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Supporting a thriving community services sector: a response to Budget 2024

April 18, 2024

Every day, people across the country face challenges related to affordability, mental health, and accessing opportunities to succeed. Our network of United Way Centraides is working diligently to bring together people and organizations in the private, public, and social sectors across the country to meet community needs and tackle complex social issues. Considering the meaningful role that charities and non-profits play in addressing those challenges and building strong communities, it is critical for the Government of Canada to recognize the increased demand on the sector. With substantial investment in Canada’s community services infrastructure, Budget 2024 is poised to bolster social and economic capacity to further United Way Centraide’s mission.

The federal budget tabled on April 16 proposes action on several of United Way Centraide Canada’s public policy priorities. In 2022, guided by United Way Centraides’ work in 5,000 communities, United Way Centraide Canada identified housing and homelessness and access to affordable childcare, community based mental health services, and healthy food as priorities for federal action.

Budget 2024 proposes strategic investments that will assist individuals and families today and will also help secure our collective prosperity in the future. We welcome the proposed Budget investments such as:

  • Solving the Housing Crisis: Canada’s Housing Plan, which outlines measures to build, maintain and protect affordable housing, support renters, and address homelessness, including through non-profit acquisition. This includes funding to stabilize funding for Reaching Home;
  • Providing $60 million to Prosper Canada, a United Way Centraide strategic service delivery partner, to expand community-delivered financial help services available to people living in Canada;
  • The $500M Youth Mental Health Fund, which will support community-based organizations to reduce mental health waitlists and leverage community partnerships and networks to serve youth more quickly;
  • $60 million over two years to support Friendship Centres across the country in order to provide much needed supports and services for Indigenous peoples in urban areas;
  • The National School Food Program to provide more healthy, nutritious food to support educational outcomes and overall well-being;
  • An investment in childcare infrastructure and expansion to meet growing demand and to support the workforce through training and loan forgiveness for rural and remote early childhood educators; and
  • A sectoral table on the care economy that will consult and provide recommendations to the federal government on concrete actions to better support the care economy.

 

Our United Way Centraide network and our partners know that investments in the potential of our community members – children, youth, families, individuals and seniors – are critical investments in improving our collective social and economic well-being.

Government has the opportunity to deepen its community impact through investments in supports, programs and infrastructure to support equity-deserving communities, reduce poverty, and stabilize housing for women and other vulnerable community members. We welcome action towards implementing the Canada Disability Benefit but note that further investment in a higher benefit is needed to urgently reduce poverty among people with disabilities, who are twice as likely to live in poverty than people without disabilities. Funding to support the community services sector’s increased role in emergency preparedness and response is another smart strategy to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable community members.

United Way Centraide Canada is committed to working alongside government and members of all parties to build stronger communities to support operationalizing these vital programs in communities. Many of the programs proposed in Budget 2024 will rely on the work of community organizations and their staff to succeed. We note that community service organizations are contending with rising costs for program delivery – from food, insurance, and materials – while demand for support has risen amidst affordability challenges and more frequent climate emergencies.

This is why alongside Budget 2024’s important investments, we encourage government to work with the community and social services sector to implement funding practices that respond to rising costs and invest in building the capacity of community service organizations. Investment in the sector should include a recognition of its skilled and dedicated labour force, including through codeveloping a community services labour force strategy. United Way Centraide Canada and partners are embarking on work to create a sector labour force strategy and welcome the federal government at the table as we seek to recruit, retain, and expand our pool of skilled labour.

We at United Way Centraide Canada, as well as our network of United Way Centraides, look forward to engaging and collaborating with the federal government to drive community impact and create an equitable future for all through Budget 2024’s proposed action.

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