“The I and R Specialist was wonderful and I wanted to thank her personally. My husband and I live on a farm and we were without power for two days. Now it is back on. The I and R Specialist was so reassuring and took the time to help us.”
In December 2013 a severe winter storm coated Toronto and many parts of Ontario and Eastern Canada in a 30 mm layer of ice, leaving 300,000 people in Toronto without power. Power was not fully restored for residents until January 2014.
Within the first 48 hours staff at Findhelp Information Services (211 Central) answered more than twice as many calls, (1,535), compared with the same period the previous week. Extreme vulnerability included an intolerably cold apartment for small children, access to oxygen cut for a woman whose street was blocked by fallen trees, and people with disabilities running out of food in buildings where elevators were not running.
The City of Toronto’s review of the overall Emergency Response led to a motion at City Council in July 2014 to explore the formation of an Emergency Response Agreement with Findhelp/211 Central to increase access to services for vulnerable residents during an emergency situation. This partnership has continued to expand and strengthen support to residents during and following emergencies.
211 is powered by partnerships, and the past year was no exception. The partnerships below represent work at a provincial level with stakeholders in the social and health services field, and demonstrate some of the ways 211 is improving access to services for Ontarians. At a local and regional level, 211 is involved in hundreds of partnerships that leverage 211 data or its role as an easy gateway to specialized services.
We continued to partner with the OPP and local police services, as well as paramedics across Ontario to support the non-urgent needs of residents in the community. A Community Referral program has been developed that leverages the 211 service to connect people to supports that will improve overall health and wellness, and reduce risk of victimization. 211 First Responder cards were distributed to all OPP and paramedics for their use in the community.
Funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Good2Talk is a post-secondary mental health helpline that provides mental health and addictions information and referrals and professional counselling to Ontario’s post-secondary students. Ontario 211 partners with Kids Help Phone, ConnexOntario and Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health to deliver this important service to students.
211 plays a support role in times of emergency, providing a public information channel, disaster resource database management, and caller needs and trends reporting. Over the last 12 months, we have established communications protocols with many new municipalities, built relationships with the Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management and local Community Emergency Management Coordinators, developed new resources and training for 211 staff, and delivered dozens of presentations to emergency management officials across the province. Our work in this area aims to reduce the strain on the 911 system during times of disaster, and to support residents long into the recovery period.
With a 3-year investment from Green Shield Canada Foundation, Ontario 211 Services, United Way Canada and Findhelp Information Services have partnered to Open Doors to Better Health for uninsured and under-insured people. Working with agencies in the community, we will enhance the capacity of the 211 system to help people connect to low-cost or free health and social services.
We have partnered with the Ontario College of Family Physicians and their Poverty Committee to educate primary care providers on the 211 service, and develop tools to help identify local programs and services that can help alleviate or prevent poverty.
With support from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Developmental Services Ontario Toronto Region (DSO TR), a program of Surrey Place Centre, and Ontario 211, in collaboration with Findhelp Information Services, are partnering to improve information and referral services for people living with developmental disabilities. The project is in the planning stages with a planned launch in Toronto in fall of 2015, and roll-out to other DSO regions in 2016/2017.
211 in Ontario has been built from the community up – leveraging decades of experience in professional information and referral agencies with in-depth knowledge of the services available in their communities. This year, we made significant progress on the road to building an integrated system that delivers a high-quality and consistent user experience, no matter where in Ontario the call is answered. A huge thank you to our service delivery partners for their role in bringing these systems online!
Integrated Phone – This year, we invested in a cloud-based phone platform that connects our regional 211 call centres within one provincial integrated system. The new phone solution will allow for calls to flow from one region to another to manage peaks in call volume across the province. This will also allow for skills-based routing of calls for language needs or other specialized social service needs – further improving the experience for callers and increasing the ways that 211 can act as a resource for others, particularly in times of emergency or disaster.
Integrated Call Tracking – A new call tracking system was also implemented by our regional service partners this year, which will improve the consistency of the data collected about who is calling 211, what they are calling about, and where there are unmet needs in communities. This data is already valued by communities, and the new system will allow for a deeper and richer analysis of community needs.
Single provincial database – Over the course of the last year, local resource databases were consolidated into one provincial dataset that is used by Information and Referral Specialists to search for services, and also feeds the 211ontario.ca search portal, creating greater consistency and reducing duplication of data across the system.
Implementation of new data standards – To ensure a consistent approach to naming and categorization of records, Data Partners across the province adopted and implemented new data standards with the ultimate goal of creating a better experience for users.
On February 11, our first 211 Day Awareness Campaign was a huge success due to the 211 ambassadors who helped grow awareness of 211 in their communities. The message this year was urging residents to Make the Right Call when looking for help, explaining when to call 211 instead of 911 for non-urgent needs.
Many first responders helped spread Make the Right Call messages. Thank you to the Ontario Provincial Police, Regional Police Services, Fire Stations and Paramedics across Ontario who added their voices on social media and with their local media.
United Ways and several municipalities in Ontario were also key partners in sharing the message. The City of Toronto donated free advertising to promote the Make the Right Call message. The United Way of Ottawa and Ottawa Mayor, Jim Watson, officially declared February 11th 211 Day in Ottawa. The United Way of Oxford ran radio ads and did media interviews. United Way of Sault Ste. Marie distributed materials to community organizations and the United Way of Sudbury Nipissing held a 211 media event in North Bay.
In the first week of the campaign, our Make the Right Call video was viewed more than 6,000 times, 269 new twitter followers, 60 new Facebook likes, and more than half a million social media impressions!
211 in Ontario has won the Highest Customer Service for Government Industry award again from the SQM Group. This means that 211 callers were very satisfied with the help provided by 211’s trained Information & Referral Specialists. SQM benchmarks over 500 North American call centres each year. 211 has won this award for four years since 2009.
211 also won the award for Call Centre World Class Certification. This award is based on 80% of customers being overall very satisfied with their call centre experience, are very satisfied with the Information and Referral Specialist who handled their call, and that they got the information they needed. 211 has won this award for three years in a row.
Thank you to all the callers who took time to answer surveys. The surveys also help us understand when there is a problem we need to resolve.
Collectively, the people listed below represent decades of experience in the information and referral and non-profit sectors. They are experts, advisors, contributors and sometimes cheerleaders - and we couldn’t do it without them.
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