2-1-1 service is proving popular with Renfrew County residents 0
A year and a half since it was launched, Renfrew County's 2-1-1 service is being regularly used by residents who have been dialing the non-emergency telephone service to connect up to available services within their communities.
According to its 2011 Annual Report, released recently, the Ontario-wide 2-1-1 service is becoming widely known and used throughout the province, and is rated one of the top information and referral services in North America with a 92 per cent satisfaction level spread over all seven call centres, including the Community Information Centre of Ottawa which covered Renfrew County.
In 2011, this centre received 670 calls from Renfrew County residents, of which 97 per cent were resolved. According to 2011-2012 Survey Quality Measurements, the CIC of Ottawa call centre as a whole received 89 per cent customer satisfaction, with its customer service representatives scoring higher with a 93 per cent customer satisfaction rate.
Based on statistics collected over the course of 2011 and listed within the annual report, the top 10 reasons for 2-1-1 calls for Eastern Ontario were:
1. Drivers license and offices;
2. Citizenship and Immigration;
3. Health information;
4. Community and social services;
5. Free income tax clinics and budget counseling;
7. Court houses;
8. Federal government services;
9. Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP): emergency financial assistance; and
10. Home support and home care.
2-1-1 is the information and referral hotline to local community and social services. It helps residents find the right services to help them cope with life’s challenges, from child care to home care to emergency shelters, by connecting the caller to a full range of community, social, government and health services in the county and throughout Ontario.
This service in the county relies on County Connections, an information source of human services which is managed by Community Resource Centre (Killaloe) Inc., in order to provide the most up to date information to callers, who are served by licensed information and referral agents.
The Renfrew County United Way is the lead agency of 2-1-1 here, and along with the province and the federal government, is a financial partner in this program.
David Studham, the Renfrew County United Way's executive director, said as an agency they are encouraged to see 2-1-1 being well used, considering it is being promoted more or less by word of mouth.
"It's an ongoing challenge," he said, to keep 2-1-1 in the public eye, as the United Way does not have the resources to actively promote it with regular ad campaigns. However, it is working on spreading the word as best it can.
The use of 2-1-1 helps keep track of high needs for social and other services, and where those with those needs are located. Mr. Studham said while the calls are confidential, the area codes help to give some indication of where service gaps exist, providing organizations the opportunity to work on closing them.
The existence of 2-1-1 also takes the pressure off 9-1-1, which is to be used for emergencies only, yet often is misused by those who are seeking general information.
"The ability to work with 2-1-1 in offering access to information on affordable housing support for families in crisis, services for seniors, aid for school supplies, government assistance or just a friendly ear is just what the Renfrew County United Way is all about," he said.
Mr. Studham said the United Way is working on getting its funding formula for the service working as originally intended. The province was to cover 60 per cent of the cost, the federal government 10 per cent, the United Way 10 per cent and municipalities 20 per cent. To date, no funding has come from the municipal level.
He stated he is hopeful in the future the municipal portion will be provided, which would allow for more outreach and promotional campaigns for the 2-1-1 service.
Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist