A majority of British Columbians not only want improved community social services, but are prepared to pay higher taxes to provide them.
That’s one intriguing finding from a poll conducted by Strategic Communications (Stratcom) for the Roundtable of Provincial Social Services Organizations of BC.
The same poll found there is a broad public perception that access to needed services has declined significantly, despite growing demand.
“We know services supporting seniors and families and children are important, and a good investment,” said Roundtable member Tim Agg, executive director of PLEA Community Services Society. “It was heartening to learn that a majority of British Columbians agree, and are willing to pay a little more in taxes to provide needed help to people.”
The poll found 53 per cent of British Columbians supported increased funding to community social services, even if it meant they would pay higher taxes.
Support for higher taxes to provide needed services for children, families and seniors has increased 12 per cent since a similar survey in 2000, Agg noted.
The poll also found that 57 per cent of British Columbians felt current funding for community services is too low, with only six per cent believing it is too high.
Agg said the Roundtable engaged Stratcom, an international research company, to survey British Columbians on issues relating to the community social services sector.
The survey found British Columbians are less confident that services are available to prevent problems or crises than they were 13 years ago.
In 2000, 45 per cent of the public believed access to support services in their communities was good or excellent. Today, only 36 per cent give high ratings for access to services.
The survey found 74 per cent of British Columbia residents had used community social services themselves, or knew someone who had. That’s down from 81 per cent in 2000.
“Our fear is that the need is still there, but budget cuts have made it impossible for families to get help,” Agg said.
Agg called on all political parties and candidates to heed the poll and commit to a long-term funding plan to provide needed community social services.
More than 90 per cent of those surveyed said services for youth, women who have experienced violence, people with disabilities and special needs, seniors, people with mental health and addiction challenges and families and children are important.
“People are pragmatic, and compassionate,” said consultant Tim Beachy, another Roundtable member. “They know it is right to provide seniors with supports so they can live in their own homes. And they know it is far less expensive than a care home.”
"The public also understands that years of budget freezes - and cuts - have left community agencies in crisis,” he said. “Waiting lists for help, even for urgent assistance like support for vulnerable children and youth, people with developmental disabilities and victims of violence, have grown."
Almost 80 per cent of British Columbians believe community social services have a positive impact in their communities.
“The public gets it,” Beachy said. “But we need to hear the candidates and parties make clear commitments to fund these vital services.”
The poll was conducted April 9 to 11 and used a representative sample of 802 adult British Columbians. Margin of Error is not reported for online polling, as it is not derived from a probability sample.
Community social services are provided by agencies and organizations across the province - large and small, non-profit and private, in big cities and small communities.
Agencies and staff work with children and families in crisis, women and children struggling with few options to leave violent homes, help people find jobs, counsel families dealing with addiction, support new parents and help seniors stay in their homes.
See a report on the poll results here.
See the detailed data here.