A chain of events, namely, recession, inadequate funding and, at best, a limited national and provincial vision and plan of the social supports needed to build viable and healthy communities, is systematically weakening community-based human service agencies. Thus, the ability of Halton's agencies to reach out and provide a wide range of services that protect vulnerable people, that prevent further dependency and that create integration rather than social marginalization is seriously diminished. As our report shows, policies that reduce a financial deficit have a social impact, albeit infrequently discussed and addressed, and that creates a social deficit - long term social and financial costs of poverty, of high rates of under employment and unemployment.
Our network of community-based human service agencies and the many services they provide is part of our social fabric, nurturers and builders of a better quality of life in Canada, Ontario and Halton. These services are viewed today as the "social rights" of residents in our communities, integrally linked to, yet an evolution of, our human and our political rights.
As Halton's population changes in both size and composition, so will the demand for human services. In particular, the aging population will have a significant impact on the range and delivery of services. The Halton Social Profile 1994 outlined the following:
These observations have not changed in the past two years and the pressures on community-based services have increased as the current Ontario government examines further ways to manage its fiscal debt.
While our survey of this past summer profiled all human service organizations, the focus of the report is on community-based human service agencies. There were 59 community-based agencies that responded out of 146, for a return rate of 40%. Most of the agencies responding to the survey provide a service to the entire Halton Region and serve such client groups as persons with disabilities, children and youth, seniors, women and adults.
The reduced funding over the past few years and the process of restructuring that has been going on over the 1990's has produced lean organizations. As the first chart shows, the responding agencies have small administration and program staff complements compared to their reliance on volunteers to supplement their activities. A total of 75% of the agencies activities are carried out by volunteers. We have a situation where for every paid person delivering a program, there are 3.2 volunteers assisting in those tasks. From the 59 responding agencies, we have a volunteer force of just over 4,000 persons.
Based on National Volunteer week material, volunteers average 120 hours per year. With the 4,030 volunteers reported in our survey, their contribution in hours was 483,600. Based on an average wage rate of $15.84 per hour for the human service sector, this contributes approximately $7.7 million to Halton. Without agencies in place, there will be fewer places to channel this volunteer effort.
Of the agencies responding to the survey, we had 43 agencies that provided financial information for 1995-96 and 1996-97. As the chart shows, community-based agencies receive about 60% of their funding from provincial sources. As the province continues its battle to balance the deficit and changes the system of governance and responsibility for services, this percentage will likely shrink, placing organizations in the situation of seeking and securing other funding sources or scaling back the level of service offered. The net loss of dollars between the two fiscal years is nearly a half million dollars.
Of the 132 programs that were reported by the agencies, there were 5 programs closing in 1996. One example is a Shelter Service agency which indicated that its program was under review at the time of the survey, but as the summer progressed it was learned that this program would be cancelled as of August 31, 1996 because funds would be eliminated. The loss of this program will be felt largely throughout the low income sector of the community. It will also affect tenants and new families to Halton who are in need of shelter information. Currently, no other agency can currently fill this void in Halton.
Another program eliminated was a Counselling and Crisis Intervention program affecting the client group of men. The loss of funding for this program means that fully subsidized counselling is no longer available for abusive men. However, they can participate in counselling if they pay a fee.
Results from the survey around the impacts of these types of changes affected all areas of the agencies.
Impacts on service and programs reported included:
Impacts on staff included:
Impacts on clients:
Copies of the report Meeting Human Needs: The Impact of Funding Restraint on Halton Agencies, is available from the Council at the cost of $15.00 (plus $5.00 postage and handling).
Produced by the Community Development Halton
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