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Integrating Social Services for Vulnerable Groups

Bridging Sectors for Better service Delvery

Every society has vulnerable people. People who need multiple supports, day-to-day, to address personal challenges like extreme poverty, poor physical or mental health, and low education, and to offer them the best chances of turning their lives around. Every vulnerable person represents a social challenge, a moral responsibility, and a life that can be better lived. For governments, the costs of treating vulnerable groups is high. Lost opportunities for work and productivity, high social services costs, and long-term benefit dependency – from generation to generation – reduce the economic potential of a society and place a burden on social development and public budgets.

All governments are committed to providing protection against hardship. The important question addressed by this report is how effectively and efficiently this is done for the most vulnerable in society, and, in particular, how innovation in the form of integrated approaches to social service delivery contributes to these efforts?

As well as the obvious advantages for the people in need, effective public policies for the most vulnerable can have large public payoffs. For example, by supporting children with mental health needs effectively now, policy is likely to avoid costly negative outcomes in future. The co-ordination of policies for vulnerable groups reduces the likelihood of doubling-up services and spending on clients, generates economies of scale, and can also ensures that those with the highest need access the variety of services they need, in the right order. Integration also encourages the optimal take-up of available services, as services users do not need to repeat their experiences to multiple providers, and they can be supported by professional case workers or service coordinators. When services are taken up by those that need them most, they are more likely to be effective, and appropriately evaluated.

This book explores how services are being integrated for vulnerable groups across the OECD, and considers what works when delivering multiple supports for those most in need. The book opens by looking at what is meant by integrated services and what is meant by vulnerable people, and the opportunities, processes and challenges to deliver social services in an integrated way. The remaining chapters define and estimate the levels of vulnerability in families, children with mental health needs, the homeless, and the frail elderly in the OECD, before describing and assessing the integrated service approaches for these groups. The book concludes with a discussion of the main challenges and good practices for countries to consider when developing integrated social services for vulnerable populations.