Summary: The Social Services Review Act launches a thoughtful assessment of current social services provided by governments and nonprofits, including the long-term costs of inaction, and requires recommendations for how programs in physical and mental health, child and elder care, housing and nutrition can be improved for vulnerable populations.
Note: States and localities have different structures and needs. Almost every jurisdiction would benefit from a review of social services, and such a study provides the opportunity to organize nonprofits and advocates, publicize program shortcomings, and make arguments not just about short-term budgets but long-term impacts.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Social Services Review Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature/council finds that:
(1) Our state/city/county has a great deal of responsibility for the delivery of social services to residents, including programs to support physical and mental health, child and elder care, and housing and nutrition.
(2) Across the nation, more than 40 million people live in poverty and face overwhelming challenges of unemployment, underemployment, homelessness, poor health and nutrition, as well as abuse, neglect and a general lack of personal safety. Another 50 million live near poverty, suffering almost as much hardship.
(3) In [jurisdiction], there are approximately XXX,XXX residents below the poverty line and another XXX,XXX between 100 and 150 percent of the poverty rate. [Insert other state/local statistics.]
(4) A great deal of social services are delivered by nonprofit organizations, which tend to be chronically underfunded and, therefore, usually unable to plan for the long-term.
(5) Federal, state and local governments are rarely or never able to spend what it would take to serve all residents. Often, spending on social services is limited by a formal or informal cost-benefit analysis which prioritizes other budget needs.
(6) However, the long-term benefits of social services are usually greatly underestimated. Effective social services programs don’t simply address immediate needs, studies show that the benefits spill over to clients’ children, and often their grandchildren. Such programs can reduce the need for government support over the course of generations and cost-benefit analyses that don’t take that into consideration are myopic and inaccurate.
(7) There is a need for greater analysis and more careful planning in the delivery of social services. And because each state/locality faces different challenges, it is essential to analyze and plan locally.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to review and plan for future social services needed by our residents.
SECTION 3. SOCIAL SERVICES PLANNING AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In section XXX, the following new paragraphs shall be inserted:
(A) CREATION OF THE TASK FORCE—The governor/mayor/county executive will appoint a planning group consisting of [twenty] voting members reflective of diverse political, racial, cultural, income and ability groups, including:
(1) Five members who are themselves clients of social services and who formally or informally have acted as representatives of other clients within the state/city/county.
(2) Five members who represent nonprofit groups that deliver social services within the state/city/county.
(3) Five members who represent state/local government agencies that provide or fund social services programs.
(4) Two members who represent the business community: one member from an organization representing businesses with fewer than fifty employees, and one member from an organization representing businesses with fifty or more employees.
(5) Three members from institutions of higher education who are authorities in the field of social services.
(B) DUTIES OF THE TASK FORCE
(1) In general, the Task Force will study existing social services provided directly or indirectly by or through the state/city/county, analyze social services needs over the next ten years, estimate costs and benefits of needed social services, and make a report that includes an analysis of public and private programs that exist, their participation numbers/rates, and any clear gaps that exist, as well as recommendations to the legislature/council about the most appropriate and effective plans that the jurisdiction could put into effect.
(2) The study will include how programs in physical and mental health, child and elder care, housing and nutrition can be improved for vulnerable populations, and the long-term costs of inaction.
(3) The Task Force shall conduct a series of public hearings allowing experts, organizations, and individuals to make proposals, suggestions and criticisms.
(4) The Task Force shall make all possible efforts to get input from the clients of social services programs, including by holding hearings where and when it’s easy for such clients to attend, and making questionnaires easily available to and completable by those clients.
(5) The [department/office of social services] shall provide staffing, meeting space and resources needed to conduct the business of the Task Force.
(6) The report and recommendations shall be completed and made public by XXXX 1, 202X.
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This law shall become effective on XXXX 1, 202X.