'Who would I call?' 211 service to answer that question for social services

A new 211 service planned for Prince Edward Island should make it easier for Islanders to find the social services they need, says the executive director of a similar service in Nova Scotia.

Service in N.S. helps about 100 people a day

The system was designed for people on the margins, but thousands have been helped in Nova Scotia. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

A new 211 service planned for Prince Edward Island should make it easier for Islanders to find the social services they need, says the executive director of a similar service in Nova Scotia.

The service was announced as part of P.E.I.'s Poverty Reduction Action Plan last week.

Dialling 211 will connect people who need to know where to turn to get help for a problem. Operators will connect them with government and community services.

Mike Myette, the executive director of 211 in Nova Scotia, said it was set up for people on the margins and that thousands of Nova Scotians have received help.

"We have a wealth of programs and services in this province but if you can't find those programs and services they can't be a bit of help to you," said Myette.

"When you need help, and you need to sit back and say, 'Now who would I call for that?' research has shown that on average you can make up to seven phone calls before you might find the service. What happens is, most of us will give up before we make six or seven phone calls. So 211 is answer. It's one call."

Partnership with United Way

Since the service started five years ago, he said, it has helped about 100 people a day. It costs about $1 million a year in Nova Scotia, with the cost shared between the provincial government and the United Way.

P.E.I. will also work with the United Way to set up the service on the Island.

The United Way on P.E.I. said the first step will be to create a database of available services, which could take up to a year. That means the 211 service will likely not be available until 2020.

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With files from Laura Chapin