Review of the Work Incentive Program

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-12-22.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                WASHINGTON, D.C.   20548

                                                                  DEC 2 2 1971

       Dear Mr. Zarb:

            Our recent report to the Congress on problems in accomplishing the
       objectives of the Work Incentive Program (WIN) (B-164031(3), September 24,
       1971), contained our findings on the results of WIN operations and problems
       in the designs of WIN and the Aid to Families with Dependent Children
       (AFDC) program. We noted in the report (see page 6), that we would report
       our findings on program administration separately to the Department of
       Labor. This letter contains our findings on program administration.

            Your comments on our report to the Congress indicated that needed
       improvements in WIN's management information system might be deferred if
       enactment of the Family Assistance Plan/Opportunities for Families Program
       (FAP/OFP) appeared imminent. We believe, however, that there is consider-
       able merit to perfecting the operations of WIN to the extent practicable
       because WIN is widely regarded as being the forerunner of FAP/OFP. At
       this time, the prospects of FAP/OFP being established in the near future
       appear uncertain. We suggest, therefore, that the Department initiate at
       this time improvements in the management information system discussed in
       our report to the Congress as well as the administrative improvements
       discussed in this report.

            As was the case with the report to the Congress, this letter is based
       on our review of WIN operations at the national headquarters offices of
       the Department and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW)
       and at local WIN and welfare offices in Denver, Colorado, and Los Angeles,
       California, for the period from WIN's inception in July 1968 through
       June 30, 1970.


            We believe that, if welfare social workers operated as members of the
       WIN teams, the coordination between welfare services and WIN services
       would be improved. This approach has been used experimentally in Los
       Angeles and local officials have reported favorable results.

            By having social workers function as WIN team members, additional
       expertise and a different viewpoint would be available to the other team
       members, and this could result in improved service to the enrollee. A
       possible lack of expertise in counseling in personal matters (as opposed
       to counseling in vocational matters), on the part of regular WIN team
       members is recognized in the Department WIN Handbook which suggests in
       subsection 304 that WIN counselors might need instruction in the techniques
       of personal counseling.

                              s50TH ANNIVERSARY 1921 197j
     In a March 1970 report on its evaluation of the WIN program under a
contract with the Department of Labor, the Auerbach Corporation noted that
close coordination between the local welfare agencies and the local offices
of the State employment security agencies was essential for program success,
but that such coordination was not generally achieved. The report also
noted that coordination at the Federal level between Labor and HEW could
be improved. The report suggested that local interagency task forces on
WIN be established and that welfare caseworkers be available to employment
security personnel on an informal basis to assist in planning the
activities needed to make each enrollee employable.

Los Angeles

     Although there seemed to be frequent contact between program managers
in the welfare and employment security agencies in Los Angeles, coordination
and communication between social workers and WIN team members could be
substantially improved. Officials in Los Angeles agreed that coordination
could be improved by locating social workers in the same office space with
the WIN teams and assigning them to the cases handled by the respective
WIN teams.

     At the time of our review, the Los Angeles County welfare agency had
conducted a pilot study in which social workers were assigned to work at
one of the 10 WIN-LA offices. In October 1970, after about 7 months, we
were advised that the stationing of social workers at the WIN offices was
considered beneficial to the program, and a recommendation for extending
this arrangement to all of the WIN-LA offices was being considered.

     An official of the County welfare agency advised us that the benefits
experienced during the test included the following:

     --The average time between referral and enrollment was substantially

     --The number of referred individuals who failed to report for their
       pre-enrollment interview was reduced.

     --Fewer inappropriate referrals were made.

     --Operating level communication between WIN and -Welfare agency
       personnel was improved.

