Global social enterprise lays roots in Dunsborough

Empowering Communities Information Networking System operations manager Australia Thomas Pettengell and customer support advisor Sara Lahiff.
Empowering Communities Information Networking System operations manager Australia Thomas Pettengell and customer support advisor Sara Lahiff.

A global not-for-profit social enterprise has established roots in Dunsborough to bring together organisations which work with vulnerable people, victims and perpetrators.

Empowering Communities Information Networking System was founded in the United Kingdom 20 years ago by two police officers who saw a need for service providers and agencies to work together.

The system connects multiple service providers which have access to a client's information without the client having to retell their story or complete a number of forms.

ECINS operations manager Australia Thomas Pettengell said they found solutions for organisations which wanted to work collaboratively across multiple areas to support victims and vulnerable people.

"We started in the UK, there was an unfortunate incident where a woman with a disabled daughter lived in a council flat," he said.

"She received a lot of abuse form the local community and was going to a number of different organisations to try and receive support.

"None of those organisations knew she was going to the other one, so there was repeated trauma through storytelling and not getting anywhere, she ended up taking her and her daughter's life.

"A Royal Commission found it would have been entirely preventable if those organisations had been working together."

Mr Pettengell said the incident inspired them to find a solution which was now used by around 90 per cent of the police force in the UK, and they were now breaking out in Australia.

"We are supporting the Heart project in Fremantle where a tent city was established about a month ago, we provided a solution that allowed organisaitons to provide a wrap-around approach and support those vulnerable people," he said.

"That will continue into the Housing First initiative, within that initiative there is something called the no wrong door approach, which means if I am a vulnerable person no matter what organisation I go to, that organisation will be able to refer me to the organsation which can look after me.

"Our solution takes it a step further, we call it the one front door approach.

"As a vulnerable person I fill in one form and depending on what I answer and what my vulnerabilities are the relevant organisation is automatically notified.

"It dramatically reduces that administration time and as a vulnerable person, allows me to receive support as quickly as possible."

Mr Pettengell said they were passionate about helping the community and wanted to get involved in as many local projects as they could.

"We are part of the WA Alliance to end homelessness and have seen there has been a few studies in the region about the scale of homelessness and the potential for that to get so much greater," he said.

"We are very keen to work with organisations locally and support them as much as we can."

ECINS have been working with the Aboriginal Males Healing Centre in Newman which works with domestic violence perpetrators.

Mr Pettengell said victims of family and domestic violence often had to leave the home which could put them at risk of homelessness.

"The Aboriginal Males Healing Centre is taking males (or the perpetrators) out of that situation and rehabilitating them in a safe space," he said.

"In that situation the victim is able to remain at home and the perpetrator is the one who leaves to receive support and then go back."

Another program ECINS was involved in was based in Peterborough where there was a high risk of children dropping out of school.

"Peterborough has one of the worst school exclusion rates in the country," Mr Pettengell said.

"It could have been because of antisocial behaviour, the student had gotten in a fight or had been involved in a gang.

"We were brought in to case manage those vulnerable children who were at risk of dropping out of school.

"It was a way the school, police and Department of Social Services could collaborate together.

"What we identified in almost every instance was that the child had witnessed domestic violence the night before.

"They had not eaten, slept or hadn't done their homework.

"They had then gone into school which had no idea about this.

"The school then saw the student sitting at the back of the class and didn't realise the child was reliving the trauma from the night before.

"The school often then come down hard on the student, they were not receiving appropriate support which put them at risk of becoming vulnerable, joining a gang etc, and becoming isolated.

"By bringing in the domestic violence element and providing that support to the school and child, the school exclusion rate dropped and there has been very little ever since.

"It has been really effective and is all about providing that wrap around support and element where the people who need to know that information can access that information.

"That is something we are eventually hoping to pilot in schools here and expand on."

To find out more about ECINS or to get in touch please visit the website or email Mr Pettengel at

Where to get help

If you or someone you know needs help the following services can assist:

  • 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Women's Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 007 339
  • The National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1800 880 052 or email
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
  • Men's Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 000 599
This story Global social enterprise lays roots in Dunsborough first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.