Program still requires more provincial funding, says director

City Council approved two funding recommendations for the Family & Community Support Services, or FCSS program in 2013, allowing for continued sustainability of agencies like the Calgary YWCA.

The FCSS program funds agencies that provide preventive social services to vulnerable Calgarians, such as the Strong Neighbourhoods Initiative, which empowers residents to become involved with and improve their communities. By increasing social inclusion and decreasing poverty rates, the program works to progress the lives of disadvantaged citizens.

A group of volunteers work on the Highland Park Centennial Community Garden as part of the Strong Neighbourhoods Initiative, which aims to reduce poverty rates and increase community capacity in eight focus neighbourhoods – Acadia, Bridgeland/Riverside, Highland Park, Martindale, Penbrooke Meadows, Rosscarrock, Sunalta and Vista Heights.

Photo courtesy of City HallIn a meeting at City Hall on March 11, the standing policy committee on Community and Protective Services, acting as the board of directors for FCSS, met with council members to give a review of their progress in 2012 and present their 2013 budget.

The FCSS called on City Council to approve two recommendations:

  • The 2013 FCSS Program Funding Summary – A detailed summary of the proposed funds to be allocated in 2013 to each agency and organization that receives funding from the FCSS.
  • The transfer of $1.5 million from the FCSS Stabilization Fund for use on a one-time basis to aid in capacity-building for funded community agencies in 2013 and 2014.

Katie Black, manager of Partnerships and Policy with Community and Neighbourhood Services for Calgary and director of FCSS since 2004, addressed council about the current state of the program.

She said that although the program is fulfilling its mandate—to fund agencies that provide preventive social services to vulnerable Calgarians—more provincial funding is required for it to reach its full potential.

“We are calling on the province to increase the FCSS budget province-wide because, of course, Calgary is not the only place that runs an FCSS program,” Black said.

Funding

In 2012, the FCSS funded 76 agencies and 117 distinct programs that promoted those objectives.

“Because we know that demand [for funding] will always exceed supply that’s why it’s really important that we have the Social Sustainability Framework,” Black said.

The Social Sustainability Framework, approved by City Council in 2008, guides the FCSS in their funding activities, ensuring that agencies in the most need receive adequate financial support.

The provincial and municipal governments jointly fund the FCSS. The Alberta government provides 80 per cent of the required funding, while participating municipalities are responsible for covering—at least— the remaining 20 per cent.

The City of Calgary currently accounts for 30 per cent of the total funding for the local FCSS, or $9 million.

The increased support from City Council came in 2011 when it approved an annual increase of $1.7 million for each of the years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Aldermen in attendance were:

  • John Mar (Ward 8)
  • Shane Keating (Ward 12)
  • Peter Demong (Ward 14)
  • Gael MacLeod (Ward 4)
  • Brian Pincott (Ward 11)
  • Richard Pootmans (Ward 6)
  • Jim Stevenson (Ward 3)

The provincial contribution has neither increased nor decreased in the past three years, despite requests from the FCSS.

In 2012, new funding requests from FCSS-supported agencies totaled $42.5 million, but the 2013 provincial budget only allows for $31.4 million.

The approved transfer of $1.5 million from the FCSS Stabilization Fund, which normally contains budget surplus, will allow agencies in Calgary to be given grants on a one-time basis to build capacity and improve their services.

A number of individuals from agencies working in conjunction with FCSS and citizens whose lives have been impacted by its various programs spoke to council members about the value of the FCSS.

Visolela Jamba and Joseph Kellam, two students from St. Michael Jr. High School, spoke about their experiences in the LEAD program, a youth leadership program for grades 7-12 students.

They discussed the skills they have acquired and the value of programs like theirs, funded by the FCSS.

The aldermen in attendance voted unanimously to approve the new funding recommendations for 2013.

lohare@cjournal.ca