Community Social Services Backgrounder

Highlights of the OBAC Community and Social Services and Supports Strategy

The Context

The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC) was formed in 2005 with a purpose, “To work to ensure sustainable development and resiliency for the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition region”.

With financial support from the provincial government OBAC is led by a Board of Directors of the region’s Mayors and Regional District Chairs. OBAC is working with its member communities, First Nations, all levels of government, industry and sector representatives, academic institutions, and allied partner organizations to develop regional diversification plans that build resilient communities during and after the pine beetle epidemic. OBAC is putting forward long-term strategies that are designed to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

The Community and Social Services and Supports Strategy is the sixth of the twelve priority topic strategies to be developed and proposes recommendations and actions that can be taken by various partners and level of governments to support a diversified economy in the OBAC region over the ten year horizon.

The development of the Community and Social Services and Supports Strategy incorporates learning from the sector specific strategies that OBAC has been developing and, has been guided by a working group of people with a variety of community, sector and specialist perspectives and areas of expertise on social development. The strategy has also been reviewed by many others with specialized insight into the service needs and opportunities in the region. Additional research and consultation was conducted by a consulting team that facilitated the working group’s efforts. UNBC’s Community Development Institute has also made a significant contribution to the development of this strategy. The strategy presents a vision of how the region’s social services and community supports could look in ten years. The strategy also presents 5 objectives, 4 recommendations and over 20 proposed actions all aimed at supporting the goal of supporting healthy and resilient communities in the OBAC region which will remain desirable places to live as the region transitions successfully to a more diverse economy. This Community and Social Services and Supports Strategy also works closely in concert with the vision and objectives, recommendations and proposed actions presented in the Attraction and Retention Strategy.

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. Healthy and resilient communities that remain desirable places to live underpin the ability to transition successfully to a more diverse economy. The services and supports that are the focus of this strategy are important at all times; however, they are particularly important during times of transition. The work on this strategy revealed that service providers and volunteers in communities possess an immense amount of capability but their capacity (numbers of people and financial resources) is limited. Synergies across the region for enabling access to services and focused additional resources will be needed to maintain healthy and resilient communities in the region.

Strategy Vision & Objectives

The communities of the OBAC region 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. Through the implementation of the strategy this vision and the objectives presented below can be achieved. The five objectives which present 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; and,

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.

Strategy Recommendations & Actions

The recommendations and proposed actions together answer the question “who needs to do what, when and why” to achieve the objectives and vision. The multiple proposed actions will be the basis for action planning in the next step beyond the adoption of this strategy. OBAC is confident that if these 4 recommendations and the proposed actions in the strategy are implemented, we will come much closer to achieving the objectives and the overall vision.

Recommendation 1.

Strengthen social service delivery in the region.

Recommendation 2.

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

Recommendation 3.

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

Recommendation 4.

Realize the economic benefits of a strong social service sector.

While the development of this strategy has been informed by the needs and opportunities in municipal and rural communities and First Nations communities, further engagement with and between leaders of OBAC communities and First Nations and service providers across the region is a very high priority to identify regional and local interests and opportunities. First Nations leaders and communities have been identified as important participants in many of the proposed actions. OBAC leaders are interested in building upon the good work already being done in many places in the region to find synergistic opportunities for service delivery. Provincial and federal agencies and programs should be involved in these discussions.

There are over 30 actions proposed across these recommendations that can be taken to support healthy and resilient communities in the OBAC region to remain desirable places to live as the region transitions successfully to a more diverse economy. The overall implementation of this strategy will require key and timely decisions by the Provincial and Federal Governments. Selected proposed actions where priority opportunities exist include:

  • With the support of the province, municipal and regional governments establish a regional coordinating mechanism which will:
    • Facilitate efficient communications on social services and community supports between Local Government and First Nations leaders, service delivery agents and the provincial and federal governments
    • Provide capacity which will facilitate community access to existing social service programs
  • Provincial and federal government to 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. This could be facilitated in part by the coordinating mechanism mentioned above. Design a ‘Rural Lens’ to use in assessing the unique circumstances and needs for rural communities. Less emphasis on rigid program criteria will be needed.
  • Provincial and Federal programs to work with the communities and FN to develop integrated Social Service Plans which will guide the delivery of social services and which will address mobilization needs during times of economic downturn.
  • Ensure that students in the region are provided excellent secondary school opportunities which are relevant both to them and their communities. Strong natural resources programs are one of the priorities.
  • Ensure that secondary, post-secondary education and training and programs are well connected with present and future employer needs.
  • Develop and implement community employment strategies which will provide youth and others in the region 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.
  • Develop community employment strategies which will provide youth and others in the region with relevant information on training and employment opportunities and assist them in finding employment.
  • Recognize the economic impact that social service infrastructures have on rural and small communities when social service program decisions are made. This is a fundamental need if the region’s communities are to become economically strong and resilient.

Next Steps

This strategy tells us the “what, who, when and why”, the next step is to determine “how to and how much” it will take to achieve the goal. The immediate next steps include:

  • Following release of the strategy, bring together senior staff from relevant government agencies to work with OBAC to quickly develop a Community and Social Services and Supports Action Plan that presents details on “how to and how much” for implementation
  • Work with senior governments and other implementation allies to enable implementation of the Community and Social Services and Supports Action Plan and integrate actions across strategies.