A year of transition for county community services

April 2, 2014   ·   0 Comments

By James Matthews – Last year was one of change for the county’s Community Services/Dufferin Oaks Committee.

Keith Palmer, director of Dufferin County’s Community Services department, outlined some of those changes in his annual report presented during a committee meeting in Shelburne last Thursday.

The committee was told the department spent 2013 focusing on building community partnerships, greater collaboration with local service agents, and greater involvement with residents.

Mr. Palmer said 2013 was a year of change and settling-in within all divisions.

“From the delivery of services, we continue to meet our expectations, and the community’s expectations,” he said.

The greatest change was having relocated from Broadway offices to the Edelbrock Centre on Centre Street. He said partnerships with the local agencies on site has allowed citizens to acquire services with little or no barriers caused by transportation, inappropriate referrals, wait times, or lack of program information.

The Employment Resource Centre in the Edelbrock Centre is cooperatively run by  Community Services and Georgian College at its reception, which is considered the first point of contact.

Specific to the Ontario Works and Housing divisions, January 2013 brought provincial changes to both programs. One of the greatest changes was the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and funding for emergency hostels being removed from the Ontario Works envelope.

Similar funding flows to service managers from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. These changes caused both divisions to retool its service delivery methods by incorporating a more systems-based thinking approach, which saw staff from both divisions addressing clients who were in housing related crises.

The county saw a slight decrease in overall caseload in 2013 through intensive efforts to link people to jobs. Staff will continue building on the effective strategies that are working so well in 2014.

Workshops were provided in 2013 to local service providers on Bridges Out of Poverty, a movement which seeks to positively impact the education and lives of individuals in poverty.

Children’s Services has seen a year of change, with more schools transitioning to full-day kindergarten, local childcare agencies being more nimble in addressing service gaps, and the county as a service manager fine tuning its responsibilities with the ministry of education. In the childcare fee subsidy program, the county continues to see an increase in service requests.

In fall 2013, the Housing division conducted its second annual survey of Dufferin County social housing tenants. The purpose of the survey was to obtain feedback to help evaluate the County of Dufferin as a landlord.

The survey contained 21 questions covering areas of customer service, office procedures and satisfaction within housing units. Similar to the previous year, most responses received were positive. The Housing division will continue to carry out a Tenant Survey on an annual basis and compare results year over year.

In December 2013, County Council unanimously adopted a new Emergency Response Plan as a result of lessons learned from recent emergency events, in addition to several simulated emergency exercises of varying levels of complexity.

The Emergency Management Division monitored or responded to 70 separate incidents ranging from severe weather to evacuations.

All incidents are categorized as either natural, technological or human caused. Natural hazards were our predominant concern in 2013, with 66 events.

There were also four technological hazards, including the evacuation of an elementary school due to a noxious substance.

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