The Current State of the Social Service Delivery System

Social Solutions Blog

The Current State of the Social Service Delivery System

Social Service Delivery System

The effectiveness of social services may not actually be controlled by the social service organizations.

That may sound ludicrous, but it also may be true.

Social services are dependent upon a social service delivery system which is largely defined by public social policy, and unfortunately, current policy may not line up with effective service delivery.

Keep reading to learn about current policies affecting the social service delivery system and how it can be improved.

The Problem

According to the National Association of Social Workers:

“… the current policy is antithetical to social work values…. Restructuring and limiting government responsibility has profoundly altered the availability and the delivery of social work services and the role and status of social work as a profession.”

In other words, the social service delivery system is not working; it is becoming harder for individuals to qualify for the services they need. This is particularly tricky because the human services field is the only one in which individuals are not paying for the services they are receiving. The problem of delivery is not an issue between service provider and customer, but between service provider, government and customer. And unlike Australia, the US does not have an organization that is responsible just for overseeing social service delivery.

If the government creates too many restrictions, even if these are designed to prevent people from taking advantage of the system, it can prevent the social service delivery system from functioning properly. This can result in an expanding population of “underserved” individuals.

Furthermore, the whole field of service delivery provides great challenges because services cannot be stockpiled for times of greater need. As a result, the social service delivery system is prone to resource scarcity problems, which can interfere with the effectiveness of the system even when patients and funding are readily available.

Are There Solutions?

The state of Colorado has come up with one potential solution, called the System of Care (SOC) model, which is an integrated approach to care. This social service delivery system was initially created for the mental health system in order to better meet the needs of children and families entering the social welfare system. As part of the development of this platform in one of their counties, they cataloged all of the social services resources in that area.

A similar model also from the mental health arena is the one known as Comprehensive, Continuous Integrated System of Care (CCISC) which can function even in areas where resources are already scarce.

Implementing Solutions

A few things need to happen in order to move towards a more integrated care platform:

  1. Implementation of new software tools to enable better data analysis
  2. More focus on outcomes measurement to ensure resources are being used effectively
  3. Increased attention on program quality improvement and delivery of effective services
  4. Better collaboration between funders, regulators and service providers


While the social service delivery system we currently have may not be flawless, with modern technology, there is great potential to solve these problems in a lasting and sustainable way.


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