Research Bulletin November 2017: Sector Issues

The relaunch of The Federation’s (new and improved) research bulletins in August was met with a great and positive response. Since then, we have continued to track research, analyses, and evaluations that can help inform and improve service delivery in BC.

This issue reviews and shares research that explains, analyzes and addresses some issues that are top-of-mind and closely related to what’s going on in our province: poverty, mental health, kids in care, inequality. The reports also connect with themes of evaluation and promising practices that were the focus of The Federation’s ‘Building on Success’ conference in October.

The reports below examine child poverty, mental health services, gender inequality, promising practices, evaluation, and measurement.

1. Children living in low-income households
2. Missing Pieces: Joshua’s Story
3. Toward Quality Mental Health Services in Canada
4. The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2017
5. Measuring Outcomes in Practice

As always, our goal is to share useful information in a useful way. If you have feedback about how we can make this service better and/or if you want to suggest issues or service areas for our Research and Policy Analyst to pay attention to, please contact us.


1. Children living in low-income households (Canada, 2017)

This short paper from Statistics Canada provides an updated report on the numbers of children living in low-income households across Canada. It uses 2016 Census Data and provides figures and comparisons across provinces and select metropolitan areas.

Under various different government programs, Canadian families can receive significant financial support for children. Unsurprisingly, Quebec (a province with comparatively high government benefits for families with children) was the only province where children were less likely to live in low-income households than adults making clear the connection between government support and poverty.

Younger children were more affected by low income, partly because the earnings of new mothers tend to drop in the year of childbirth and for several years thereafter. But it is also worth noting that children whose family shared a dwelling with others were less likely to be considered low income.


2. Missing Pieces: Joshua’s Story (Canada, 2017)

This investigative report by BC’s Representative for Children and Youth finds lessons and missed opportunities in the story of a young man who didn’t receive the support he needed in order to overcome a debilitating mental illness.

After an exhaustive review, the Representative concluded that better services might not have necessarily have prevented this tragedy. However, the report makes very clear that a comprehensive youth mental health system would have given Joshua and his family a better chance to deal with his challenging illness.

The report recommends that BC’s new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions should take the lead role in developing and implementing a comprehensive mental health system for children and youth—one that offers a full continuum of mental health services, including prevention, early intervention, family support, emergency and acute care, and “step-down” services to prepare children and youth for life in the community after hospitalization.


3. Toward Quality Mental Health Services (Canada, 2017)

This report contains the results of a Canada-wide project (led by the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction at Simon Fraser University) aiming to identify, analyze and compare mental health service indicators. The goal was to identify and establish criteria for tracking and reporting mental health and addictions services across provinces.

The service performance indicators that were identified and compared included the location of first treatment contact, physician follow-ups after discharge, and suicide rates among people diagnosed with a mental disorder or addiction. The reports (a Summary Report and a Technical Report) provide background information about the project, comparative results by province, and key findings.

No province was consistently the best, but across most indicators, adolescents and young adults were the categories receiving the poorest service performance across all provinces (although variations across gender were also observed).


4. The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2017 (Canada, 2017)

This annual study provides a snapshot of the gaps in men and women’s access to economic security, personal security, education, health, and positions of leadership in Canada’s largest 25 metropolitan areas.

It measures these gaps in a given community in order to capture inequalities that can be attributed, at least in part, to discrimination based on gender; it also serves as a reminder that, with the right choices and policies, these gaps can be closed.

According to this year’s ranking, Victoria is the best city to be a woman (for the third year in a row), while big gaps in employment and high poverty rates for women put Windsor in last place (for the second year in a row).


5. Measuring Outcomes in Practice (Canada, 2017)

Echoing some well-made (and well-received) arguments made during The Federation’s recent conference, these authors note the importance of adopting a “systems-wide lens” when looking at impact and effort. They argue that recognizing the interconnectedness of the social and environmental issues we work to address better enables us to get at the root causes of these complex social issues.

The report examines challenges and emerging trends in measurement and evaluation and encourages organizations to reflect on their contribution as part of a collective effort. This shift (as well as other recommendations such as shifting from “outputs” to “outcomes”) empowers organizations and programs to focus on how a program or service contributes to a better quality of life for Canadians, rather than simply stating what the program or service delivers.

Their goal, like ours, is to challenge the sector, governments, and other funders/partners to ensure that our collective efforts are in fact making a difference in the lives of the people we serve.