     We were informed subsequent to the completion of our review that, due
to the welfare agency's judgetary restrictions, the arrangement was not
adopted.           ! iJi         '    -


     Welfare social caseworkers and WIN operating personnel in Denver
frequently communicate through telephone conversations, written memorandums,
monthly conferences, weekly case review meetings, and other personal day-
to-day contacts. Problems with communications continue despite these
efforts, however, as noted in WIN-Denver evaluation reports issued by
Federal evaluation teams.
     Our discussions with Denver WIN team members, Federal regional
officials of the Department and HEW, and State and local welfare officials
indicated that more effective and efficient communications would result
from having welfare social workers located in the same offices with WIN
teams. The WIN team members noted specifically that the benefits would
include the following:

     1.   Improved understanding of enrollee problems by Work Incentive
          Program teams, thus facilitating a more comprehensive evaluation
          of the individual.

     2.   Better selection of the enrollee's occupational goal through use
          of the social caseworker's personal knowledge of the individual.

     3.   Improved responsiveness to enrollee needs because of faster WIN
          team-caseworker communications.

     4.   Reduction or elimination of repetitious and time consuming
          meetings presently required.

Conclusions and recommendations

     If social workers were assigned to function as members of WIN teams,
service to enrollees would be improved. Little or no additional cost
would be involved after the changeover was accomplished because each social
worker's caseload could consist only of enrollees of one WIN team and he
could.maintain approximately the same size caseload as before the change.
As many social workers as necessary to handle the caseload could be
assigned to one WIN team.

     We recommend that the Department inquire into whether other WIN
projects have had welfare social workers function as members of WIN teams,
evaluate the results in Los Angeles and any other locations where this
arrangement has been used, and consider jointly with HEW adopting a policy
of encouraging or possibly requiring the implementation of this arrangement
in all WIN projects.


     Better employability planning was needed for both WIN-Los Angeles and
WIN-Denver. Action was taken near the completion of our field work on this
subject to improve the employability planning ofWIN-Los Angeles, but the
Department should follow-up on this matter to determine whether more
specific Federal requirements are needed to ensure that this important
function is effectively carried out.

     WIN's authorizing legislation requires that an employability plan be
prepared for each person enrolled in WIN and the Department described the
plan as the "blueprint" which guides the enrollee's activities through WIN
and into a job. The employability plan establishes a type of job as an

                             V,ยท~~~~~~~~~~~                            -3-
employment goal and the steps needed to achieve the goal. The Department's
WIN Handbook describes in relatively specific terms what the employability
plan and its supporting documentation should usually contain but the
minimum requirements are quite general and no form for the plan is
prescribed or recommended by the Department.

Los Angeles

     Employability plans in the 100 case files which we reviewed for WIN-
Los Angeles (50 March 1969 enrollees and 50 February 1970 enrollees) were
contained in counseling records and the plans were not well organized.
For example, although most (about 85 percent) of the plans contained an
occupational goal, the basis for selecting the goal was explained in the
files in only 7 percent of these.

     In February 1970, the State WIN sponsor issued instructions requiring
that the employability plan be an identifiable document. The instructions
also described specific factors required to be contained in the plan. In
July 1970 the State issued a new form on which the employability plan is
to be recorded, to further assist WIN personnel in developing good
employability plans.

     These new procedures were implemented too late for us to assess their
impact, but, if properly implemented, they should result in significant
improvements in employability planning for WIN-Los Angeles enrollees.


     Our review of 60 employability plans for WIN-Denver enrollees showed
that all 60 were incomplete in some respect. The employability plan in
Denver was also a part of the overall counseling record and not a separate

     About 55 percent of the 60 plans did not indicate that a decision had
been made on the enrollee's occupational goal, and, although training steps
were stated in 70 percent of the 60 cases, no time estimates were shown
for any of the training steps. We believe time estimates would be helpful
in evaluating the enrollee's progress and in planning and coordinating the
training steps and supportive services. Such estimates would also provide
the enrollee and the WIN team with an estimate of when the enrollee might
become employed.

