For those of a certain age you will be now singing this 1979 hit by Squeeze. For others you’ll be wondering what on earth CATS have to do with the voluntary sector? Let me explain…

On 1 April 2018, carers in Scotland were given new rights under the Carers (Scotland) Act in a number of areas. The focus for Adult Carer Support Plans and Young Carer Statements (for young carers under 18) is now focused more on how the caring role is affecting the person, rather than the number of hours spent caring.

With 759,000 carers aged 16 years and over and 29,000 young carers in Scotland, it was vital that the voluntary organisations involved in implementing the Act were supported to develop their systems, processes and technology to help them do this. This is where CATS come in…

The CATS (Carers Act Transformation Support) Fund opened in June 2018 and gave carer organisations the chance to apply for Scottish Government funding to develop their systems and technology. In managing this fund on behalf of Scottish Government, SCVO developed an application process that was accessible, straightforward and supportive. We awarded 47 grants totalling £448,111 in rounds one and two to 38 organisations across Scotland.

CATS funded a whole host of things – website development; CRM systems; Tablets, iPads; AV equipment – all of which have increased the capacity of organisations to help them with implementation of the Act and contribute to national outcomes. But what does putting new technology into working practices really mean? Some examples we’ve pulled out include:

  • greater collaborative working between colleagues after the introduction of a CRM system for use across seven carer centres demonstrating the benefits of organisations coming together to recognise common needs and share good practice in capturing data that demonstrates the impact of their work with carers. 
  • Introducing the use of mobile tablet devices has led to a reduction in travel and ultimately a positive impact on the environmental footprint.

Feedback from organisations that received grants has been overwhelmingly positive and the impact that CATS has had on organisations’ increased efficiencies, staff skills & morale and carer involvement & engagement has been huge. You can read all about it in the evaluation report.

As the manager of the CATS Fund, these comments from the Western Isles Community Care Forum and Borders Carers Centre sum CATS up purrfectly for me…

“We are now up to date with programmes and the IT training we received was invaluable…In a nutshell, it feels as if we have been brought out of the dark ages, technology wise”

Western Isles Community Care Forum

“Application process was straightforward and staff were helpful. A well supported process and very welcome funding that has created future sustainability”

Borders Carers Centre

Round 3 of CATS – which opened in June 2019 – has awarded grants to 22 voluntary organisations throughout Scotland which will see them being able to improve and upgrade their IT systems; develop their workforce; develop/refine processes; purchase a range of mobile devices such as iPads and Tablets; and test new digital approaches to existing services between now and the end of March 2020.

PS – I make no apologies for the reference to Squeeze – I have happy memories dancing around a handbag to this song! – and for the record I do not have a cat (or a dog, or even a hamster!).

Click here for more information on all CATS funded activity.