Community Social Services


Social Services Coordinating Mechanism

From the Ground Up: Community Social Service Coordination Practices in the OBAC Region - Click Here

Bridging Gaps: Connecting and Coordinating Public and Non-profit Social Services in the OBAC Region - Click Here

Background

The prosperity of the OBAC region has long been reliant on its timber resources. However the mountain pine beetle epidemic is expected to diminish opportunities in the traditional forest sector for several decades. OBAC is developing a number of industrial sector strategies. These include forestry, alternative energy, mining and mineral exploration, tourism and agriculture, which are designed to diversify the region’s economy and create more resilient communities. As well as these industrial strategies, it is also necessary to develop a strategy designed to improve the quality and availability of social services and supports. Community services and supports are important at all times. However, they are particularly important during times of transition. They are critical for the development of stronger and more resilient communities in the region.

The Community Social Services and Supports Strategy is important to the region for a number of reasons, including:

  • The current lumber market downturn and future mountain pine beetle impacts on timber supply could result in increased unemployment. These workers need the social services and supports to help them transition and continue to contribute to their communities. The region has a relatively youthful population, but many young people leave the region because they are not adequately connected to the region’s educational and employment opportunities;
  • Many social services and support programs are designed for urban communities and don’t always address the priority needs of the region’s small communities, First Nations, and rural settlements. Although funding is in place for social services, the rigidity of many of the programs prevents some high priority needs from being addressed;
  • Coordination across social service programs is sometimes poor both within the provincial programs and between provincial and federal programs. Better coordination and the development of integrated plans is needed to improve efficiency and service quality. This is true at all times, but particularly during times of transition which the region is facing;
  • At present, social service program decisions are made without a full understanding of their economic impact on small communities; and
  • First Nations communities are a very important part of the region and better engagement across all communities in the region is needed to develop solutions and take advantage of synergistic opportunities.

OBAC has worked with specialists with a wide variety of perspectives to develop strategies. This strategy incorporates learning from these sector strategies and a working group of economic development officers, social service providers, educators, and others with specialized insight into the service needs and opportunities in the region.

OBAC communities envision a future that includes robust and resilient economies that are supported by local and regional social services which are accessible to all. This future is also characterized by communities and First Nations in the region playing an integral role working with senior governments and service agencies in determining social service and support priority needs and approaches to effective delivery.

The five objectives which provide more detail on how to achieve this vision are:

Objective 1.

The region’s communities have the responsive and professional social services which are needed during transition times and which will support future economic diversification.

Objective 2.

Quality social services and supports are available and accessible to meet the priority needs of urban, small community, rural and First Nations residents.

Objective 3.

Innovative solutions and active communication and networking are facilitated among agencies and service providers to support the provision of high quality services.

Objective 4.

Synergistic and cooperative opportunities for the provision of social services across all communities in the region are realized.

Objective 5.

The region is able to train, attract, and maintain a dynamic and skilled workforce that can respond to current and emerging economic opportunities.

Further engagement with and between leaders of OBAC communities and First Nations, in order to further identify regional and local interests and opportunities and make new relationships a reality, is a very high priority for all of the strategies. Mechanisms are needed to ensure full, meaningful and equal participation of First Nations. Although First Nations have been identified as important participants in many of the proposed actions, discussions at the community level are a critical need in order to further shape many of these actions, and to ensure that synergistic opportunities are identified and that priority Aboriginal interests are addressed.

The four recommendations and proposed actions following have been developed to achieve these objectives.

 
 

Recommendation 1.

Strengthen social service delivery in the region.

 

Priority Actions

  • With the support of the province, municipal and regional governments, establish a regional coordinating mechanism that will:
    • Facilitate efficient communications on social services and community supports between local governments, First Nations leaders, service delivery agents, and the provincial and federal governments;
    • Provide a point of contact for provincial and federal program managers seeking to connect with local and regional information;
    • Facilitate and support communications and networking among all service providers in the region;
    • Provide capacity which will facilitate community access to existing social service programs.

Recommendation 2.

Establish responsive and flexible provincial and federal social service programs that meet rural, urban, and First Nations priority needs.

 

Priority Actions

  • Ensure the provincial and federal government work closely with local governments and community level service providers to ensure that existing programs are modified where needed and new programs are put in place to meet actual priority needs. A coordinating office may have an important role in facilitation this action.
  • Design a ‘Rural Lens’ to help assess the unique circumstances and needs for rural communities. Less emphasis on rigid program criteria will be needed.
  • Encourage the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance (for income assistance) and Service Canada (EI and CPP) to re-establish a presence in each rural community.
  • Coordinate provincial and federal programs with each other, communities, and First Nations to deliver integrated Social Service Plans. These plans will direct the delivery of social services and address mobilization needs during economic downturns and transitions.

Recommendation 3.

Enable youth and adults to obtain local education and employment services that will allow them to fully participate in the region’s economy.

 

Priority Actions

  • Ensure students in the region are provided excellent secondary school opportunities which are relevant both to them and their communities. Natural resource programs are one of the priorities.
  • Ensure that secondary, post-secondary education and training programs are well connected with current and future employer needs.
  • Develop and implement community employment strategies that will provide residents with relevant information on training and employment opportunities and assist them in finding employment in the region. Professional career coaching and employment services should be available to youth in secondary and post-secondary institutions.

Recommendation 4.

Realize the economic benefits of a strong social service sector.

 

Priority Actions

  • Recognize the economic impact that social service infrastructures have on rural and small communities when social service program decisions are made.