Obstacles and Opportunities in Improving Social Service Intake Referral Processes

When people seek help from a social service, the assistance they need may be best provided by another service in the community. In these cases, they should be referred to the appropriate service. At this stage, things sometimes go wrong: Sometimes the service agent misunderstands the person’s needs or misunderstands the kind of help provided by other local services. Or sometimes the agent doesn’t explain enough about why another service would be helpful. The result is that the person who needs help might not follow up on the referral or, if they do, they might end up thinking that it wasn’t helpful for them after all.

To help improve this situation, I will do research at a social service agency in Edmonton. The agency makes referrals to many other agencies in the community. The purpose of the research is to learn more about how referrals are made and why problems sometimes occur. By watching agents make referrals and interviewing people at the agency, I will help create a new approach to their referral process. We will test out the new approach to see if it helps avoid some of the problems listed above.

Faculty Supervisor:

Bill Hodgetts;Leo Wong


Craig Richard St. Jean


United Way


Journalism / Media studies and communication


Health care and social assistance




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