Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Service Coordination and Integration in the Literature


A literature review completed earlier in this project (Martinson 1999, included as Appendix A of this report) formed the basis for the working concepts of coordination and integration applied to this study. Coordination generally refers to situations where two or more organizations work together, through a formal or informal arrangement, to meet one or more goals such as improving the effectiveness and/or cost-effectiveness of programs, improving access to services, avoiding the unnecessary duplication of services, and improving performance. There is generally a distinction between service integration and coordination. Integration is characterized by features such as common intake and "seamless" service delivery, where the client may receive a range of services from different programs without repeated registration procedures, waiting periods, or other administrative barriers. In contrast, coordinated systems generally involve multiple agencies providing services, but clients may have to visit different locations and re-register for each program to obtain services. Integrated services are sometimes, but not always, physically co-located.

Prior research into the coordination of employment and training and welfare programs offers only limited evidence of successful, sustained coordination and no single model or incentive that promotes successful coordination (Martinson 1999). Since this earlier research, there have been many changes in the political and economic context in which welfare and employment and training programs operate. Our study builds on this prior research, and also tries to identify what is new or different given the current environment.

Recently, several studies on service integration have been conducted that examine the new policy environment in both systems. The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a study examining how employment services were provided to TANF recipients in five states (Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) (GAO 1999). While all of the states studied were early leaders in federal welfare reform and/or one-stop career center development, at the state level, four of the five states (Wisconsin being the exception) maintained the separate systems for workforce development and welfare that existed before the passage of federal welfare reform legislation. More integration occurred at the local level  three of the states brought in the workforce development system to varying degrees to deliver employment and training assistance to TANF clients in some localities. This study also found that no clear consensus existed on which approach best serves the welfare population  a survey of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regional officials indicated that 17 states use workforce development structures, 14 use welfare-dedicated structures, and the rest use various combinations.

Another study which focused on the implementation of the WtW Grants Program in four cities (Chicago, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and San Francisco) found that one of the most challenging aspects of establishing the program was coordinating relationships and procedures between the welfare and workforce development systems (Leonard 1999). Places that had strong working relationships prior to the WtW program were able to coordinate more effectively. The study noted that the lack of coordination contributed to the low number of referrals made to the program and resulted in a duplication of services in many instances.

A study of implementation in the first 11 states that received WtW formula funds (Trutko, Pindus, et al. 1999) also noted that, in the early months of implementation, one factor slowing recruitment of WtW-eligible participants was the need for workforce development agencies and welfare agencies to establish policies for sharing case information and referring eligible individuals to WtW. The study found that, in states where workforce development agencies had well-established relationships with welfare agencies at the state and local levels because of collaboration on JOBS or TANF work-welfare initiatives (such as Illinois, Michigan, and Oregon), these prior relationships helped to facilitate WtW start-up.

Finally, one study found that policies adopted under welfare reform may actually hinder coordination and other improvement efforts occurring in the workforce development system (Grubb, et al. 1999). This study on the reform of workforce development systems in ten states found that welfare reform and its focus on work-first was in direct contradiction with the workforce development system's mandate to improve skills and raise wages. Moreover, the pressures of welfare reform often exacerbated state and local tensions, alienated employers (who received poorly qualified referrals), and had spillover effects on policies for the non-welfare population.

These studies on service coordination and integration cover an early implementation period for new programs in the welfare and workforce development system. However, at this early stage, it appears that integrating the services provided by these systems continues to remain difficult, with no single preferred model.