The Disabilities Trust

4 year multi-million pound Technology Transformation and modernisation programme, taking the charity from no-tech to hi-tech.

Sector: Health & Wellbeing, Charity

Completion Date:   June 2018

Services: Digital Transformation | Strategy | Programme Management | Outsourced CTO


We have worked with The Disabilities Trust for 4 years driving their transformation and fully integrated into the organisation to release their potential.

The Disabilities Trust is a leading national charity providing specialist support for adults with acquired brain injury, complex physical or learning disabilities and for people with autism – through purpose-built residential accommodation, hospitals, community-based housing, respite care, special education and community enabling services, to maximise each individual's independence.

The charity needed to make its services more efficient, to streamline processes and integrate tech into its day to day running, to improve the service for individuals.

However, as the project progressed over the next four years (2014 – 2018) the charity looked to OJO solutions to help them use technology to go further than improving processes. OJO solutions revolutionised the Disabilities Trust outlook, working with them to focus on the type of charity they wanted to be, and giving them a new understanding of how tech could get them there.

The process

There were two parts to this extensive programme.

There were two parts to this extensive programme.

The first was stabilising the charity’s infrastructure. Previously, operations revolved around labour-intensive processes to assist with day to day tasks, including spreadsheets and written documentation, which meant a lot of duplication.

There had been no investment in tech for a significant period, and with staff trying to manage with screens crashing and software freezing, coordination was ineffective, and there was no technical capacity within the Trust.

The infrastructure couldn’t cope – but with 1,800 staff across the Disabilities Trust supporting over 1,000 service users, change was essential.

Nathan elaborates on the early days:

“When I first started working with Disabilities Trust, we identified quickly that there were a lot of problems. 
“In the initial stages of the project, we talked through a long list of issues the charity wanted to address when it came to how it was then operating. It was then a matter of rationalising them and organising them into priorities, so that we could effect immediate change, and use technology to help the charity work smarter.
“For example, we replaced the payroll and finance systems, which were out of date and inefficient, and implemented a video conferencing system so that the charity’s 96 locations from Devon to Scotland could begin to operate as one organisation, as opposed to everyone having to make an external call.
“We also installed a CRM, meaning staff could coordinate far more effectively.
“Building out KPIs for the charity as part of its future transformation plans could only be done if the infrastructure was robust enough to support it, so for the first few years, this was our main focus.”

The latter part of the programme was where the true transformation took place. With more up to date operating systems, the team at the charity could begin to think about the type of organisation they wanted to be.

This, essentially, meant rethinking how they wanted to deliver their services, to best support the patients, whose independence and control over their own care is at the heart of the charity’s ethos.

Through the digital transformation board OJO solutions set up, the conversation moved on to how to harness tech to transform the charity, how far it was possible to go, and why digital transformation needed to be at the core, to safeguard the charity’s services in the future.

OJO and their team helped the charity implement an outsourced 24/7 call centre to deal with their support tickets, so that users always had the help they needed. They implemented management services, business grade services, and a team that would be able to support the charity as time went on.

Nathan adds,

“The programme had a significant amount of investment. A total of £1.2million was invested in transforming the infrastructure before it could be built on, but the total cost of the project (around £4.5million) incorporated the delivery and implementation of a larger strategy, which meant bringing in a new team to help continue to drive the charity forward.”


In the first stage of the project, solutions OJO developed included:

  • An intranet
  • Finance System (Sun Accounts and Proactis)
  • HR & Payroll (CoreHR)
  • CRM (Ms Dynamics) to manage patient and company data
  • eMAR (electronic medication administration record)
  • eRoster, risk management (Datix) and business case for electronic patient management
  • Datix – patient safety software collecting data on all incidents in the organisation, and reporting on them


The Disabilities Trust team is now ISO27001 Certified and integrated into the NHS, offering secure access for staff and service users anywhere, on any device.  Through a managed Cloud IT, Citrix and Skype for business, staff can operate flexibly, equipped with streamlined processes and systems.

Additionally, OJO brought in Assistive Technology, implementing a Smart home and driving forward the implementation of a hands-on Assistive Technology hub, as part of the charity’s ConnectAbility Campaign. 

Through transformation, OJO solutions helped to reduce costs, increase safety in managing patient data and put the charity on course to meet their longer-term strategic goals. 

However, as Nathan explained, the project was about so much more than using tech to make the charity run faster, improve efficiency or migrate to the cloud.

“Tech was driving the agenda and it was about leveraging this tech, to move the charity into the future.”

Cath herself explains the results these changes have had, not only on their organisation but on their colleagues and peers outside Disabilities Trust:

“My PA loves the fact that we don’t use phones any more and we do everything through Skype. At the time there was uncertainty, but now she is able to walk around on the phone while doing other things.
“My business development team now has a CRM system, which has changed everything. The data that’s giving us, and the way we’re able to track the referral through to our services is more professional than ever before. That has been absolutely transformational for my team and for the service managers. Almost overnight, the culture changed in the organisation. The transparency our new systems provide us has changed people’s lives.”

Working together

Cath Murray-Howard, Director of Strategy and Business Development at Disabilities Trust

Throughout the project, Cath observed a refreshing quality about Nathan’s programme management skills, in that both Nathan and the team never minded admitting that they too were learning about the charity, and testing and rejecting certain solutions as the transformation went on.

She said,

“When they say they’re going to do something they are absolutely accountable for it – and they have the ability to then flex accordingly.
“From a personal perspective I find them really easy to work with. Nathan is interested in the wider organisation as opposed to being an IT geek, he’s somebody who understands IT as part of the transformational culture.
“He doesn’t just talk tech, he talks strategy. He has a true understanding of the whole organisation, our strategy and then the technology we need. That’s what makes OJO solutions different.”

Nathan Baranowski, Director of OJO Solutions

“From my first day with the Trust it was clear that they had huge ambitions, but no IT. Working from the ground up, the priority was building stability in what was a fragile IT infrastructure, getting some of the basics in before being able to really transform.
“The great thing with the Trust was having a blank canvas, and the ability to invest where it would have the greatest impact, taking the charity leaps and bounds into the future.
“We helped them move from a world where we joined two phones in a room together to allow conferencing, to unified communications and video calls as the norm. Not only that, we helped them reflect on the type of organisation they wanted to be, and how to use technology’s power to make that happen. At first we were driving; but by the end, we were facilitating.
“Crucially, we have helped Disabilities Trust plan their five year journey, which is massive for them. The team agrees that there is still a way to go, but the future looks bright, for staff, and for the patients.”