Services Enhance Cash Programs

NASW joined a delegation of social welfare leaders, cash transfer experts and educators from around the world to discuss systematic reviews that explore the efficiency of linking social welfare services and cash transfers.

Rita Webb, senior policy advisor for NASW’s Human Rights and International Affairs department, was among those who met in Carmona, Spain, April 22-24 to discuss how social services can complement and enhance government cash transfer programs to improve child protection outcomes.

UNICEF was the host of the meeting called Cash Transfer and Social Welfare and invited social welfare representatives, researchers, cash transfer experts and government officials from different countries as well as UNICEF leaders from different nations to exchange information and review findings with a focus of integrating social welfare services and cash transfers in several African and Latin American countries.

The meeting was also a way to partner UNICEF projects with other nonprofit children’s agencies, such as Save the Children based in the United Kingdom.

Webb provided information about NASW policy statements that relate to child welfare. She also explained how child welfare protection services work in the U.S. by utilizing the skills of social workers and NASW Standards for Social Work Practice on Child Welfare.

Among the attendees was Diwakar Vadapalli, a doctoral research fellow at the Center for Urban Poverty and Community Development at the Mandel School of Applied Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

He was one of the researchers commissioned by UNICEF to present his findings of a review of nine different cash transfer programs from around the world, mostly from Latin America. His presentation outlined the role of social services in improving target efficiency in its relation to conditional cash transfer programs.

Vadapalli said the meeting brought together people from international development agencies, funding organizations, researchers, program implementation staff and county administrators. Information flow among these parties is vital to the success of cash transfer policies, he said. “Programs such as cash transfers must be a collaboration between all these constituents and this meeting reiterated that fact,” he said.

Vadapalli said he agreed with overall findings that social welfare services need to be a part of any cash transfer program in order to be most successful.

“Social welfare services are a supply-side mechanism to ensure the well-being of a target population,” he said.

He noted that social work was highlighted at the meeting as being a benefit. “In Chile, they have a program where they assign social workers to individual families to identify the family’s strengths and weaknesses and design an intervention customized to that family,” he said.

Vadapalli said the meeting in Spain was a great opportunity to meet people around the world who share similar goals. “From a research perspective, a lot more needs to be done, both in understanding the programs and their impacts, and disseminating their results to inform and support future programs,” he said.

Webb said organizers are calling for additional policy-relevant research to support the growing evidence that the integration of social welfare services can enhance cash transfer programs.

Exchanging different policy procedures is also a goal, she said. “Given the diversity of social welfare services around the world, countries can benefit from the knowledge about which services are available and how they relate to each other,” Webb said.

The meeting in Spain was a follow-up to a London consultation held in 2007 called “Advancing Policy Relevant Research Around Social Welfare Services.”