7 Current Issues Facing the Human Services Industry

Issues Facing the Human Services Industry

Human services professionals are social workers who devote their lives to the health and happiness of others. While they’re integral for tackling addiction, poverty, and mental health issues, we must address current challenges in this industry to make their work more effective.

Common Challenges That Affect the Human Services Industry

To ensure human service professionals help out the most people possible, the industry has to fulfill the needs of its employees and volunteers as well as the people they serve.

1. Lack of New Technology

Health and human services organizations have had to work with shrinking budgets and minimal training, leading to a lack of technology investments. However, applying human services software, like one from Foothold, is a worthwhile investment for the community.

Technology is necessary for all industries because it leads to increased productivity, efficiency, and growth. Social workers can help more people in a shorter amount of time through tech.

2. Rampant Financial Issues

Stretching out the budget when you’re working for a private corporation or charity is hard enough as it is. Still, if you work for a nonprofit or religious organization, there’s simply not enough to go around. Individual/family services and governments also suffer from low funds.

What’s more, human service professionals often don’t make enough to get by. Although social workers play an essential role in society, their services don’t receive the respect it deserves.

3. Impossible Decision Making

It’s not easy to make decisions on behalf of another, but a large aspect of being a human service worker involves making impossible decisions. A social worker may decide who will receive pharmaceuticals, benefits, welfare, healthcare, a live-in nurse, and therapy.

It’s impossible to give everyone these necessities due to funding constraints and governmental restrictions. Social workers essentially decide who lives or dies, which takes a toll.

4. Burnout/Stress/Mental Health Leave

Without money and technology, the human service industry (and those who work within it) are unprepared for the amount of responsibility they must take on. Coupled with the stress of the job itself, it’s no wonder so many social workers burn out and take stress leave.

Managing stress is essential once burnout begins, but some of the most capable employees can’t handle the emotional and physical toll of their position without professional help.

5. Consistently Brutal Office Politics 

All businesses experience some degree of office politics, but this behavior should be considered unacceptable within social services. Social workers already take on a lot of emotional labor as it is, and the added anxiety and arguments only make their lives harder and more stressful.

The best way for employees to diffuse office politics is to stay in the loop and keep the peace, but managers should remind the staff that they’re here to save lives, not cause disputes.

6. Attracting and Retaining Employees

Any industry with rampant burnout has difficulty attracting and retaining employees, and due to the lack of funding, there isn’t much employers can do to prevent or lessen the stress. COVID has made this problem worse: 1 in 5 health care workers have quit their job since 2020.

It takes several years to train an empathetic, hard-working social worker. Retaining experienced employees is incredibly important to ensure the industry is well staffed during an epidemic. 

7. No Brokering Training

“Brokering” is the referral system the human services industry uses to find and match medical professionals to patients. To deliver the best care possible to their patients, social workers need to understand the full apparatus of services available in their community and possibly, abroad. 

Without brokering training, social workers may not be able to give proper referrals, which could make it more difficult for patients to heal quickly, or at all, depending on severity.


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