You might be working with families facing homelessness or housing insecurities. Maybe your agency serves adults with physical or mental health issues or disabilities. Or, perhaps you work for a nonprofit providing reentry support to formerly incarcerated individuals.
Whatever your constituent focus, you’ve undoubtedly learned that finding and keeping a job requires more than just career training and placement.
We often take for granted how the different parts of our lives support stable employment. Physical heath, stable housing, and access to reliable transportation are key to being able to simply show up every day. Emotional well being and conflict resolution skills ensure our ability to navigate interactions with coworkers, supervisors, clients, or customers. Child care is critical for almost all families with children.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that workforce development and employment service organizations and agencies are most successful when they can provide integrated, comprehensive support services.
In a report on workforce development programs in Chicago, one program director explained, “You could teach them all the skills about getting a job, but they may not land that job because you haven’t dealt with the personal stuff.”
Another director in the study explained how interagency cooperation allows program staff to support their constituents in dealing with that “personal stuff”:
There is a need for social services sometimes to make it all work. So what we do, to the extent that we can, is try and wrap as much of the holistic package around somebody. But we’re trying to empower them, so sometimes what we can do is say, “This is a wonderful resource, we will make the first call for you, you need to keep the appointment.”
So, what does that “holistic package” look like and how does successful interagency cooperation support those efforts?
Housing & Food Security – Folks who have been out of work for a while or who face significant barriers to employment often lack resources to meet the most basic needs. If you don’t have a stable address, just getting hired can be a challenge. Likewise, food insecurity doesn’t just add stress and distraction, but can dramatically impact work performance, whether that performance requires physical strength and endurance, mental acuity, or both.
Healthcare – Employment services that focus on serving those with physical or mental disabilities know that clear diagnosis and adequate care and treatment are critical to helping their constituents. But, even if the folks you serve do not have debilitating health issues, access to reliable health care and resources to address chronic conditions clearly improves attendance and performance on the job.
Interagency cooperation can help remove barriers to employment by simply providing access to proper diagnosis and treatment. Plus, when constituents know how to access the healthcare they need, they are less likely to ignore a problem until it interferes with their employment.
Mental health services are especially critical. What might on the surface look like a lack of life skills or a ‘bad attitude’ might actually be symptoms of undiagnosed mental health conditions. For example, someone who struggles managing stress and conflict or someone who has a hard time waking up and getting to work might be experiencing mental health symptoms. Proper diagnosis and treatment can open doors to more successful engagement at work. It can support the development of conflict resolution skills, professionalism, and confidence — important skills that would help them find and keep a job.
Childcare & Family Support – Access to reliable child care is a huge barrier to employment for parents. Parents face extra challenges in the workplace when their children’s needs impact their attendance and/or ability to take advantage of extra resources and support (like attending a networking or training event). From drop-in childcare to family counseling, interagency cooperation opens doors for parents to meet the needs of their children and in turn facilitates more successful employment.
Justice & Legal Services – Legal issues can quickly undercut job attendance and performance.
Civil law matters (as opposed to criminal matters) can be particularly difficult because there are fewer systems in place to make sure people have access to legal resources. Workforce program participants may be facing divorce and custody conflicts. They may need legal support to address housing issues, getting access to disability services for themselves or family members, or understanding debt or collections issues.
Strong interagency cooperation can ensure that workforce program participants have support and resources to attend court appearances, mediations, or understand their legal rights and protections.
- Financial Education & Skills – The Chicago study explains, “Financial literacy services—such as teaching budgeting, saving, and credit building—play a role in helping participants gain important life skills, find and retain employment, and ultimately transition out of poverty.” Connecting program participants with financial education resources can help them shift financial behaviors from the scramble of survival to investing and managing their financial future. In turn, they are more empowered to invest in personal resources that support long-term employment success (buying a car, going to school, buying clothes, uniforms, or other tools needed for the job, etc.)
Keep in mind that barriers to access to support services can be overcome through collaborations with other agencies and organizations. If the agencies and offices that can provide support services are only open during the same times a client is supposed to be on the job, they may need help requesting and scheduling time off or finding alternative ways to access services.
Case managers and case management systems can be customized to ensure that data about holistic needs are being captured and addressed. The best collaborations either share integrated case management and data collection systems, or at the very least, customize their systems to allow for seamless integration and information sharing.
This will ensure that case managers can quickly access information about other services that might be needed and streamline the referral and evaluation processes. It also allows all cooperating agencies to have access to robust data about the needs, use, and impact of their collective efforts.
The closer your organization or agency collaborates with agencies and organizations that support these services, the easier it will be to identify solutions to ensure consistent access for those who need help.
Some say 1+1 =10 and in the realm of health and human services, that couldn’t be more true. Although it is true that good partnerships can take effort to set up and maintain, these relationships pay dividends for the outcomes of your clients. If you’d like to learn more about how Social Solutions can help you collaborate, contact one of our solutions specialists today!