723-5 HOME VISITS
723-5 A. PURPOSE OF THE HOME VISIT
The purpose of a home visit before imposing a 75% or full reduction in assistance is to ensure that everything possible has been done to re-engage the family in efforts toward self-sufficiency and to determine the effect of the reduction on the children. Home visits are intended to achieve the following objectives:
• To observe firsthand the family’s situation;
• To encourage the recipient to comply with the activity for which they were penalized;
• To determine if the recipient is refusing to comply, unable to comply, or needs additional supports or services; and,
• To gather information to assess the impact of further reductions in benefits if the recipient is able but chooses not to comply.
To accomplish these objectives, it is essential that every effort is made to establish a mutually respectful relationship between the worker and the family.
723-5 B. HEALTH, SAFETY AND WELL-BEING
The determination that the health, safety and well-being of the children will not be significantly jeopardized by reductions in assistance beyond 40% means that further loss of assistance will not result in conditions that threaten the children’s health or safety. If there is any indication that the children’s health or safety could be threatened, the family’s cash assistance will not be reduced beyond 40%.
Conditions that threaten health or safety include those when the family:
• Does not have sufficient income or resources to provide for housing, food, transportation, or other essential needs; or,
• Does not have access to an alternative means of support, such as from a relative, live-in partner, or community resource, to meet those essential needs; or,
• The children will be unable to stay in the home if benefits are further reduced or ended; or
• Is working with a division within the Department of Health and Social Services, or with another social service agency, for the safe return of a child temporarily removed from the home, or to prevent removal of a child from the home, and that effort would be disrupted if benefits ended, resulting in the child being at risk of placement into emergency shelter or foster care.
723-5 C. ARRANGING THE HOME VISIT
The home visit is made anytime after the initial penalty is imposed and before a further reduction is made. The home visit may be made by the case manager, other designated staff, partner agencies or an approved vendor. The visit may be made with staff from other agencies if appropriate releases of information have been obtained.
Procedures for conducting home visits are provided in the Work Services Manual Section 1017 and may be supplemented by regional or office procedures. The essential steps for arranging a home visit are:
1. Contact the recipient to try to arrange a home visit at a time agreeable to the family. More than one means of contacting the family may be needed and each may need to be tried more than once. Methods include telephone calls, messages left at contact numbers, or in-person meetings. A notice may also be sent to the family asking them to contact the worker to schedule the visit.
2. If the recipient cannot be reached, schedule a time and send a notice to the family informing them when the home visit will be made and asking them to respond if they want to schedule a different time.
3. Explain that the purpose of the home visit is to explore the family’s situation, discuss ways to end the reduction to their assistance, and describe what will happen next if they continue to not comply.
4. Document each attempt to arrange the home visit in a case notation (CANO Case Notes) in the EIS Eligibility Information System case record. The case note must explain what was done, when, and the result.
A decision may be made in consultation with the supervisor that a home visit cannot be attempted due to lack of staff or travel resources, or because the home’s location is inaccessible or remote. This decision must be documented by a CANO Case Notes in the EIS Eligibility Information System case record. In these cases, the family’s assistance may not be reduced further.
723-5 D. MAKING THE HOME VISIT
Before the visit, review the case management and eligibility records, and contact the eligibility worker to obtain pertinent information about the family’s household members, housing situation and income and expenditures. When making the home visit, follow recommended office procedures to protect personal safety, such as leaving an itinerary, checking in with a central contact, or carrying a cell phone.
The home visit provides the opportunity to observe the family’s living situation and identify any indicators of problems or challenges that may be contributing to an individual’s inability to participate, or that may make the family’s situation worse if assistance is further reduced. The following areas should be addressed during the visit in order to re-engage and encourage the recipient to comply with the activity for which they were penalized:
• Determine if the recipient understands why their cash assistance is reduced and what they have to do to end the reduction. Some individuals may not understand what is required due to low literacy skills or limited English.
• Ensure the family understands that they are using months of assistance that may count towards the 60-month time limit.
• Explore the reasons the family gives for not complying with the activity for which they are penalized and what additional supports or services they think they need in order to comply.
• Determine if there are any problems or challenges that need to be addressed so that the recipient can comply if they are willing, or if the recipient is now exempt from completing the required activity. Some possible issues might be marital or family disruptions, children’s behavior problems, immediate legal concerns, illness, or lack of child care.
• Revise the family self-sufficiency plan if appropriate to include an alternate activity and any supports or services to be provided.
• Explain that the family’s assistance may be reduced further if the non-compliance continues.
To gather information to assess the impact of further benefit reductions, ask the family for their viewpoint on their current situation: how they are managing on their current benefit amount, how they expect to maintain their household, and what they plan to do if benefits are reduced further. Information to be considered includes:
• Housing situation - is it stable, is the family receiving, or could they receive or retain, a subsidy;
• Utility costs - what are the costs of essential utilities such as water, heat and electricity, and basic phone service;
• Other basic living expenses such as food, clothing, or transportation;
• Child support obligations that must be met for a child outside the home;
• Income available to the household (other than Temporary Assistance);
• Other resources or support available from relatives or friends; and
• Alternate services or support available in the community.
A description of the home visit and a summary of the information obtained are documented in a case notation (CANO Case Notes) in EIS Eligibility Information System using the Home Visit for Penalty Progression template.
723-5 E. IF THE FAMILY WILL NOT ALLOW A HOME VISIT
In some cases, the family may not agree to or allow the home visit to be made. They may not respond to contacts to arrange a home visit, not be at home at the pre-arranged time, or refuse entry to the home. In these situations, staff ensures that all attempts to arrange and to make the home visit are documented in the case record and then proceed with the determination as to whether assistance should be reduced beyond 40%.
723-5 F. DETERMINATION TO FURTHER REDUCE ASSISTANCE
The final step before reducing a family’s assistance by 75%, or imposing a full family sanction (100%) and closing the case, is to decide if the reduction will result in conditions that threaten the health or safety of the children in the family. This may be done in a staffing meeting that includes other staff or agencies that have worked with the family. The decision will consider all available information about the family obtained from the home visit, other contacts with the family, collateral contacts, the eligibility worker, the case management and eligibility records, and contacts with other staff or agencies. The decision must be documented in the case record, and record the elements used in making the decision:
• The family’s understanding of the reasons for the penalty;
• Whether they will take action to comply with the activity for which the penalty was imposed and if not, any reasons they gave;
• Problems or challenges that need to be addressed so that the recipient can comply if they are willing, or if the recipient is now exempt from completing the required activity;
• Revisions to the family self-sufficiency plan and what additional supports and services are to be provided;
• A description of the family’s basic living expenses for housing, utilities, food, clothing or transportation, and any child support obligations that must be met for a child not in the home;
• A description of the extent to which the family’s available income, resources and supports will cover these expenses;
• A description of community services that are available to meet the family’s basic needs; and
• An assessment of whether further reduction in the assistance amount will result in conditions that threaten the children’s health or safety by depriving them of essential needs.
The documentation must include the decision made and the action taken to implement it, and must be entered in a CANO Case Notes in the EIS Eligibility Information System case record using the Home Visit for Penalty Progression template.
723-5 G. FOLLOW-UP
If information is obtained at the home visit that impacts eligibility or indicates possible fraud, it should be given to the eligibility worker and a fraud referral made if appropriate.
If, as a result of the home visit or other contacts with the family, the case manager has concerns about abuse, neglect or the safety of the children, they will contact OCS Office of Children's Services with their concerns.
Once a family receives a reduction in assistance of 75%, the case manager should maintain contact with the family to try to re-engage them in working towards their self-sufficiency. Before these families reach eight months under penalty, another home visit will have to be made or attempted, and the decision made whether the full 100% reduction in assistance will result in conditions that threaten the health or safety of the children.
The case manager should also continue to try to re-engage families whose assistance was not reduced further to 75% or 100%. For these families, the case manager may do further home visits and make the decision to increase the reduction in assistance later if the family’s situation changes and the well-being of the children is no longer significantly jeopardized.
Once a family’s assistance is reduced by 75% or 100%, it cannot be changed back to a 40% reduction. The family still has the option to comply with the required activity and end the penalty.