Conclusions and recommendations

     Employability planning is an important'first step toward economic
self-sufficiency for AFDC recipients enrolled in WIN, and as such should
receive adequate emphasis. California took action during our review to
improve employability planning and its action, if properly implemented,
should result in significant improvements. Employability planning in
Denver needed improvement, however, and in view of the lack of specific

                                                                    - 4 -
Department requirements on this matter, it is possible that employability
planning needs more attention in other WIN projects.

     Accordingly, we recommend that the Department inquire as to how other
WIN projects handle employability planning.  We recommend also that during
this inquiry, Department follow-up on the impact of the revised California
procedures and, if the impact has been favorable, consider requiring
similar procedures nationwide.


     Dropout and attendance rates for basic education and general
educational development (preparation for high school equivalency examina-
tion) components in WIN-Los Angeles and WIN-Denver have been poorer than
for other components, especially vocational training. Also, the work
experience component in Los Angeles seemed to be underutilized.

     We selected a random sample of 50 terminees from   WIN-Denver who had
participated in general educational development. The    attendance rates for
this component for the 47 for whom attendance records   were available was
51 percent. Five of the fifty successfully completed    the component.

     In Los Angeles, we reviewed the attendance rates for the first 3
months of 1970 for 29 basic education and general educational development
classes (27 basic education and 2 general educational development) out of
a total of 68 such classes. The average attendance of the classes we
reviewed ranged from 36 to 87 percent, and 18 of the 29 had attendance
rates less than 70 percent. Conversely, only 7 of the 23 vocational train-
ing classes experienced attendance rates lower than 70 percent, indicating
than an enrollee's enthusiam is probably higher when the training is more
directly related to his employment goal.

     A study of basic education classes made for the Los Angeles Unified
School District noted that about 30 percent of the WIN enrollees assigned
to basic education classes terminated prematurely for various personal and
unknown reasons. This figure does not include those that were identified
as moving away or quitting to take a job. The study report comments on
the small percentage of successful graduates from the education program,
and suggested that this program would be more successful if it could be
interrelated with the employment goals of the enrollees.

     As of June 25, 1970, WIN-LA had 255 enrollees assigned to its work
experience component, which had available 1,884 work experience positions
or slots. This represents a 14 percent rate of utilization. During
fiscal year 1970, WIN-LA had an average monthly utilization rate of 19
percent. We believe that many of the 2,000 enrollees on board each month-
end in program holding status--persons having completed a training step but
waiting to begin another one--could receive more benefit if assigned to
work experience.

                                                                      - 5 -
Conclusions and Recommendation

     The work experience component could be better utilized by placing
enrollees in this component as an alternative to placing them in a hold-
ing status and by combining participation in basic education and general
educational development with work experience. This combination should
also mitigate the high dropout and low attendance rates experienced in
the education components.

     Accordingly, we recommend that the Department adopt a policy of
encouraging WIN sponsors to combine education components with work
experience or other work-related components.


     In Los Angeles and Denver the State WIN sponsor paid the $30 per
month incentive payment to WIN enrollees semi-monthly and, in accordance
with Department instructions, made no reductions in the payments because
of poor attendance. Enrollees had to attend training only one day during
each semi-monthly period to receive the regular $15 incentive payment for
the period. Expense allowances paid by the local welfare agencies for
child care, transportation, and incidentals also were not reduced because
of absences from training.

     We suggested to the WIN sponsors and local welfare agencies in Denver
and Los Angeles the possibility of the WIN sponsors' assuming administrative
responsibility for issuing the checks to enrollees for transportation and
incidentals. The welfare agency would determine the amounts of the basic
payments and provide the funds, but the WIN sponsor would issue the checks,
based on enrollees' attendance. Thus the payments could more readily be
reduced for poor attendance, and the number of checks would be reduced.

     WIN and welfare officials in Los Angeles and Denver generally favored
this arrangement because the expense payments could be made more responsive
to the enrollees' changing circumstances and better financial control could
be achieved.

