Role of Intermediaries in Linking TANF Recipients with Jobs: Final Report. Linking Welfare Recipients with Intermediaries

02/10/2000

The process of linking welfare recipients with intermediaries is complex and highly dependent on the service delivery structure in which intermediaries operate.  As a result, there is considerable variation in the way in which welfare recipients are linked with intermediaries and the ease with which this process occurs.  The success sites have in linking welfare recipients with intermediaries is determined in part by how streamlined the referral process is and how well the different agencies communicate.  Our key findings regarding how welfare recipients are linked with intermediaries are discussed below.

1.  The path that a welfare recipient takes to get to an intermediary ranges from a simple referral from the welfare office to a complex chain of referrals from one intermediary to another.

In the local sites, intermediaries that provide primary employment services generally do not control the flow of clients they receive.  As Figure III.1 illustrates, the sites use four different models to link welfare recipients with intermediaries.  These four models are distinguished by two key features: (1) who controls the flow of clients to intermediaries and (2) who has primary responsibility for working with clients to develop a self-sufficiency plan.

Figure III.1: Linking Welfare Recipients to intermediaries: Referral Models in the Study Sites.

Welfare Office Case Management Model.  In the sites that use this model, staff from the welfare office work with TANF clients to develop a self-sufficiency plan and determine which intermediary will provide the services the client needs to make the transition from welfare to work.  All changes to a client's self-sufficiency plan are authorized by welfare office staff.  Welfare staff coordinate all employment services and are responsible for monitoring a clients' progress toward self-sufficiency on a regular basis.

Intermediary Case Management Model.  In the sites that use this model, staff from the welfare office make an initial referral to an intermediary who then coordinates the delivery of all employment-related services.  In most cases, job search and placement assistance and case management services are provided by the same organization.  The intermediary responsible for providing case management can refer a client to another intermediary for services, although if they are reimbursed on a pay-for-performance basis or evaluated on the number of job placements, there are incentives for them not to do so.  When an intermediary is responsible for providing case management, a TANF client is likely to have little contact with staff from the welfare office during the time they are looking for employment.  Once a client finds employment, they are then responsible for notifying staff from the welfare office so their benefits can be adjusted to account for their increased earned income.

Workforce Development System Case Management Model.  In Hartford, staff from the workforce development office coordinate the delivery of services for TANF recipients.  After an initial referral from the welfare office, staff from the workforce development system determine which intermediary will provide the employment services the client needs to make the transition from welfare to work.  Changes to a client's plan must be authorized by a case manager in the workforce development office.  Hartford is in the process of transferring responsibility for case management to one or more intermediaries.  These services will not necessarily be provided by the same intermediaries that provide job search and placement assistance.  As in the intermediary case management model, TANF clients have little contact with staff from the welfare office while they are looking for work.

Workforce Development Service Progression Model.  New London has taken a unique approach to referring clients to intermediaries.  Unlike most other sites, New London's intermediaries are specialized.  Clients are first referred to one intermediary for an assessment and development of a self-sufficiency plan.  Then, clients are referred to a second intermediary for job search assistance and case management services.  Finally, a client is referred to a third intermediary for job placement.

It does not appear that any one of these referral processes necessarily works better than the others.  Some of the more complex referral processes worked extremely well while some of the simpler ones did not.  The factors that seemed to influence the effectiveness of the referral process include: (1) the level and quality of communication between the welfare office, other administrative entities and intermediaries; (2) the ability of the intermediary to carry out its specified tasks and (3) clearly defined roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in the referral process.

2.  To enforce mandatory participation, the referral process is often tightly defined and monitored, making it difficult for intermediaries outside of the primary TANF employment system to receive referrals.

In all of the local sites, participation in employment-related activities is mandatory.  Most of the sites have developed their referral and client monitoring systems expecting that clients will participate in programs offered by intermediaries directly under their purview.  In developing these systems, the organizations that are responsible for managing TANF employment programs aim to achieve two different goals: (1) ensure that clients who are mandated to find work have access to job search and placement assistance and (2) ensure that the intermediaries to which they have transferred responsibility for providing these services have the opportunity to provide them.

Within this context, intermediaries funded through the WtW program in sites where the TANF employment program is managed by the welfare office have had difficulties (over and above those related to eligibility criteria) receiving referrals for TANF clients.  In some sites, WtW providers are dependent upon other intermediaries to refer clients to them; in others, they are dependent upon welfare office staff to consider them along with primary TANF employment intermediaries as potential service providers for their clients.  Especially in sites where there is excess service capacity, welfare administrators who encourage referrals to WtW providers run the risk of having even greater excess capacity among their own providers.  When the primary TANF employment and the WtW programs are managed by the same administrative entity, it is easier for WtW and TANF providers to receive equal consideration.  As WtW intermediaries become more established and their programs more distinguishable from those provided by TANF intermediaries, some of the issues WtW intermediaries currently face may be alleviated.

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