Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Barriers to Service Coordination


While there are clearly many benefits to both clients and programs of coordinated services, the literature and the experience of states and localities show that there are a number of barriers that make coordination difficult. The most commonly cited barriers in the literature are described below.

Bureaucratic barriers and turf-protection. Turf issues are cited in virtually every study of coordinated service delivery as one of the major barriersВ  if not the most important barrierВ  to the establishment and maintenance of coordination. According the Bailis (1989), turf issues refer to the desire to maintain autonomy and thus avoid having individuals in other agencies affect things within one's own organization. Burbridge and Nightingale (1989) note that there is a common fear among agencies that coordination may somehow result in the agency being taken over or in a loss of decision-making autonomy. Even officials who can clearly see the benefits of coordination are often fearful of yielding their authority to another agency or relinquishing control outside of their own agency. The Trutko et al. (1991) study of JTPA coordination cites several barriers closely related to turf issues, including different perspectives on performance and service to clients, fear of loss of agency autonomy, distrust of the agencies, and lack of ownership.

Different philosophies or missions. One common problem in service coordination efforts is that agencies often perceive their missions to be different. Each state and local program has its own philosophy regarding which clients should be served, how they should be served, and how success should be measured. Trutko et al. (1991) note that JTPA is often described as being "performance driven" because of its emphasis on performance standards and the involvement of the private sector. The Employment Service generally emphasizes finding workers for employers, and past welfare programs have widely varying philosophies and missions. Holcomb et al. (1993) note other differences that can deter service coordination including the relative emphasis on social services versus employment and training; viewing participation in employment and training as a requirement, an entitlement, or an option; and the importance of cost considerations. These philosophical differences across agencies may lead to an exacerbation of turf issues or other coordination problems.

Differences in Performance Measures and Obtaining Credit for Services and Results. Employment, training, education, and welfare programs are accountable to various oversight bodies and they generally must provide evidence on their performance. Holcomb et al. (1993) finds that the performance standards that each program is accountable for can differ substantially, altering perspectives of agency administrators and complicating efforts to coordinate. For example, in the past, JTPA was judged on job placement standards and JOBS on participation rates. In addition, programs may be reluctant to refer participants to other agencies if they can not be assured of receiving credit for positive outcomes. Burbridge and Nightingale (1989) note that some agencies may be discouraged from integrated service delivery because of the loss of control over the flow of clients through the system and difficulty in meeting numeric service goals.

Incompatible Management Information Systems.В  One of the most frequently encountered barriers to service integration is inconsistency in data collection and management across programs. This barrier is mentioned in most studies of service integration and coordination. The study by Holcomb et al. (1993) on one-stop service coordination attributes incompatibility in data collection systems to several factors including: JTPA eligibility requirements and performance standards which drive the system's data collection; less complex data collection for employment service and vocational education programs; and the different concerns of welfare departments such as attendance documentation for enforcing mandatory participation.

Different eligibility restrictions.В  State and federal eligibility requirements are sometimes mentioned as barriers to service coordination among agencies operating employment and training programs. Employment, training, education, and other programs often have restrictions on who can be served. For example, JTPA includes categorical eligibility requirements (e.g. 90 percent of the Title II-A participants must be economically disadvantaged) and residency requirements (participants must live in the service delivery area). Programs coordinating with JTPA often have different eligibility requirements and/or serve a different geographical area. If programs serve ineligible participants, the organization may have its expenditures disallowed during an audit and may be required to reimburse the government for the program.

Clearly, the combination of these factors can be daunting to coordination efforts and are most likely responsible for the general lack of coordination evidenced in past studies.