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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    House Document No. 33
    PUBLICATION YEAR 2006

    Document Title
    Self-Sufficiency Among Social Services Clients in Virginia

    Author
    Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission

    Enabling Authority
    HJR 193 (Regular Session, 2004)

    Executive Summary
    House Joint Resolution 193 (2004) directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to assess the extent to which Virginia’s social services system has succeeded in enabling its clients to improve their financial independence and achieve self-sufficiency. JLARC staff analyzed the financial outcomes of 14,500 social services benefit recipients between 2002 and 2004, conducted site visits of human services and workforce development agencies in 15 localities, and held interviews with State Department of Social Services and other State agency staff.

    The study found that the majority of Virginia’s social services clients decreased their reliance on government assistance over the course of two years, but that they seldom achieved self-sufficiency. Even the families who improved their financial independence earned too little to move out of poverty and to provide for their basic needs. As a result, most families studied continued to receive government benefits to supplement their income. Finally, many social services clients were foregoing a significant income opportunity by not claiming tax credits for which they are eligible.

    Since the enactment of welfare reform in 1995, many cash assistance recipients have obtained jobs after participating in the Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare (VIEW) program. However, most former VIEW participants have not been able to achieve self-sufficiency, in part because the program focuses primarily on immediate job placement without emphasizing the importance of job quality or preparing clients for long-term job retention and career advancement. This report includes recommendations that build upon the current VIEW framework to foster better long-term outcomes.

    The study also highlights that the primary intent of benefit programs other than VIEW is not to help clients fully achieve self-sufficiency, but rather to act as a safety net. Consequently, the social services system remains neither designed nor intended to provide non-VIEW clients with the services they need to move beyond poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. The report recommends providing services aimed at improving job retention and career advancement for these clients.

    [See HD 75 (2005).]