Calls to Ontario 211 helpline rise as temperatures drop. More than 527,000 calls answered in 2013

Toronto – Ontario 211, the province’s go-to number to connect to health, community and social services, has released its 2013 caller statistics. The numbers show that more than 527,000 calls to 211 were answered across the province last year, and that weather played a large role in the types of calls placed to the service.

The 211 caller data provides a comprehensive picture of the mostly invisible social service needs in the province.

While health-related inquiries continue to be the main reason for calls to 211, requests for income and financial assistance, plus utility assistance, came in a close. Calls for municipal government services, which include road conditions and snow removal, also surged this winter after some Ontario regions, such as Dufferin Peel, were hit with severe ice and snow storms.

“The winter has been especially difficult,” said Andrew Benson, Executive Director, Ontario 211 Services. “With rising utility costs and temperatures dropping, Ontario 211 answered more than 100,000 calls for income and financial assistance, and housing, which includes emergency utility assistance programs.”

Through its call tracking and reporting practices, Ontario 211 has become one of the province’s most reliable sources of information about the types of services residents need to cope with a variety of challenges from hunger and financial strain to aging seniors and stressed caregivers. Ontario 211’s reporting also shines a light on some of the unmet needs in the community.

“The caller needs data we get from 211 every year helps us make better decisions about where to invest our valuable dollars in the community,” said Francesca Dobbyn with United Way Bruce Grey. “While we do get a sense of where the needs are from our work, it’s great to have the 211 information to validate our instincts.”

The top five reasons people called the 211 helpline in 2013:

1. Health

(e.g. support for Alzheimer patients)

73,435

2. Income and financial assistance

(e.g. Ontario Disability Support Program)

59,709

3. Housing

(e.g. utility assistance)

45,214

4. Community services

(e.g. daycares)

44,145

5. Legal and public safety

(e.g. legal aid)

38,558

“We are extremely proud of the award-winning service we offer Ontarians,” said Benson. “While we wish this type of service wasn’t required in our province, knowing that most people, 86% to be exact, do follow up with the referral, and that 89% of them do get the help they need from the agencies referred to, is very satisfying.”

For regional results, see contact information below.

About Ontario 211

211 is the source Canadians trust when seeking information and services to deal with life’s challenges. 211’s award-winning telephone helpline (2-1-1) and website provide a gateway to community, social, non-clinical health and related government services. 211 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, a non-profit agency with five full-time staff, and a dedicated Board of Directors governs 211 in Ontario. Supported by the Province of Ontario and local United Ways across the province, they work in collaboration with seven Regional 211 Service Partners, and a unique network of data contributors to deliver 211 services though the phone and through online channels to all Ontario residents.

For two years, Ontario 211 has achieved the highly coveted SQM Call Centre World Class Certification, awarded to call centres where 75% or higher of the calls are at the World-Class Level for six consecutive months or more.  SQM provides benchmarking for over 450 leading North American call centres.

For information or interviews, contact:

Destiny Bedwell

Communications and

Marketing Coordinator

Ontario 211 Services

416-777-0211, ext. 225

dbedwell@211ontario.ca