The Quality of Life in Halton has fluctuated over the past ten years, as the accompanying chart indicates. It has never fully recovered from the recession and its corresponding difficulties that were encountered in the early 1990s. The score in 1998 was 88.4, a drop from 90.1 in 1997. The June 1999 score for all Ontario was 99.9. The Halton index identifies a growing "social deficit" and reflects the difficulties we have had in caring for our vulnerable populations. It measures not only the immediate consequences of unmet basic needs, such as hunger and homelessness, but also the long-term damage inflicted, especially on the lives of children. The Halton Quality of Life Index of 1998 reveals a factual situation.
This report is the second in the series on The Quality of Life in Halton, which is published by the Halton Social Planning Council and Volunteer Centre as part of a province-wide initiative. The Council is using the Quality of Life Index (QLI) as a tool to measure and monitor changes in living and working conditions that affect the quality of life in our communities. The QLI contributes to community dialogue about important issues. There are twenty community partners across Ontario involved in the Quality of Life Index project, using the QLI to measure changes in their local communities.
Using 1990 as a benchmark, Halton's main areas of progress are the environmental indicators, one health indicator, one social indicator and one economic indicator. There are shortfalls where we have yet to reach our 1990 QLI in important areas such as social assistance caseloads, child welfare, long term care, new cancer cases, and bankruptcies.
Our quality of life has been the subject of public debate from many different points of view this past spring. The trends and issues we have identified through the Quality of Life Index provide a basis for raising issues around which we can create community awareness and build a consensus on community needs and solutions.
The social indicators reveal problems related to the present economic and political environment: difficulty in accessing public housing and an increase in the number of children being cared for by child welfare authorities. These problems sow the seeds for long-term social problems that cannot be ignored.
On the health front, we have seen an increase in the number of low birth weight babies born. This is not only a marker for poverty but it is also a warning sign about a number of children who are experiencing conditions which will prevent their healthy development over the rest of their lives.
The Quality of Life Index is a project of the Social Planning Network of Ontario. The Network is comprised of some 30 social planning and research organizations in Ontario, including the Halton Social Planning Council.
At the 1995 annual meeting of the Social Planning Network of Ontario, it was agreed that Social Planning Councils and the Ontario Social Development Council would work together to develop a Quality of Life Index (QLI) that could be used to monitor and report on significant changes in the conditions that affect our quality of life. The QLI has been designed and tested by social development organizations across Ontario. These organizations have decades of experience in social research and reporting.
The Quality of Life Index will be used to monitor and report on significant changes to the conditions that affect the quality of life in Ontario, and in their specific regions and counties. The QLI will be updated annually and be reported in the media in a similar way to economic indicators, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In this way, the public will be kept informed about how their quality of life is being affected by public policies.
To ensure that the index is usable and easily understood by the public, the overall index is converted to a score of 100, so that any change in the index would show either a "positive," or "negative" movement, or no movement at all. The index would allow a user to see that, for example, "the Quality of Life Index went down in 1999 by half a percentage point."
The movement of individual indicators would affect the movement of the overall index. For example, an increase in the number of social assistance caseloads from one month to another would show as a "negative" movement on the overall index. Likewise, a drop in the rate of low birth weight babies from one month to the next would show as a "positive" movement.
Halton has its own Quality of Life Index. The Quality of Life Index, consisting of valid and time-sensitive indicators, has a number of valuable applications in Halton Region. These include the following:
allows for comparison of Quality of Life trends with other regions and Ontario overall
allows policy makers and funders, among others, to track the movement of individual indicators and/or "bundles" of certain types of indicators, e.g. health indicators
provides complementary information for existing studies contributing to knowledge of our community (e.g. Halton Social Profile)
contributes to the procedure of monitoring the impact of government budgetary and social policy measures on people's lives
provides information for use in policy briefs, funding proposals and submissions to governments at all levels
allows users of the Quality of Life Index to measure their own personal, or "intuitive" assessment relating to their own quality of life with negative or positive movements of the Index
promotes debate within the community on the steps necessary to build and secure a healthy community
The quality of community life in Halton and Ontario is changing dramatically. Governments at all levels are making major changes to public policies. How will these changes affect our quality of life? This Quality of Life Index provides a new way for communities to monitor and measure these changes and focus on issues that affect them. The Index is now being used in a first report, "The Quality of Life in Halton - 1998." The full report is available from the Halton Social Planning Council and Volunteer Centre.
Produced by the Community Development Halton
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