SNAP is an organisation that was set up in June 2008. It is a collaboration of six organisations – Orwell Housing Association, Anglia Care Trust, Epic Trust, Ipswich Housing Action Group, Family Action and Together- Working for Wellbeing. Each employee of Snap is affiliated to one of the main organisations and is an employee of only one of the partners. All six organisations tendered, and won the contract to provide CARA (Central Access & Referral Agency) and non accommodation based housing support. The collaboration of the agencies ensures a diversity of skills, knowledge and experience. SNAP is responsible for support throughout Suffolk apart from those in the Waveney area. These referrals come through CARA but are then transferred to Flagship Housing to provide support.
SNAP’s primary aims are to prevent homelessness, to support people to develop skills that will facilitate independent living and to prevent or assist an individual from being admitted to institutionalised accommodation.
The support SNAP provides may be accessed by anyone over the age of 16 as long as they are eligible to receive public funds and have needs that are housing related.
SNAP supports people for a maximum of two years, up to three hours a week. The needs and progress of the service user are reviewed every 13 weeks. If the service user still requires support after two years or is deemed to have ongoing requirements then they are referred to other agencies that will provide this.
Each organisation that is involved in SNAP, has their own policies and mission statements. The values that SNAP have taken as their own are those of respect, integrity, honesty and trust. There is no mission statement that applies overall, as each employee of SNAP is employed by one of the six agencies, and it is the mission statement of that agency that applies to the individual employee.
SNAP has six support planning principles. The first of these is that the support provided is individualistic. This is a traditional social work value originally put forward by Biestek (1961). This value means that the worker should recognise and understand each service user’s unique qualities and situation and take these into account at all times.
SNAP also advocates person centred therapy. This approach originated from Carl Rogers (Rogers, 1942) and is from the humanistic school of psychology. This theory involves the process of providing the service user with unconditional positive regard, empathy and openness as it is these that empower the service user and facilitate their ability to solve their own issues.
SNAP works in an inter-professional manner. Referrals received by SNAP are from a multitude of agencies due to the diversity of service users and their needs. SNAP is only able to support those who have difficulties in maintaining a tenancy and anything that does not fall within this remit requires SNAP to signpost the service users to other agencies. Furthermore, the support provided may involve SNAP liaising with other agencies that may be relevant in the service user’s life.
All SNAPs interventions are Task centred (Reid & Shyne 1969). SNAPs support is classed as short term even though it can continue for up to two years. Task centred approach to intervention is usually done on a much shorter term basis, usually six weeks. SNAP and the service user both agree their roles and responsibilities during the support; this is in the form of a document that makes clear to the service user and the support worker, what each will do during the support. This is signed by both at the onset of support. This is in line with the task centred approach and makes clear what difficulties need to be addressed and eachs’ role in doing this. As all of SNAPs service users are experiencing problems with regard to housing, this problem solving approach is both practical and relevant. At each 13 week review, SNAP ensures that progress is being made and the service users’ needs are reassessed. Some of the referrals that are made to SNAP, involve service users in a crisis situation, particularly if imminent eviction is likely. The task centred approach is similar to crisis intervention (Caplan & Lindemann -Kanel, 2003, p.14) although crisis intervention has a more psycho-dynamic approach, promoting psychological growth as opposed to task centred theory, which is more based on the understanding that a crisis provides the motivation to act. Both crisis intervention and task centred approaches involve problem solving.
SNAP treats its service user in a non judgemental manner. This is one of Biesteks (1961) traditional social work values requiring that the worker does not judge and neither approve or disapprove of the service user. During my shadowing this has been the case.
Due to the nature of SNAPs intervention, being short term housing support, it is difficult to set up committees or long term client groups that have an input into the organisation and how it is run and the future development. However, SNAP do regularly send out questionnaires to service users in order to ascertain whether the service they have received has been useful and whether the service users’ situation has improved. It has also been suggested that a ‘Mystery Shopper’ type exercise be undertaken in order to ensure that service users are receiving the best service possible at the point of contact.
At each review, the client is asked whether they have been happy with the service they have received from SNAP. They are asked whether their situation has improved, not improved or worsened since support started. They are also asked if they have any suggestions as to whether SNAP could improve their service or whether there is anything that they feel they could do that they are not already doing. It has been decided that as part of my Observational placement task of undertaking an interview with a service user, I will use this part of the review as questions for my placement interview. On an operational level, SNAP is entirely user led, due to its task centred approach.
As each client is reviewed on a regular basis, there are opportunities throughout the intervention for service users to be able to give feedback at varying points through SNAPs involvement. It is difficult to give service users a strategic role in the organisational development due to the short term nature of the intervention.
Whilst shadowing with the support workers, I saw many examples of good practice. Each support worker that I shadowed with was empathetic and appeared to build good relationships with the service users they were assigned to. They appeared to be non judgemental (Biestek), dealing with sex offenders and expressing a level of sympathy for their inability to rebuild their lives following a conviction. There appears to be high levels of oppression towards the more vulnerable referrals. The benefits agency itself made many service users feel powerless and this was acknowledged by the support workers who then called the agency on behalf of the service users. This was anti- oppressive and illustrated this value to me very clearly.
Another area that I will identify as good practice, were the recording of interventions, and contact made with both the service user and others who were connected to them. Each support worker that I shadowed appeared to make an entry on the computer system after every telephone call made and letter sent as well as after every visit. It would appear that this was done; ensuring information regarding each intervention was up to date and complete. This complies with Section 6.1 of the Codes of Ethics that states that:
‘As a social care worker, you must be accountable for the quality of your work and take responsibility for maintaining and improving your knowledge and skills by maintaining clear and accurate records as required by procedures established for your work;’
Whilst shadowing LC, we found that a service user was going to make a possibly fraudulent Housing Benefit Claim. Once the service user told LH of their intention, LH advised that this would be fraudulent and told the service user that she should not be doing this. The service user stated that she was going to and so LH stated that they would be unable to support the service user if this was the course of action that they intended to take. The service user decided to follow LC’s advice. This showed honesty and integrity on the part of LC, in accordance to Section 2 of the Social Work Codes of Practice as well as SNAPs own personal values of integrity and honesty.
After being in the office with various support workers, it was apparent that at times there were not enough desks and computer terminals for all those in the office to be able to use. Although this did not happen all the time, it did happen regularly. It may be an idea to perhaps invest in some more. Furthermore, again, not all the time, but regularly, it was not possible to sign into the operating system due to the maximum amount of users being logged on to the computers. I have never seen this IT issue before and it struck me as being unusual. I was advised that more licenses have been purchased so the problem is not as great as it was in the past. Although addressing this issue would obviously alleviate any delays in using the IT, making Snap more efficient and effective, it may not be enough of an issue to warrant the economic investment that would be involved.
It could be said that as SNAP is a relatively new company, and with the other established organisations bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table, SNAP is well placed to cherry pick the best practice from each.
SNAP appears to be an efficiently run organisation. The staff appear to be knowledgeable and have the best interests of the client in mind. There are clearly defined systems in place at each level of intervention, including the recording of information.