California Improves Equitable Access to Services for Limited English Residents

Removing language proficiency barriers to government services gets resources to immigrant and limited english communities in California.

A Pew Charitable Trust article highlights the work being done in California to make sure non-english speaking communities can access the government services they need. The California Department of Social Services partnered with a legal assistance firm that provides resources to rural, low-income residents.  Their collaboration lead to the development of a toolkit for all state agencies to improve language services. After convening a group of stakeholders and surveying more than 180 government employees, a blueprint for all state agencies was deployed to help serve linguistically marginalized people.

The toolkit not only allows various social service divisions to improve their communications with these service applicants, it highlights the health-related benefits of equitable language access to government services. Some of those key takeaways focused on the immigrant population that makes up more than 17 percent of the U.S. labor force.  Research shows these communities are using 39 percent fewer public assistance benefits that they are eligible for compared to their U.S.-born counterparts.

Other findings show that language barriers between agencies and potential beneficiaries leads to mistrust and misunderstanding about program eligibility criteria and higher rates of wrongful denial of services. From the article:

With this toolkit, the partners seek to change not only language access policy—highlighting best practice and legal mandates—but also the culture around making services available in languages often spoken in particular communities.

While the project improved equity in access it also increased cooperation and communication across agencies as they attempt to solve this multifaceted and complex challenge.

Read the full PEW article.