LAGN Housing Assistance Reform Proposals for
Niagara County Department of Social Services -
DSS Improved Metrics

4. Establish new outcome based performance metrics to modify policy to increase program success.

The goal of the AFDC program was to provide income support to needy, single parents in order to care for their children. By contrast the goal of the TANF program is to change the behavior of adults and end the entitlement to support. The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which established the TANF block grants, stated that the purpose of the program was to reduce dependence on public assistance by promoting job preparation, work and marriage; reduce out-of-wedlock births; and help poor children remain in their homes.

The recent public debate on welfare reform has primarily focused on measuring two outcomes: reducing the number of people who are on the welfare rolls and getting welfare clients into jobs. Early on in their meetings however, WELPAN, Welfare Peer Assistance Network members realized that these outcomes are not the only goals for which welfare agencies will be held accountable, by federal law or by others.2

Most states are under pressure to perform as Federal Aide is eliminated or drastically reduced after a client has been on TANF for 5 years. One possible outcome of New York State’s mandate that public assistance be maintained in perpetuity greatly is that it reduces the incentive to move clients off the program. This is all the more reason for instituting or re-evaluating current performance based outcome metrics.

There is a question private business sector motivators use to stimulate business owners, “Are you to busy working IN your business to work ON your business?” What this question asks is, are you to busy with the day-to-day activities of your business that you are unable to look at the bigger picture. Creating a system of metrics to gauge the outcomes programs have on clients’ lives is important and worthy because without them we have no idea how effective they are.

An example of measuring an outcome is being able to identify where and how you can do more with less. Measuring and using outcome data is essential for improving productivity (vs. simply cutting costs). There is a real risk that in squeezing too much on the resource side of the equation, e.g., by increasing the number of youth a case manager is serving, you can inadvertently cross a threshold where you actually end up lowering productivity by undermining outcomes for all the youth in the stretched case load.2

Establishing a system of metrics that is clear and understandable is vital to success and should be welcomed as a tool to improve any organization.

  1. ““Welfare Reform: How Will We Know If It Works?” Family Impact Center Report 1998 Web 21 May 2013


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