     The current Department policy seems to us to discourage continuous
participation in WIN training.  Casual participants are given the full
$30 per month incentive payment, the same as more serious participants.
Expense allowances are paid w    rrerhe
                                    or not the expenses are actually
incurred, which tends to directly discourage participation and its
associated expense. This discouragement would also apply to payments for
child care in those instances where the allowance is paid to the enrollees
and the enrollees pay the expense based on the time that their children
are actually cared for.

Conclusions and Recommendations

     While the additional expense of keeping daily attendance records for
all enrollees and prorating incentive and expense payments based on
attendance might exceed the savings achieved through reduced payments in
some WIN projects, such a procedure should have the effect, not readily
quantifiable, of increasing participation in WIN training. The additional
expense should be negligible, however, in projects such as WIN-Los Angeles
where (1) attendance records are already maintained for some components,
(2) semi-monthly certificates are prepared showing that the enrollee
attended training at least one day, and (3) the incentive payment system is

     We recommend that the Department explore with HEW the possibility of
having WIN sponsors administer payments for WIN-training-related expenses
and consider revising its policy so that these payments could be combined
with incentive payments and the combined payment could be prorated based
on attendance,


     The Individual Termination Record (Form MA-104), is the basic source
document for all information on the results of WIN. It shows the reason
for the termination, how the terminee got his job, his earnings if he was
employed, the reduction in the family's AFDC payment if any, and the time
that the terminee spent in each WIN component.

     As noted in our report to the Congress, the form needs to be improved,
but it is potentially the most valuable source of information about WIN's
operations. Only raw data about individual terminees is shown on the forms.
The data would have considerable value for management purposes, if it were

     The Department has made special analyses from time to time in which
the data from Individual Termination Records was summarized into useful
reports. These analyses were not available at the project or State level
for either of the projects which we visited.

Conclusions and Recommendations

     We believe that the Individual Termination Record (Form MA-104) should
be revised and the data regularly summayized by project, for use by WIN
managers.     -         - -

     We believe, therefore, that the Department should revise the Individual
Termination Record in line with our recommendation in our September 1971
report to the Congress and we recommend that the information on the revised
forms be summarized and made available to program managers, particularly at
the project and regional levels.


     As noted in our report to the Congress, information on program costs,
reasons for termination from WIN, and reductions in AFDC payments to WIN
enrollees, was inaccurate and misleading. To ensure reasonable accuracy
of the data reported to the Department by WIN sponsors, we believe that
the key information compiled for each WIN project should be periodically

     The frequency and extent of this validation could be varied based on
the size of each project, its history of personnel turnover and reporting
accuracy, and other factors. The validation should give particular
attention to whether the procedures employed in compiling the data result
in accurate, valid information. Individual transactions would be traced
only to the extent necessary to verify that the procedures were applied
properly and consistently. This type of validation would also reveal
instances in which the Department's instructions need to be clarified,
forms require revision, or procedures need modification.

Conclusions and recommendations

     The significance of the errors we noted in key data on the results of
WIN indicates a need for periodic validation of such data to reasonably
ensure its reliability.

     Accordingly, we recommend that the Department consider requiring that
the key data on WIN operations and results be validated periodically to
determine whether the procedures employed by the projects are adequate to
produce reasonably accurate data and whether the procedures are properly
and consistently applied.

     We wish to acknowledge the cooperation given to our representatives
during the review. We would appreciate receiving your comments on the
matters discussed herein and your advice on any actions taken or
contemplated on our recommendations.


     Copies of this report are being sent to the Secretary of Health,
Education, and Welfare, and the Administrator, Social and Rehabilitation
Service, and the Assistant Secretary, Comptroller, Department of.Health,
Education, and Welfare.

                                      Sincerely yours,

                                         ,/    A/

                                      Associate Director

The Honorable Frank G. Zarb
Assistant Secretary for Administration
Department of Labor

cc:   Secretary of Labor
      Assistant Secretary of Labor
        for Manpower
      Manpower Administrator
      Deputy Manpower Administrator
      Mr. David Williams, MA
      Mr. Edward McVeigh
      Mr. Edgar Dye
      Mr, Wayland Coe