Improving Evaluation to Address Social Needs
Research-based recommendations for better public-private social service and health networks
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Legislation currently before Congress, the Levering Integrated Networks in Communities (LINC) to Address Social Needs Act, is meant to better connect social service and health organizations via public-private partnerships. The purpose is to improve people’s access to needed services such as food, housing, job training, and child development. The act would require the U.S. Comptroller General to use seven criteria to assess service provider networks.
Networks expert and IPR associate Michelle Shumate and her colleagues’ research into integrated social service networks indicates that the Act should include three more evaluative measures.
“Networks that provide a higher percentage of complex services, show poorer performance. This suggests that an overreliance on performance metrics without accounting for service type could lead to perverse incentives,” Shumate said.
First, they recommend that the funded networks collect and report specific activity evaluation metrics. These would measure how efficiently and effectively networks match people seeking help with the social service and healthcare organizations that will meet their needs.
The act’s current generic measures may encourage “cream-skimming,” which is reporting that assesses the easiest matches of services, such as food assistance, to those in need rather than more difficult ones, such as navigating benefits.
Second, therefore, the researchers urge requiring tracking service categories by their levels of complexity—low, mid, or high. These categories are based on studying how the AmericaServes networks, which consist of 11 integrated social service networks serving veterans and military families, track the accuracy, efficiency, and effectiveness of their referrals of service to their clients.
Third, Shumate and her colleagues propose that funded networks separate outcome and activity metrics by race, ethnicity, and gender. By measuring for whom networks work well and for whom they work poorly, resources can be reallocated to meet the needs of underserved groups.
Read the full policy brief here.
Michelle Shumate is Delaney Family University Research Professor in the School of Communication and an IPR associate.
Image credit: Pexels
Published: May 4, 2022.