Support services funding falls behind

Funding for services that help families, youth and newcomers is not keeping pace with inflation, cost of living or population growth, leaving officials feeling frustrated because they are not meeting community demands.

Funding for services that help families, youth and newcomers is not keeping pace with inflation, cost of living or population growth, leaving officials feeling frustrated because they are not meeting community demands.

Red Deer city Coun. Ken Johnston, a council representative on the Red Deer and District Family and Community Support Services board, said on Friday it is very frustrating to make difficult funding choices in this climate.

“(We) would like to do more but when your funds are frozen you are really funding along a 2006 or 2007 cost of living and it’s now 2014,” said Johnston.

Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) is a partnership between the government of Alberta, and municipalities or Métis settlements. A

municipality must choose to be part of the program and the province agrees to provide funding for 80 per cent and the municipality provides 20 per cent of funding.

A board made up of members of the six municipalities determines the allocation to agencies through an application process.

Johnston said this year the board had 45 requests for funding, totalling $3.8 million, and a budget of $1.9 million.

“That’s a heck of a gap,” he said. “Some of the applicants clearly won’t fit the model. Those are easier decisions but most of them, the vast majority of them did the fit the FCSS model and that’s what makes it so very difficult to make those decisions.”

The initial stage of the application process has been completed. Offers of further interest have been extended to the selected agencies.

The board will meet in late April to determine the funding for the 2015-2017 funding cycle and the agencies will be notified in June.

The funding is open to non-profit groups, school boards or municipalities that are involved with the delivery of preventive social services to residents in the Red Deer and district.

Johnston said the reality is there will be some “nos” for sure in April. Johnston said what they are seeing is growth in families, senior demographic and in the immigrant community, in addition to inflation.

“When you experience that growth and your funding still doesn’t go up, that makes it more burdensome,” he said. “The real issue here is the province has not tied crime prevention and family and support community services together. The more and better you effectively fund family and support services, the bigger impact it has on crime prevention. The province has yet to make that connection.”

Linda Boyd, director of Red Deer and District Family and Community Support Services, said the funding has been stable but it has not kept up with the needs.

“There’s some really good things happening with FCSS across the province and the funding needs to follow that,” said Boyd. “There’s some good things that have happened with projects but the funding has just sat. In a fact it does translate to a little bit of a cut but we recognize in other programs they have actually seen actual cuts in addition to that.”

The FCSS Association of Alberta sent out a news released on Friday that expressed its frustration for the 320 municipalities with FCSS programs across the province.

President Jeff Carlson said the sustainability of the FCSS program is at a tipping point with a flat-lined budget for eight years that equals a budget cut. “Not only is Family and Community Support Services falling further behind in its ability to simply maintain its level of preventive supports to Albertans, in many cases, services must now be reduced or eliminated.”

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com