211 receives $1 million to improve services for at-risk Canadians

Toronto – Ontario 211 and its strategic partners United Way Centraide Canada and Findhelp Information Services have received $1 million over 3 years from the Green Shield Canada Foundation to improve access to health and social services for vulnerable Canadians.

With this funding, Ontario 211 will develop a new approach to meet the complex needs of vulnerable clients including:

  • Increased outreach with agencies to help raise awareness of 211 with low-income families
  • Additional follow-up with vulnerable callers to ensure they are receiving the proper support, and to help capture and measure long-term outcomes
  • Additional training for 211 specialists to better identify at-risk callers and help direct them to community programs and services that will make them healthier
  • An enhanced phone system to help callers talk to the best trained specialist sooner

“This grant will help us ensure Canadian low-income families and persons living in poverty, almost all of whom are underinsured or uninsured, get to the right services sooner and receive appropriate and timely follow up to help maintain or improve their health,” said Andrew Benson, Executive Director of Ontario 211.

According to the Canadian Medical Association, poverty is the number one factor in determining whether Canadians live long, healthy lives. Marginalized Canadians find it extremely difficult to access mainstream health care. This grant aims to address this issue by improving access to information about community services.

When asked to rate their health, 70% of Canadians earning more than $60,000 a year described it as excellent or very good. But of those earning $30,000 a year or less, only 40% said they were in good or excellent health. (Canadian Medical Association, What Makes Us Sick, July 2013).

“There are gaps in the provision of health care, and we feel it’s important to help narrow those gaps by providing support for frontline care to organizations in communities where we operate,” says Sarah Saso, Executive Director, Green Shield Canada Foundation. “211 is a powerful tool for those who need access to health, community, social and other services that will impact their overall well-being. This and other projects, launching across Canada, will connect marginalized individuals to the basic health care resources they deserve to receive.”

Ontario 211’s longtime partners, United Way Centraide Canada and Findhelp Information Services, will help ensure that this innovative approach to working with vulnerable Canadians is adopted by 211 services across the country

“We know that for the most vulnerable, finding services to build and sustain healthy lives can seem insurmountable, so making access simple and painless is at the heart of all that we do,” says Sue Wilkinson, Executive Director of Findhelp Information Services.  “We are excited to build our system’s capacity and increase the effectiveness of our services to this priority population”.

“The vision is to make 211 a service available to all Canadians,” says Jacline Nyman, President and CEO, United Way Centraide Canada. “This project is intended to have an impact from coast-to-coast-to-coast, and we are looking forward to helping make that happen.”


Video – 211 Helpline in Ontario (30 seconds)

Video – Make the right call (50 seconds)

By the numbers:

  • Ontario 211: 7 call centres, answering calls 24/7/365 in more than 100 languages
  • 527,000 calls to Ontario 211 in 2013 (750 000 across Canada); 75% from women; 73,435 related to health; 45% of callers on some form of social assistance
  • 1 in 7 Canadian children live in poverty (CMA, What makes us sick, 2013)
  • More than 11% of working age Canadians live in poverty (CMA, 2013)
  • On the basis of a 2010 review, roughly 400,000 full-time workers aged over 25 were making less than $10/hour – less than poverty line wages (CMA, 2013)

About Ontario 211

211 is an easy to remember three-digit number that helps to navigate the complex network of human services quickly and easily, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in over 100 languages. Ontario 211 Services is a non-profit agency, established to develop and govern the 211 system in Ontario. 211 is supported by the Province of Ontario and local United Ways, and delivered in collaboration with seven licensed 211 service partners and a network of more than 30 community data centres.

About United Way Centraide Canada

Established in 1917, the United Way Centraide Movement is dedicated to creating opportunities for a better life for all Canadians. United Way Centraide Canada provides leadership and supports United Ways Centraides in local communities across Canada to meet urgent human need and invest in long-term solutions that address challenging social issues. As a champion and founding partner for 211, United Way Centraide Canada is advancing an innovative solution for improving the lives of Canadians and strengthening our communities. For more information visit www.unitedway.ca / www.centraide.ca

About Findhelp Services

For the past 62 years, Findhelp Information Services has been a trusted hub of community information connecting over 400,000 people annually to more than 60,000 services and supports in Ontario and beyond. More than a hub, Findhelp provides vital trend information for community planning and public benefit. Findhelp creates connections and solutions to build strong communities.

About Green Shield Canada Foundation (GSCF)

Green Shield Canada, the country’s only national not-for-profit health and dental benefits specialist, created the Green Shield Canada Foundation in 1992 to act as a catalyst, supporting innovative ideas that pave the way for fundamental, big-picture change in Canadian health care. Its strategy is designed to build community capacity, strengthen public policy and advance knowledge in the health care field to ensure long-term change and address urgent needs. For additional information, please visit greenshield.ca.

For additional information or interviews, contact:

Destiny Bedwell
Communications and Marketing Coordinator
Ontario 211 Services
Tel: 416-777-0211, ext. 225
Email: dbedwell@211ontario.ca

Annie Boucher (French)
Tel: 613-863-3702
Email: boucher@fusecommunications.ca