A CASE STUDY
For more than 20 years, CUPS has been providing a range of medical, social, educational and support services in Calgary to help people challenged by poverty.
Its most recent program, Rapid Exit, is focused on providing low and very low income families and individuals with the opportunity to get out of shelters and off the street. Rapid Exit works with local landlords to give these families and individuals a foundation of stable housing – an element that has shown to be a critical first step in breaking the cycle of poverty.
”Our client base includes both families and individuals, and we have a placement success rate of over 80%,” says Richard Mugford, Director of Housing & Supports, “The 20% where we are face challenges are predominately behavioural oriented – and possess the highest safety risk for our field staff. This is a big reason why we were looking for a solution to safeguard our team.”
“When we first started the Rapid Exit program , field staff members were encouraged, on an ad hoc basis, to check in every now and then via their cell phones. As the team grew, the organization went to an in and out board, and then a “buddy system”, but it was impossible to know where everyone was at any given time,” explained Richard, “With the growth in higher risk placements we saw an increase in the frequency of situations where our staff had to leave the premise rapidly due to the threat of violence. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any actual crises. However, we were sensitive to the situation and certainly aware of the many cases in other programs where workers have not been so fortunate”.
As the result of a meeting with the Mustard Seed, another Calgary social services organization, Rapid Exit was introduced to Ivrnet’s safeTeam. Shortly thereafter, the system was implemented, and has proven to not only improve the safety for the team Rapid Exit was looking for: there have been some other, perhaps surprising, benefits for the organization.
Simple to use with existing mobile devices
SafeTeam works in a simple and straightforward manner with the existing mobile phone device for the field staff. As staff members arrive at their visits, they call in to indicate that the appointment will begin and record the mileage incurred. The system defaults to one hour appointments, though this can be adjusted, and appointments can be lengthened by 15 minute increments from the field by calling in too. Once the visit is completed, they call in once again. If a staff member does not call in at the defined time or does not make a request for additional time, safeTeam automatically makes a reminder call asking if they would like to check out. If there is no answer, the system calls a pre-defined escalation list. In CUPS case, if there is still no answer, Richard receives a call and speaks with other staff in the office or the field who are working with that person to see if he or she has been in touch. If no communications have been received, Richard or another staff member is dispatched to the last known location of the field staff member in question.
Real-time safety status from field staff
From the management perspective, safeTeam’s web interface delivers a real-time report on where each of the field staff member , aligning it with WHPB requirements, and provides the automated escalation procedure and check-ins the team required. SafeTeam allows Rapid Exit to meet its chief aim: reducing the risk to its team members as they go about their daily appointments. Richard also likes the fact that he can directly export his reports to Excel, and that when he does get an escalation call, it has a recognizable phone ID he knows to answer.
Time savings and operational improvements
Unexpectedly, safeTeam has provided some operational benefits. Staff no longer labour over mileage calculations and expense reports, as they can easily generate them from their individual safeTeam access at the end of each month for Richard’s approval. Importantly, this not only saves time and effort for the individual field staff, it provides Richard with an accurate forecasting tool for funding requirements.
“Now I have the metrics for the next funding cycle to more accurately forecast the costs of travel,” he points out, “whereas mileage has been an issue in the past, almost always resulting in a budgetary shortfall.”
“Non-profits, especially in the social services, like to see grassroots, and over-systemization is often frowned upon,“ Richard concludes, “ In this case however, safeTeam has enabled Rapid Exit to reduce risk for the team, and also to drive some cost efficiencies into the structure that form basis of our program: being with clients and getting them off the street , while never losing sight of the fact that our staff’s safety is of paramount importance.”