DES head reveals new program and new vision for social services

May 10, 2013

The Arizona Department of Economic Security is launching a pilot program for 1000 people that sets up a one-stop shop for services to ensure consumers get all of the benefits they are eligible for. It is the first step in implementing a new vision in how the social safety net should work.

Clarence Carter DES head Clarence Carter laid out his new vision for Arizona's safety net programs at a meeting of business, non-profit, government and religiouis leaders at the Arizona Community Foundation Friday. (Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Economic Security)

About 20 percent of Arizonans use DES programs – things like unemployment insurance, job training, food stamps, child care subsidies and Medicaid. 

DES head Clarence Carter said the way we do those social services is all wrong.

He said that in the current system, uncoordinated individual programs focus on delivering the various benefits they are responsible for. What we need instead is a system that looks at how the benefits help people improve their lives so they can get off of public assistance.

“We want to shift the emphasis from whether or not we have administered a program to whether or not we have grown the capacity of an individual and reduced their dependence on public supports,” Carter said.

Carter described it as a 30,000 foot view, and said it will take time to work out the logistics of reorienting the state’s largest agency. In the end, he said, it could save money and serve people better all at the same time.

But he will have to convince the federal government his vision will succeed. The bulk of DES programs get their budgets and their mandates from Washington.

Carter will go to the capitol next week to make his case.

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