Compared to the past, the current environment may be more fertile for higher levels of service coordination between the welfare and workforce systems. First, given the new workforce development legislation, the two systems share more common goals. Both systems are more focused on rapid employment, and must develop education and training and post-employment services within this work-oriented environment. Second, the workforce systemВ which had a mixed record on serving the most disadvantagedВ will now be a key provider of services to this group through the Welfare-to-Work grants program. These circumstances could provide more opportunities for service coordination than we have seen in the past.
Several of the studies reviewed have identified factors that could foster service coordination. Most point out that these factors may promote, but do not necessarily guarantee, improved coordination.
- Federal level. Strategies include: expanding efforts to document and communicate information about the benefits of coordination and support for these efforts; providing information on successful examples of coordination, providing technical assistance, guidance, and problem resolution; loosening restrictions that prevent blended funding; and setting an example by continuing coordination at the national and regional level.
- State level. Strategies include: providing high-level support for coordination; strengthening statewide coordinating committees; providing localities with technical assistance and problem resolution; promoting the integration of automated systems; and providing for cross-training of staff.
- Local level. Strategies include: developing an understanding of the objectives and operations of other programs; increasing joint planning among local agencies; introducing cross-training of staff; and documenting and evaluating coordination efforts.
Finally, this literature review also indicates that service coordination in and of itself is not enough. Coordination efforts must achieve of the goal of helping welfare recipientsВ particularly those who may face significant barriers to workingВ receive the services they need to obtain and keep employment.