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TORONTO Ontarios community-based, nonprofit social services agencies need an immediate financial investment from the provincial government, says a group of agencies and unions who launched a province-wide lobbying campaign today.

The provinces social service infrastructure is suffering under the weight of flatlined funding, increased demand for service and growing expectations from government, said the group in its report, Building Strong Communities: A call to reinvest in Ontarios nonprofit social services.

Our budgets have been flatlined for at least eight years while inflation has eaten away at the income we do get, said Yves Savoie, executive director of the Family Service Association of Toronto. The previous governments view that private donors would fill the gap was a pipe dream.

Across the province, the demand for service has only increased, said Heather McGregor, executive director of YWCA Toronto, noting that cuts to welfare, social housing, child care, health and education have also taken their toll.

Workers have had to move into crisis management and away from support, assistance and advocacy, all the time trying to do more with less, added Sid Ryan, President of CUPE Ontario. They are coping with greater levels of stress and burnout coupled with minimal or no salary and benefit increases.

Leah Casselman, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, noted that the province has been able to get away with underfunding community agencies because the clients are ordinary people who lack political clout women, immigrants and refugees, children, those with low incomes and often people who have addiction problems or are homeless.

Healthy communities require a range of services and supports that help to increase social inclusion, access and equality while engaging all residents in community building, the group says in their report. With endorsements to date from about 30 organizations from across Ontario, they called on the provincial government to:

  • immediately increase provincial funding to non-profit agencies to help offset the cuts by previous governments and start to address the losses incurred by inflation
  • bring together representatives of agencies, unions and key ministries to create new funding practices that will enable agencies to attract and maintain a qualified and stable workforce and plan effectively to meet community needs
  • strengthen social and economic supports for all Ontarians with immediate action to improve welfare rates, build affordable housing, expand affordable child care programs and ensure decent public health care and education.

The report, Building Strong Communities: A call to reinvest in Ontarios nonprofit social services, is available at www.cupe.on.ca and www.neighbourhoodcentres.ca.