Job Training and so Much More for Low-Income Older Adults: The Senior Community Service Employment Program

Abstract

An important anti-poverty program for older Americans is facing a serious problem: The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) was deemed “ineffective” by the Department of Labor. The department’s 2020 budget, in fact, proposes the program’s elimination. SCSEP, which places low-income adults aged 55 and older with multiple barriers to work in on-the-job training in nonprofit and public agencies while providing a modest stipend, has the goal of helping participants to transition into unsubsidized, gainful employment. Yet measures used to determine the program’s effectiveness focus solely on employment outcomes, ignoring important outcomes related to health and social engagement. This commentary advocates for the preservation of SCSEP by countering the view that it is purely an employment intervention for low-income older adults. We describe the complexity of the program and the people it serves and argue that using select measures that do not encompass the breadth of SCSEP’s benefits creates an inaccurate appearance of ineffectiveness. We conclude with recommendations for SCSEP administrators and grantees, social workers, and others to enhance the promise of this important program.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Anne D. Womer for her contributions to this manuscript.

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The authors declare no sources of funding for this work.

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Correspondence to Cal J. Halvorsen.

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Conflict of interest

Olga Yulikova, MA, has directed the Senior Community Service Employment Program in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs for more than 10 years. Arguments in this manuscript represent her personal views and do not represent the official positions of her program or employer. Cal J. Halvorsen declares no conflict of interest.

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Halvorsen, C.J., Yulikova, O. Job Training and so Much More for Low-Income Older Adults: The Senior Community Service Employment Program. Clin Soc Work J 48, 223–229 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-019-00734-y

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Keywords

  • SCSEP
  • Older workers
  • Workforce training
  • Federal budget
  • Policy
  • Older Americans Act
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act