additional customer support as part of its package to the Family Fund. Families can contact a help desk from 9am to 9pm for support. As part of its imaging service, Stone provides a pre-configured ‘favourites’ link to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre to encourage safe practice when users are surfing the internet. They also provide Blancco CESG-approved data erasure software and free recycling of all equipment through its own state-of-the-art recycling facility as standard.
White explains, “The service package Stone supply is very re-assuring to our families. Stone has created a step-by-step installation guide to help family’s set-up the laptop or desktop on delivery which is printed and inserted into every box. All of the inclusive services have proven to be essential for our families, who would otherwise potentially risk their hardware becoming useless for prolonged periods of time.”
Positive customer feedback
In June of 2011, the contract with Stone was up for renewal and put out for tender in line with Government guidelines and legislation. 35 competitors pitched for the business, however Family Fund chose to sign another three year contract and continue their relationship with Stone due to the exceptional service and value for money they had received to date. White comments, “Through the retendering process we found that Stone still offered an exemplary IT package when compared with other competitors.”
A few months prior to re-appointment, Family Fund undertook their customer satisfaction survey which is carried out by an independent company every three years. 1,000 families were asked for their feedback on Family Fund’s service and that of its suppliers. White continues, “Families contacted during the survey were asked to give a scoring of 1-10 for the quality of service provided by our suppliers. Stone received an excellent average mark of 9.05 out of 10. This was the highest recorded score for all of our suppliers and beats all of the scores from the previous survey in 2007.”
Having a positive impact on individuals
The project with Stone has brought unparalleled benefits to the individuals and families receiving the equipment. One such individual is Poppy, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome; she is prone to dislocations, bruising and suffers daily from chronic pain.
Poppy loves to write but was becoming extremely frustrated and very cross with her body. She had been given splints from her occupational therapist that were causing heavy bruising and stopping her writing abilities. Poppy’s mum Kirsty contacted Family Fund and Poppy was awarded an iPad. Kirsty received a very helpful call from Stone who talked her through all the different options available. Kirsty said “The iPad has made a massive difference to my whole family. Poppy is very proud of her iPad, we have a number of educational apps which she can use without getting pain in her hands and her confidence in herself is increasing. We are very grateful to both Family Fund and Stone Computers.”
White concludes, “Technology is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life and our experience has shown that computers can act as an instrumental communications tool for our children. Parents can also use the equipment to perform time consuming tasks that would otherwise be the source of much disruption and stress to the whole family. Stone’s value-added services go far beyond our expectations and since renewing our contract they have continued to better their agreement. Stone now works in partnership with IANSYST Ltd, to provide assistive technology for people with disabilities. Other software add-ons include EB Wordbank Primary, creating vocabulary lists and wordbanks for school years 1-6, and Sensory Switch Software Suite for creative play. Stone pre-load this technology onto all of our desktops and laptops at no extra cost, offering families a further improved resource. Stone are small enough to be flexible to your needs but big enough to meet the demand. This personalised service, combined with the quality of products, provides me with the confidence that we will receive further positive feedback from our families.”