Local News

Vance County sees social service needs skyrocket

Posted October 6, 2011 4:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 6, 2011 6:57 p.m. EDT

— The staff at the Vance County Social Services Department is increasingly busy as others, out of work and struggling, seek help with child support cases, food and other aid.

In Vance County, the unemployment rate is 14.3 percent – the fifth highest in the state. The statewide unemployment rate was 10.4 percent in August.

The rate in Vance County is an increase of almost 2 percent from last year, and the need for help is straining the system.

In the past two years, the number of calls to Vance County Social Services has nearly doubled from 3,421 to 6,753. Child support cases are up 20 percent, food and nutrition services are up 17 percent and the majority of other services are up as well.

“We’re seeing people who are in white collar jobs, people who’ve worked all their lives, who never thought they would have to come to social services,” said Kay Fields, director of the county’s social services department. “We see that this is the result of the economy.”

Fields says her staff has had to do a lot of cross-training to accommodate the increased demand.

“We actually have a lot of clients who come here to get food and nutrition and Medicaid and other services, or to come here and pay their child support. And they’re coming on their lunch hour, and when they don’t get back to work on time, they’re going to lose pay, and we’re very mindful of that,” she said.

In the past year, Vance County social services has helped about 15,000 people with food and nutrition services and about 12,000 with Medicaid.

Michellie Curtin is one of the long-term unemployed in the county. Three days a week, for the past two years, she has gone to the county’s Employment Security Commission looking for a job in the pharmaceutical industry.

“I had a couple of interviews, but it’s still just very, very hard out here,” she said. “So, I constantly just keep looking and try to keep my head up.”