Supporting the long-term sustainability of our sector
Back in 2020, we launched the Community Social Services Training Fund—a pool of grant funding provided by the provincial government to support broad and inclusive training and development efforts throughout the community social services sector. Last week, our government colleagues announced a new fund to address gaps in another area of our work.
I am very pleased to announce the Community Social Services Sector Technology Fund, $1.5 million in grant funding, administered by The Federation, that will go toward helping community social-service sector agencies across the province upgrade their technologies and improve clients’ access to virtual supports, learning opportunities, and employment.
During the pandemic, our sector responded quickly and creatively and used technology in new ways to ensure that the families and communities we serve were not left more isolated and vulnerable than they already were. These funds will help make some of those changes permanent and also address the increasing costs of connecting with clients, working remotely, and managing data and information appropriately.
How we got here
When the Social Services Sector Round Table was created in early 2019, sustainability (in addition to compensation and recruitment and retention) was top of mind for many organizations. While subcommittees were struck to focus on procurement and compensation and HR, everyone at the Round Table also understood that IT was a key factor in the long-term sustainability of our sector—especially for rural and remote communities.
When we presented the findings of the Social Services Labour Market Research Project Final Report and explained that sufficient information technology is absolutely necessary for organizations to (among other things) meet service delivery and reporting requirements, our colleagues listened. The COVID-19 pandemic made that necessity even more clear.
This funding commitment is a huge success for our sector and I am very grateful and appreciative of everyone who helped to make this happen—my colleagues at the Round Table and our allies elsewhere. This is the result of the government and the sector working together, identifying shared goals, and turning information and insights into action and change. This funding will help to address some significant gaps in the sustainability of our sector.
What comes next
We have updated The Federation website with information about the Community Social Services Sector Technology Fund. Any organizations that are interested in receiving updates about the Training Fund (including notification when applications open) can subscribe to a mailing list using the form on our website. (Please Note: the training funds are available to all social services organizations, not just Federation members.)
The Federation team is working hard on getting the Technology Fund ready to launch for late summer or early fall and we are very excited to support our members and colleagues in identifying and supporting their information technology needs. And I am also excited about what the Social Services Sector Round Table will be able to accomplish as it devotes more attention to issues related to the strength and sustainability of our sector.
In addition to the $1.5 million technology grant, the government has also announced $1.5 million to support research into the long-term sustainability of our sector. This work will be informed by the 2021 Social Services Labour Market Research Project and will explore how to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into organizations and the potential to expand peer-support models of delivering services.
There is still a lot of work ahead of us, but it also feels very good to celebrate the successes that result from working in collaboration. To me, this is what altogether better is about. And I am very thankful for the leadership and collaboration demonstrated by all of my colleagues at the Social Services Sector Round Table.
If you have any questions about this initiative, the other work of the Round Table, or any Federation issue or initiative, please reach out and contact me. I’m always available.
Rick FitzZaland, Executive Director