Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Advantages of Coordination for the Client

03/20/2000

Although coordination occurred in different ways, for sites that were able to achieve a relatively coordinated program, it generally resulted in a variety of advantages for TANF clients, such as availability of a wider range of services, easier access to services, and improved case management due to information sharing by staff. These benefits, each of which are discussed in turn below, may be particularly helpful in serving clients facing multiple barriers to employment.

Referrals to more services and to a wider range of services

Availability of expanded services is often the result of referral agreements or contractual relationships between coordinating agencies. For example, linkages between a welfare agency and ES bring job listings and labor market information to welfare clients and introduce welfare clients to a resource that can continue to serve them as they progress in the job market. Linkages between a welfare agency and a JTPA/WIA agency may result in availability of a wider range of employment and training services for welfare recipients, including increased access to employers. More than half of the sites visited refer some clients with physical or mental disabilities to vocational rehabilitation agencies.

Coordination may also lead to greater intensity of services to clients. Linkages with other agencies may reinforce the services that are provided through the welfare agency. For example, WtW programs may provide more comprehensive or more intensive job preparation services for those with greater barriers to employment. Linkages between the welfare agency and community colleges might enable the welfare agency to more thoroughly assess the abilities and occupational interests of clients or may provide customized training opportunities.

Both welfare and workforce development providers indicate that more of their current caseload is hard-to-serve, that is, they face multiple barriers to employment and, once employed, require additional supports to remain employed. Typical barriers include substance abuse and mental health problems, low basic and family life skills, and little to no work experience. This population requires intensive services to help them become job-ready. More intensive services might result from the agency being able to combine resources to serve a client. For example, welfare and workforce development agencies may be able to use resources from their respective programs to provide a more comprehensive package of support services for a client. The following are brief examples from our site visits.

  • In Manning, ES staff go to the welfare office one day a week to register individuals with the Job Service and introduce them to job listing information. They also conduct a job search program when this service is requested by the welfare office. The program includes topics such as how to dress for work and how to apply for job openings.
  • In Charleston, the welfare agency has several memoranda of understanding with agencies to provide services for welfare clients, including the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Department, the local school systems (primarily for adult education), and Trident Technical College. Welfare clients participated in a customer service certification course at Trident Technical College geared towards job openings in call centers. The welfare agency's Workforce Consultant/Job Developer is working with the Trident Technical College to develop additional training components that would be beneficial for welfare clients.
  • In Kansas City, the workforce development agency added additional components focusing on life skills to its job readiness training for WtW clients. ES staff in Kansas City noted a change in their customers over the past three to four years, with many more customers lacking social skills and an understanding of the world of work. They are responding by looking more broadly at customers' situations, focusing on their barriers, and referring them for additional assistance or counseling. In part, this is due to their co-location and cross-training with TANF and other social service programs.

Improved Access to Services

In several sites, a major benefit of coordination is improved access to services, either through simplified referral processes or more convenient location of services. A simplified client referral process might mean the client faces fewer obstacles when seeking services from another agency because the agency knows about the welfare program and has already received some basic information about the client. Coordination tends to make each of the agencies more aware of services that the others are providing, resulting in more appropriate client referrals. Thus, clients are less likely to be turned away or to find that the services do not meet their needs. There are certain leverage points in the client flow process where improved access seems particularly helpful to the client and where coordination can be most effective. Examples include access to on-the-job training, to employers, and to specialized training or support services.

  • The welfare agency in Kansas City sends information on all WtW referrals to the JTPA/WIA agency via fax. The information, which is sent weekly, includes name, social security number and "time on TANF." This process eliminates some of the up-front paperwork for the WtW staff and creates a smoother referral process for clients.
  • In Pittsburgh, the welfare office and its contractors use common forms for intake and client tracking. The Automated Information Management System (AIMS), a state system, is used by welfare caseworkers and by agencies that receive referrals, so client information is easily shared.
  • In Manning, most welfare clients referred to VR come with a written referral and a physician's statement listing their disabilities. This helps the VR counselor identify the client's functional limitations.

One benefit of coordination for clients is the convenience of having several or all agencies in one location. In some instances, agencies are co-located in the same building or at a one-stop. Another approach used in many programs we visited is out-stationing of staff--i.e., the full or part-time locating of staff at another agency. Nine of the 12 sites visited in our study either co-located some services or outstationed workers. Both types of coordination can facilitate referrals to another agency (e.g., clients might be seen the same day by the other agency) and reduce travel time and other access barriers for clients. For example:

  • In Salem, TANF case managers work closely with partner staff. Informal and formal joint staffings with partner staff and clients represent a key component of Salem's approach to providing more comprehensive and coordinated services. The TANF agency shares its facilities with staff from the ES, the JTPA/WIA agency, VR, Child Support Enforcement, county mental health services, county drug treatment, the housing authority, and many others. Co-location of partner staff facilitates staff's ability to hold informal joint staffings in order to discuss how best to address an individual client's needs as they arise.
  • In Charleston, welfare case managers refer customers to the one-stop for employment and training services. Partners at the one-stop include the JTPA/WIA agency, the local technical college, public school adult and community education programs, ES, Goodwill Industries, the Department of Social Services, Henkels &McCoy, Incorporated (a computerized learning lab funded through JTPA), and other community-based human services organizations.
  • The Job Center in Dayton, Ohio is located on the outskirts of Dayton's downtown and is easily accessible by car or bus (e.g., six buses stop at the center each hour and there are a total of about 1,000 parking spots at the center). The Job Bank is centrally located within the Job Center (next to the reception desk) and anyone--whether receiving welfare or not receiving welfare--can use the facility. TANF and ES jointly staff the Job Bank, providing counseling, job leads, individual assessments, and a range of other services to help job seekers to secure employment.

Improved Case Management

A third benefit of coordination for clients is improved case management. When staff of coordinated programs share information and communicate regularly, they can better understand and address the client's needs. Several of the sites visited indicated that staff of partner programs meet regularly to discuss specific client cases or meet together as a team with clients.

  • In Charleston, the VR counselor participates in joint staffings with welfare case managers and conducts in-service training as needed. VR staff noted that, as joint staffings with welfare case managers increased, referrals for VR services became more frequent and appropriate. Counselors send copies of the Individual Plan for Employment to the welfare case manager and provide weekly updates.
  • In Pittsburgh, staff of the welfare agency and the JTPA/WIA agency speak almost daily. The county welfare agency shares space with the Job Center located on the south side of town. Direct service teams for the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) program include the SPOC case manager and job developer (who are subcontractors to the JTPA/WIA agency), as well as the welfare case coordinator and a Job Service representative. These teams meet together with clients on a regular basis.

In summary, our site visits identified a number of examples of coordination between welfare and workforce development programs. The sites visited varied in the extent to which the welfare agency was the center of work-related activities for TANF clients, but benefits to clients were noted in each of the service models.