The SEIU-West Young Workers Committee (YWC) is shining a light on issues that often get pushed into the shadows and aims to break down stigma associated with important issues in our communities. For this article, the YWC is focusing on 211 Saskatchewan and is based on an interview between YWC member, Brittney and Andrea Howe, Director of Labour Partnerships & Community Impact with the United Way.
What is 2-1-1 Saskatchewan?
2-1-1 is a free, anonymous, confidential service that connects individuals to human services in the province. 2-1-1 maintains information on over 5,500 listings of social, community, non-clinical health, and government services in Saskatchewan and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
How can 2-1-1 be accessed?
2-1-1 can be reached by phone, through text, through our website, and by chatting through our on-line platform. Help is available in the way that is most comfortable and convenient for the person seeking services.
2-1-1 information is provided by certified information and referral specialists. Anyone can access 2-1-1.
Is 2-1-1 available in different languages?
Yes. 2-1-1 is available in over 175 languages, including 17 Indigenous languages.
2-1-1 is an important part of United Way’s work across Canada to build strong communities by connecting people to services.
A significant barrier for individuals and families to accessing the services they need is the complexity of finding the information they are looking for. Whether it is finding assistance with basic needs such as food, shelter and employment, looking for support for an aging parent, or trying to find childcare, navigating through all of the information out there can be overwhelming, confusing and ultimately a roadblock to finding support.
Besides serving major urban centers and smaller cities, 211 plays a critical role in providing support to individuals located in rural and remote regions where online services are often beyond reach.
How long has 2-1-1 been available in Saskatchewan?
United Way Saskatoon & Area and United Way Regina collaborated in partnership to bring 2-1-1 service to Saskatchewan to help people get connected to the information and support they need.
In 2014, the on-line database was launched (www.sk.211.ca). In June, 2018, the 2-1-1 service was expanded to include phone, text, and webchat.
What is the impact of 2-1-1?
211 helps first responders, social workers, police, and other service providers find accurate information to direct people to the right resources. Example:
• This December, the Saskatchewan RCMP announced a general duty business card re-print with RCMP contact information on the front (in English and French) and 2-1-1 Saskatchewan information on the back.
• "Front line officers with the RCMP will use the business cards to inform clients of 211 Saskatchewan and provide them with an avenue of outreach when a social issue is beyond our scope of ability to help with”. (Constable Joelle Nieman, Saskatchewan RCMP's Violence Relationship Coordinator)
2-1-1 helps to re-direct non-emergency calls from 9-1-1.
2-1-1 will be able to identify gaps in services and geographical areas based on unmet needs in our communities.
Beyond everyday needs and with further development the 2-1-1 service has the potential to be used for emergency response support as has been proven with the resources required in the Calgary floods or Fort McMurray wildfires, and currently COVID-19.
2-1-1 and COVID:
Existing 2-1-1 services across Canada saw a dramatic increase in the number of people reaching out for help during the first wave. For example, 2-1-1 Saskatchewan experienced a 90% increase in contacts from March to August of 2020 compared to the previous six months. As part of its COVID-19 response, the Government of Canada provided funding to United Way Centraide Canada to increase the capacity and expand access to 2-1-1 services for all Canadian residents. This will be even more valuable as we enter the second wave of the pandemic.
2-1-1 has been available in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and most of Quebec. With this Federal investment, 2-1-1 is now available in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In Quebec, services are available in some areas, with plans to roll out service across the province in December.
When should I call 2-1-1?