Karen-Milligan

Leading in a time of disruption | A message from our executive director

The start of the 2020-2021 fiscal year was like no other we have experienced in Ontario 211 Services’ history. A global pandemic had been declared; the province was in lockdown. The shutdown left a large number of people in need of support. People lost their income, seniors and those with health risks were forced to isolate themselves, and information was changing daily. Demand increased immediately across the social services sector as agencies faced strict public health requirements that made it more challenging to deliver programs and services.

As with many crises before, the role of 211 Ontario as the front door to community programs and services became more apparent and more important. 211 became a troubleshooter for people, services, and systems that were overwhelmed with challenges.

Contact volumes surged immediately and remained high throughout the fiscal year.

I’m incredibly proud of how our team was able to respond. In the immediate days we knew our focus needed to be on the following:

1
Setting up 211 staff to ensure stable service delivery
2
Increasing capacity to manage the surge in contact volume we were expecting
3
Increasing external communications to ensure Ontario residents knew where to turn for help
4
Forming new partnerships
5
Strengthening communication with the provincial government to highlight the value of the service

COVID-19 has impacted lives in many painful ways, the effects of which we will feel for years to come. The silver lining in the experience is that the pandemic accelerated innovation and collaboration both within the 211 Ontario service system and alongside our partner organizations. Frontline workers, emergency responders, governments and people in communities stepped up to answer the call, breaking down silos and collaborating in ways that we’ve never seen before to ensure the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable people in our communities.

I am confident that our 211 system and our communities are more resilient and adaptable as a result of our collective experience, and that we will be stronger together in the face of future crises.

Karan Milligan's signature
Karen Milligan
Executive Director
Ontario 211 Services

Outcomes | By the Numbers

headphone icon
314,518
Residents contacted 211
(calls, chat, text, email)
computer icons
1,181,589
Web Sessions
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3,166,761
Social media impressions

Outcomes | Who’s Reaching Out

female-icon

Female

57%

male-icon

Male

30%

male-female-outcome-chart
  • 57% Female
  • 30% Male
  • 13% Other/Unknown
male-icon

Adult

66%

older-adult-icon

Older Adult

17%

adult-outcomes-chart
  • 66% Adults
  • 17% Older Adults
  • .5% Youth
  • 16.5% Other/Unknown

| Caller Story

A young lady who had lost her job due to the pandemic called 211. She was very scared and not sure how she was going to be able to afford to live without an income. She was almost in tears. She had heard on the news that there was government assistance available but was unsure of how to access the help. Together, while on the phone, the 211 Specialist and the young lady reviewed the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit website. The 211 Specialist walked her through the eligibility criteria and explained the steps she needed to take to apply for the program.

Outcomes | Service Outcomes

86%
of those surveyed followed up on some or all of the referrals provided
81%
of those surveyed felt they were better prepared to manage their needs
71%
of those surveyed feel getting help from a program or service improved their health

| Caller Story

A woman’s daughter woke up and was not feeling well. She was coughing and had a sore throat. The woman’s husband works out of town and had been travelling. Worried about COVID-19, she called the Public Health Unit, who advised them to self-isolate and monitor symptoms. The family receive social assistance and would not get their next payment for another week. No longer being able to access the food bank, the woman started panicking, and she called 211 for help.

Once she explained her situation, the Community Navigator connected her to the RFDA Food Delivery Program through the enhanced 211 follow-up and advocacy COVID-19 in-house program. Within a few hours of calling 211, the family had a food hamper delivered to their door.

Outcomes | Service Satisfaction

95%
of those surveyed would call 211 again
94%
of those surveyed were very satisfied with 211

| Caller Story

A help seeker from Leamington was looking for a food delivery service. The individual did not have the financial means to afford groceries and did not have transportation. This person had already attempted to reach out to food banks on their own but found they were all drive-thru, and no one was able to deliver. This prompted the help seeker to phone 211 for further assistance. The agent provided a phone number to the Unemployed Help Centre (UHC) and offered to do a follow-up call to see how things worked out. During the follow-up call, the help seeker expressed gratitude for 211 as her need was met through the referral to the UHC when they signed her up for their food hamper delivery service.

Stronger Together | Partnerships

2020-2021 saw the rapid creation of new partnerships across the province. In some cases, the pandemic was the impetus to realize partnerships that had been in the works for years. Across the province, regional service providers sat on community response tables where leaders within that region identified the greatest needs and the best way to serve the most vulnerable populations. These partnerships have been critical to ensuring the people of Ontario have responsive and timely access to services.

