Improving Social Service Benefits Delivery

The challenge

The State of Connecticut (CT) partnered with Bloom Works and Schmidt Futures to lead a discovery sprint to identify impactful and lightweight ways to improve access to specific social services. The project’s leadership team analyzed the different CT public benefit services to determine which ones to prioritize. They decided to explore federal nutrition programs and tapped Bloom to lead the research workstream for the project. 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are federally-funded health and nutrition programs. SNAP and WIC help low-income families and their children.

Like many federally-funded programs, the management of SNAP and WIC benefits varies greatly by county and city and is challenged by a lack of communication between government agencies. For example, families who applied for SNAP benefits through the Department of Social Services (DSS) were not referred to the Department of Public Health to learn about WIC benefits. The State had a significant opportunity to reach more eligible families — and make it easier for them to access services — by creating more cross-agency collaboration.

The project

The main objective of the project was to help Connecticut residents access benefits faster and more easily. The user experience team focused on the following goals:

  • Streamline WIC program to reduce application time
  • Increase the number of people who renewed their participation in the program after year 1
  • Increase WIC cross-enrollment for SNAP benefits

The team began by analyzing different public offices that offered SNAP and WIC benefits to residents, reviewing offices that served a variety of population sizes, geographies, and demographics. They then developed interview questions and discussion guides to meet with staff and residents. In total, the team visited and conducted interviews with:

  • 27 staff members
  • 6 residents in-person
  • 5 residents virtually 

We reviewed more than 30 knowledge bases, reports and policies from peers and researchers to build upon existing information. We then compiled our findings into a report that detailed the complexities of administering benefits in the state of Connecticut and opportunities for improvement. 

The research brought to light several challenges:

  • WIC offices serve residents by region, but SNAP serves the entire state, creating a zip code challenge for referrals
  • Residents receive outdated materials with broken website links
  • Residents receive unclear notices containing important upcoming deadlines

The result

The project team wrote recommendations for improving WIC and SNAP benefit delivery, which included redesigning cross-enrollment collateral material, setting up a collaborative pilot between WIC and SNAP staff,  and drafting new redesigns for notices sent to WIC and SNAP benefit recipients. In usability tests, the notice redesigns outperformed the existing notices in several key ways: 

  • Faster due date recognition with 100% accuracy 
  • Clarity score increased from 50% to 83.5%
  • Users reported having more confidence to take on action items and an increased urgency and agency to take on the action items

With a greater emphasis on customer service metrics, and a clearer understanding of user needs, the State of Connecticut is continuing to focus on enhancements for WIC and SNAP benefit delivery. The Bloom team is confident that families will continue seeing improved service delivery in Connecticut.

Services used

  • Discovery Sprint
  • User Research
  • UI/UX Design

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