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No Wrong Door: Building Effective Online Settlement Services for Newcomers to Canada

Posted on:
August 26, 2019

Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO). January 2019.

Download No Wrong Door: Building Effective Online Settlement Services for Newcomers to Canada (PDF).

Introduction

The settlement services sector in Canada has over recent years, become one of the busiest human service providers due to the waves of refugees and immigrants making Canada their new home. The Government of Canada lists 1220 agencies offering various types of Newcomer Services in all regions of the country. These organizations range in size considerably and in the array of programs they offer. The commonality for them is their non-profit status and associated dependency on federal, provincial, sponsorship and donation funding. While front line workers and organizations respond admirably to the increase volume, new challenges are being heard from their clientele.

The sector’s digital capacity lags behind newcomer’s capacity as almost everyone has a cell phone today which allows all of us to interact and maintain contact with family and friends all over the world through free online applications like Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook and others. Upon arrival in Canada, the expectation of many newcomers is that access to settlement workers ought to be available in a similar manner, begging the question: Why not? The challenges relate to a number of factors:

  • Cost of developing and maintaining an audio/video chat application.
  • Required security by the federal funder, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada.
  • Government's digital interests and related online service delivery capacity.

Through exploring how an online service delivery model could be rolled out across the newcomer settlement services sector, a number of challenges were identified from which we can learn. Key hurdles included:

  • Clients reporting the importance for access on all devices;
  • The LASI Portal lag in progress and
  • Issues raised by agencies regarding increased funding from government to support the service.

That said, there was strong interest expressed by agencies in adding the option of online service delivery to meet their client's needs, indicating the sector is ready to make the move to improved digital services. By addressing and implementing best practices, the result will be a strengthened Canadian infrastructure to support newcomer settlement and integration.

The aim of this research initiative is to explore online client intake and service models of Canadian human service organizations to distil best practices to share across the sector.

Findings

Through the analysis of all data gathered in this project, the following conclusions can be drawn:

  • A strong cross section of the Canadian Settlement Agency sector has voiced their interest in adding online services to their current delivery model.
  • OCISO and YMCA/YWCA of the Ottawa region will be able to increase their online services through the LASI Portal, currently under construction, providing it is available on all devices, platforms and browsers.
  • Across Canada, services will expand in remote communities, as long as the clients have Internet access, a digital device and the technical and language literacy to access the service.
  • Depending on the cost to subscribe, the infrastructure to support, and the time for staff training, organizations in Canada indicate that they would have an enhanced ability to make decisions about online client services.
  • Settlement workers will indicate they are better able to serve newcomer clients providing they are well trained prior to implementation, they are assured that the method is intended to support and not replace in-person service and there are “Go To” people available for questions, problems or technical support.
  • Newcomer clients previously unable or uninterested in accessing in-person services will be able to access them as long as the option is systematically promoted by all agency staff in a well-developed marketing plan to increase the likelihood of uptake and buy-in.
  • One Service Level Agreement has received verbal agreement between the Community Information Centre of Ottawa and OCISO to provide access to their database for the LASI Portal.

Summary

The aim of this research initiative is to explore online client intake and service models of Canadian human service organizations to distil best practices to share across the sector.
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