22
Legal Services and Public Safety Sector
14
Mental Health Sector
44
Health Sector
14
Seniors Sector
5
Newcomer Sector
9
Youth Sector
48
Community Sector
15
Emergency Management Sector
12
Financial and Income Assistance Sector
12
Food Security Sector
18
Housing
Sector
Total number of active partnerships
213

| Partnership Highlights

Ontario Psychological Association

Ontario Psychological Association

211 Ontario and the Ontario Psychological Association expanded a partnership that started in the Toronto area, to ensure frontline workers had access to critical mental health care. This partnership enabled frontline workers without extended health benefits to access psychological services at no cost throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic…

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Ontario Psychological Association

211 Ontario and the Ontario Psychological Association expanded a partnership that started in the Toronto area, to ensure frontline workers had access to critical mental health care. This partnership enabled frontline workers without extended health benefits to access psychological services at no cost throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic response. 

OPA’s Disaster Response Network offered up to six mental health treatment sessions with a psychologist at no cost for frontline workers in any industry, and their dependants, who may have developed mental health struggles and have no, or limited, extended health coverage. The point of entry to this program was 211.

LYFT-partnership

LYFT

Lyft partnered with 211 Ontario to expand its Jobs Access Program, offering job seekers a free ride to interviews in communities served by the ride-hailing company. Individuals looking to make use of the program were instructed to call 211.   “We know that for the unemployed and underemployed, reliable transportation…

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LYFT-partnership

Lyft partnered with 211 Ontario to expand its Jobs Access Program, offering job seekers a free ride to interviews in communities served by the ride-hailing company. Individuals looking to make use of the program were instructed to call 211.
 
“We know that for the unemployed and underemployed, reliable transportation to a job interview or the first few weeks of work can mean the difference between successful, long-term employment and lost opportunities,” said Hannah Parish, Lyft’s Ontario General Manager. 
 
The extra support helped reduce barriers to employment and retraining for individuals in the province at a time when many were facing unemployment because of the pandemic.

Ontario Community Support Association

Ontario Community Support Association

Early in the pandemic, the Ontario government worked with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) to launch a program to expand existing Meals on Wheels services to reach low-income seniors, people with disabilities and those with chronic medical conditions across the province. The program also developed the capacity for community organizations and…

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Ontario Community Support Association

Early in the pandemic, the Ontario government worked with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) to launch a program to expand existing Meals on Wheels services to reach low-income seniors, people with disabilities and those with chronic medical conditions across the province. The program also developed the capacity for community organizations and others to help deliver medication and other essentials.  211 was called upon as a point of entry for the service because navigators can help people in more than 150 languages. The 211 helpline was also an option for those who didn’t have access to or had limited understanding of the internet. Once the vaccine rollout began, the partnership expanded to include transportation to vaccination appointments.  

| A message from the board president

Barbara Kieley

As Chair of the Ontario 211 Services Board of Directors, I’m incredibly proud of what 211 has been able to accomplish during a year of such intense disruption. COVID-19 has shone a light on the critical role 211 can play – not only in emergencies but every day. When many other services had to close their doors, 211 staff stepped up in a big way to support communities and meet the needs of residents.
 
COVID-19 forced us all to rethink the way things are done. Across the province we have worked together with partners and stakeholders to mitigate the very real health and socio-economic risks faced by Ontarians, in particular among vulnerable populations who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
 
New digital services became the norm – especially during lock-downs – but some people face barriers accessing services online and without support will continue to be at risk. 
 
We are grateful to our funding partners for their support when it was needed most. Thank you to MCCSS, United Way Canada and the federal government, municipalities and local United Way agencies for recognizing the need for additional capacity, creativity and flexibility to meet the increased demand for services.
 
The 211 system in Ontario is committed to doing the necessary work to strengthen our service offerings to ensure Ontarians can access support when they need it, where they need it. Over the next year we will continue to improve and expand our online channels, improving resource data quality and consistency, and optimizing our operating model always with a goal of doing our part to empower people and support the development of thriving, caring communities.

Barbara Kieley Signature

Barbara Kieley,
President and Chair, Ontario 211 Services Board of Directors

| Financials

Revenue | $5,965,895

  • $4,740,000 Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services
  • $669,807 Project and Specialized Services
  • $548,656 United Ways in Ontario
  • $7,432 Others

Expenses | $5,959,857

  • $145,730 Administrative
  • $4,525,649 Service Delivery
  • $5,519 Governance and System Development
  • $70,427 Marketing and Communications
  • $666,911 Consulting
  • $501,165 Salaries and Management Services
  • $43,327 Non-recoverable HST
  • $1,129 Amortization of Capital Assets

Canada - Funded in part by the government of Canada's Emergency Community Support Fund.