Information and Referral for People Needing Human Services:

A Complex System That Should Be Improved

HRD-77-134: Published: Mar 20, 1978. Publicly Released: Mar 20, 1978.

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The Federal Government, as well as state, local, and private agencies, offers a variety of programs directed at providing human services to help improve the status of individuals. More than $100 billion in federal funds is spent annually on health, rehabilitation, employment, income maintenance, nutrition, education, and other programs designed to assist people. Although many such programs are available, linking people with appropriate services is difficult. Information and referral (I&R) services attempt to inform people about programs available and help them link up with programs appropriate to their needs.

Because of the number of I&R providers, the lack of coordination, and the lack of quality controls in I&R systems, there is no adequate assurance the individuals are receiving effective and efficient I&R or even getting the services they need. Inefficiencies permeate the system, and thousands of agencies repeatedly duplicate I&R functions. Lack of coordination among responsible federal agencies has contributed to the fragmentation and ineffectiveness of I&R. Instead of promoting the consolidation of I&R activities into comprehensive community centers, most federal agencies have acted independently in establishing or funding many types of I&R providers with limited scope and function. Without strong leadership to coordinate federal support for I&R, local efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness through consolidation of I&R programs are unlikely to succeed.

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