Information service to close

Loss of key funding will shut down a community information service that has operated in Red Deer for the last 20 years.

Loss of key funding will shut down a community information service that has operated in Red Deer for the last 20 years.

The Community Information and Referral Society announced on Monday that, although its other programs will be maintained, it will start winding down its information and referral services at the end of October and shut it down completely by the end of the year.

The announcement comes after the CiRS board learned that it would lose $135,000 a year in funding from the Red Deer and District Family and Community Support Services, CEO Dawna Morey said.

CiRS functions include helping people connect with community and social service groups operating within the region, Morey said.

The loss of FCSS funding has meant that two full-time people have been laid off and three more will likely lose their jobs by the end of the year, said Morey.

FCSS, which covers the Red Deer city and county, as well as Bowden, Penhold, Delburne and Elnora, revised its funding model earlier this year, she said.

As a result, CiRS will no longer receive the funding that, in past years, provided a large share of its annual operating budget, which has been cut in recent years to $400,000 from a high of $600,000.

Red Deer city employee Linda Boyd, whose responsibilities include FCSS, said its board set aside $2.9 million for program delivery, from which organizations including CiRS were to receive their grants.

Funding was prioritized according to those groups that best fit the redefined model, based on preventive services, said Boyd, supervisor of resource and capacity development in the Social Planning Department.

The board would have liked to have helped more groups, but did not have enough money to meet everyone’s needs, so funding was offered based on the board’s priorities.

The city’s Social Planning Department will look at whether and how to cover the service CiRS was providing, she said. The community will need to be involved in the process, which will likely take a few months, said Boyd.

Morey said she has been taking part in a provincewide group that is looking at expanding the 211 information service that now covers the Edmonton and Calgary areas to include Central Alberta.

Similar to 911 emergency services, 211 offers a community information and referrals, now available only in Edmonton and Calgary.

While expanding 211 is being considered, there will be a significant gap between when CiRS closes its service and 211 becomes available.

CiRS will continue to operate in other areas, including the CiRS Community Village, which offers office space and services to a number of non-profit groups, said Morey.

The information and referral service is not one for which CiRS is able to effectively fundraise and it would not be appropriate to charge users for the service, she said.