The Utah Legislature should appropriate funds to help welfare clients enrolled in self-sufficiency programs and better train those responsible for assisting them.
That was part of a recommendation that surfaced from a Utah Issues Conference workshop Friday in the Salt Lake County Government Center.About 150 people, including state Human Service Department workers, officials from the State Office of Education and welfare clients, discussed problems surrounding programs aimed at helping families become independent of welfare.
The workshop, "The Road to Self-Sufficiency," was moderated by Joe Duke-Rosati, advocacy director for Salt Lake Community Action.
Workshop participants made many recommendations but were limited to one for presentation to a concluding session of the conference, which attracted about 900 people. State legislators and an official from the governor's office were to respond to workshop recommendations.
The self-sufficiency workshop recommended that funding to the Human Services Department be used for more training of self-sufficiency workers, enabling them to do a "better assessment of AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) clients."
The funds also should be used for training self-sufficiency workers to do a better job of providing information on available client resources.
The workshop said the self-sufficiency caseload should be reduced. There are about 15,800 Utah households on AFDC. Terry Johnson, a state Human Services worker, said about 1,200 to 1,500 individuals are involved in self-sufficiency efforts at any one time. Many caseworkers have caseloads of 200 to 300 individuals; the average is about 250. That is far more people than a welfare worker can handle and still do justice to a client, those attending the workshop were told.
Duke-Rosati said the legislative funding should also be used for ongoing support to self-sufficiency clients. When women leave AFDC, they should receive assistance through groups that provide emotional support, assertiveness training, life-skills training and help on a more gradual loss of support services such as child care, he said.
"In addition to these budget-related recommendations, the Department of Human Services should seek more flexibility in reporting requirements for workers and clients. This recommendation is made in the interest of efficiency for clients, workers and the system as a whole," Duke-Rosati said.
Bill Walsh, Utah Issues director, outlined recommendations from two other workshops, "Revenue and Taxation: Tax Reform Revisted" and "Mental Health for the Common Good."
The mental health workshop called for "supported housing," and creation of less expensive, safe alternatives to hospitalization so handicapped people can remain in the community.
In the revenue and taxation workshop, participants presented this recommendation: "Regardless of the outcome of Initiative A (removal of the sales tax on food), the burden of the sales tax on food should be removed." And they said the Legislature should push for a tax system that is more fair and based on people's ability to pay.