We recently met with Amanda Hill (SNIPS service manager) and Liz Roe (Service Manager Strategy and Partnership) to discuss issues raised by parents in relation to SNIPS.
SNIPS stands for “Special Needs Inclusion Playcare Service”. It is run by Sheffield City Council. The service helps disabled children and young people (aged 5-18 years) to access after-school clubs, Saturday clubs and holiday clubs, in order to give their parents a short break from caring. The level of provision depends on the needs of the family, but typically consists of one session per week (3-5 hours), either during term time or during the school holidays. Families do not have to pay for this service.
SNIPS has a team of nine mentors who match children up with clubs and provide training, grants and mentoring support. These are supported by two admin workers. The service is used by around 600 children and works with approximately 80 clubs.
All referrals for short breaks services are now screened by three area-based Prevention and Assessment Teams. This screening can have one of four outcomes: a social care assessment (if overnight respite or similar has been requested), the completion of a Family CAF (which may result in the offer of a short breaks service), a SNIPS service, or a non-specific service (e.g. parenting classes).
Parents expressed concerns about the length of time taken to process referrals. Amanda said that four vacant mentor posts had recently been filled and that the waiting list had been cleared.
In the past, SNIPS workers had to fill in a booking form for every child, before every school holiday. The service is now looking at giving parents the option of making bookings directly with the club.
Lack of flexibility
At the moment, families lose provision if they go on holiday or if their child is ill: “The clubs get the money, but the parents don’t get the service.” This could be avoided if parents were able to accrue provision and take it when it suited them. Parents also said that they wanted to be able to buy in extra sessions from providers. Action: The Council will consider the viability of these requests. SNIPS will improve attendance monitoring.
Parents said that a lack of suitable local provision meant that they were spending a large part of their respite travelling back and forth between their home and the club. Action: SNIPS has done a mapping exercise and is looking at sourcing new provision in local communities, which could include developing satellite services of popular clubs. In addition, SNIPS mentors will now be aligned to three local areas, which should enable them to build up a picture of local provision.
Several parents said that their SNIPS provision had not been reviewed for quite a while (two years or more). Action: SNIPS will do more frequent reviews in the future.
Lack of provision for under-8s
Due to Ofsted registration requirements, this group of children is often poorly served. SNIPS spot purchases placements in children’s centres, out-of-school clubs and nurseries for this age group. Action: Establish whether parents can access childminders via SNIPS, and whether SNIPS can pay grants to childminders to offset a loss of earnings (e.g. when childminders have to take fewer children or employ and assistant in order to accommodate a disabled child).
Parents said that they were not aware of the full range of provision offered by SNIPS, and some felt that SNIPS mentors were not volunteering information about specialist providers. They felt that a database of providers with information about the level of support they could offer would be very useful. Parents also called for training for SNIPS and MAST workers to help them recognise indicators that a certain type of provision may be required. Action: Information about short breaks providers should be included in the Local Offer, which the local authority has to publish from September 2014. SNIPS will consider purchasing training from the Sheffield Parent Carer Forum.
Some parents reported that a request for different or additional provision had had an unexpected knock-on effect on the rest of their short breaks provision, which nobody had explained to them beforehand. This led to them feeling that they had to “trade” one service for another. They felt that panel decisions were not transparent. Amanda said that if identified needs changed and had to be met in different ways, this should not automatically mean that one service was taken away when another one was added. Decisions are made by the ASP Panel, which considers the recommendations made by the assessor (usually a social worker). These recommendations carry a lot of weight and should be agreed between the assessor and the family. Amanda said that things shouldn’t end with a panel decision, but that there should be an ongoing conversation.
Do you have any feedback on SNIPS? Please contact us and give us your views!