By the end of September, the number of Ontario residents with access to 211 will surpass 8.5 million or 70 per cent of the population according to Ontario 211 Services Corporation.
By the end of September the following four Ontario communities will have access to 211: Algoma, Oxford County, Hamilton and Durham Region.
211 is a three-digit phone number funded by the United Way with help from various levels of government. The service is available to anyone, however, its designed primarily for those who face social barriers related to language, mobility and isolation and are seeking support.
Calls are answered by live operators 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who assess each caller’s needs and link them to the best available services and programs. 211 helps individuals find services and understand access requirements for programs like employment counselling, housing assistance, services for seniors, home support, legal assistance, child care, and language classes.
Learn more about 211Canada
The idea for simplifying access to social services with 211 was born in the U.S. in 1997. In 2002, United Way Canada - Centraide Canada and other partners won approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to use 211 for community, social, government and health information in Canada.
"211 has changed the way Ontarians access information," said Rosanna Thoms," Executive Director, 211 Central South Region and President, Inform Canada. "Instead of annoying phone menus or impersonal automatic attendants, 211 callers speak directly to a Certified Information and Referral Specialist. By combining the human touch of live answer with modern phone and web technology, 211 is able to provide callers with award-winning high quality customer service."
Recognizing the benefits of 211, the Provincial government invested $13 million over four years to expand 211 to the entire province by March 2012.