COMMUNITY AND CITY SERVICES: SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

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Intro: 
Social infrastructure is all our community resources combined. Our social infrastructure is the organizations, services, people and networks that support our community. Strong social infrastructure helps us have healthy communities and wellbeing for all
Why It Matters: 

Ottawa’s social infrastructure includes important services we need like housing, childcare, recreation and community services.


The City budgets from 2010 to 2016 have put social services at risk for Ottawa residents. It could become harder to get mental health counseling, seniors’ supports, help for women at risk of violence, and housing.

Violence against women tends to be funded by the province. However there are support services like day programs that would reduce women’s risk of homelessness and violence.

Two cuts have weakened the community service sector.

  1. The “deferral” of the agency sustainability fund in 2011 that cut $500K per year from additional funding for agencies.
  2. In 2013, the community project fund that was to support organizations addressing emerging needs was eliminated to save $575K per year.

Weakening the social infrastructure breaks people’s connections in their neighborhoods and in the wider community.

We Believe That: 

Funding for Ottawa’s social infrastructure must keep pace with our population growth and funding for other city services.
Services are at risk for Ottawa residents who rely on social services for everything from mental health counseling, to seniors’ and supports to women at risk of violence and homelessness.

For example: At the same time as Ontario Works staff caseloads were increasing (2010 to 2016), the number of Ontario Works staff was decreased via “efficiencies”. We have seen the ratio of Ontario Works staff to clients rise from 1:109 to about 1:120. This is a service reduction affecting the most vulnerable people.

We are asking City Council to ensure that funding for community services grows as our population grows and keeps pace with funding for other city services. The funding must recognize the increasingly complex needs of people who are marginalized. For example, people living in poverty have to navigate systems for food bank, transit, childcare, mental health and more.

But the Reality Is Troubling: 

The Community and Social Services budget has not kept pace with other city budgets or with population growth.

  • The last census recorded a 9% population growth in Ottawa to 883,000. Assuming a little smaller growth for the period 2011 to 2016, at 7%, Ottawa’s population would be 944,800. We know that 15% of the population lives on low income. Therefore the growth in the low-income population will be 9,300 people in a five-year period.
  • The Community and Social Services budget in the City budget has had the least growth (15%) from 2010 to 2016 of any city service. All other city services have increased at a higher rate, for example Economic Development by 222%, Park and Recreation by 32% and Transit by 43%.
  • The fact that Community and Social Services spending is not keeping up with other spending makes it difficult for community agencies to address the growing needs.

The 2016-2018 Budget Directions document required staff to conduct a transparent service review to “optimize the delivery of services and provide the best overall value for taxpayers …”.  Could this result in fewer services and less staff to deliver services?

Questions to Ask: 
  • How do you make sure that funding for social infrastructure keeps pace with our population growth and with funding for other city services in the 2017 budget?
  • Ottawa has a growing and aging population. How does the city budget take into account the increasing demand for basic services?
  • When will Ottawa residents have an opportunity learn the results of the service review? What guarantee can you offer that changes will not result in fewer services for residents?
  • How do you envision community and social services?
  • What is City’s long-term community investment strategy?