Service Access & Coordination Backgrounder
The City of Toronto provides many vital services to its residents. These services should be provided in the right amount so that people’s basic needs are met and so they remain affordable. Services should also be widely promoted, so everyone knows about them. And they should be easy to access, so everyone can participate and benefit from them.
In Toronto, many City services make the lives of residents easier, safer, and more enjoyable. However, not all residents can find the services they need when they need them. Waiting lists are common, and in some cases, unacceptably long. Services can also be difficult to navigate – with too many forms, calls, and visits required. In some neighbourhoods, certain services are not available at all.
The availability and accessibility of services depends not only on budgets, but on innovation, planning and partnership. New ways of working can help cities provide residents with more access to better services – more quickly, more fairly and more easily.
Governments everywhere are looking at creative ways to improve service quality, access and coordination, using new technologies, approaches to service design, and delivery models.
The City and its partners are working to make services more available and effective, and thus better able to meet existing and emerging needs.
City of Toronto Initiatives
Affordable, accessible and high quality child care supports children’s development and allows them to thrive. It also gives working families, especially mothers, the opportunity to do paid work and/or participate in training and education opportunities. This year, City Council approved an ambitious plan to significantly expand Toronto’s child care system. With investments from the City, the Province of Ontario, and the Government of Canada, Toronto is set to transform the licensed child care system to serve 50 per cent of children ages 0 to 4 by 2026 and reduce parent fees by 25 per cent to 40 per cent. As a first step, 162 spaces and 2,916 fee subsidies were added to the child care system in 2017.
For the 20 per cent of Torontonians living on low incomes, recreation centres and libraries provide access to spaces and programs that foster healthy living, social inclusion, and valuable skills. Since Council approved the Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2015, 17 recreation centres became free for all users. In 2017, the York Recreation Centre – a new, large, fully-accessible facility offering a wide range of programs – was added to the list of centres where programs are free.
Library services were also increased: today, there are 1,169 more library hours annually than there were in 2015. In 2017, the Toronto Public Library extended year round Sunday service to 14 district branches and added Sunday service to six more neighbourhood branches bringing the total number of branches that open on Sundays to 33. Expanding Sunday service is responsive to changing patterns of school, work and leisure and is one of the most requested services. Open hours promote access to computers, internet, study and work space, collection, and programs in neighbourhoods across the city.
The City is also doing more to connect residents to benefits and important opportunities. For example, in a successful event organized by Toronto Employment & Social Services, 500 low-income families received assistance opening Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) for their children, enabling them to receive up to $2,000 for each child from a federal program called the Canada Learning Bond. Assuming these families were and remain eligible for the CLB grant in each applicable year, cumulatively these 500 new accounts would secure $1M in Federal benefits.
Poverty Reduction Strategy: 2018 plans
In 2018, the City will continue to implement its ambitious plan to increase access to child care. The plan will be rolled out over several years. The first target is, by 2019, to reduce parent fees by 10 per cent, add 2,000 new physical child care spaces, and increase the wages of Registered Early Childhood Educators by 6 per cent. Achieving these targets will depend on provincial and federal investments.
The City will also expand Sunday service to an additional 25 library branches serving current and former neighborhoods improvement areas (NIAs).