Kamloops social plan getting first update in nearly ten years - InfoNews

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Kamloops social plan getting first update in nearly ten years

August 19, 2019 - 6:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - A social plan highlights the areas of the community needing improvement and focus, but Kamloops’s plan is ten years behind the times.

Kamloops city council recently voted in favour of hiring a consultant to help create a new social plan, which will focus on the current issues that now need more attention.

“Social plans, they tend to be a guiding document to creating healthy, vibrant, socially sustainable communities,” social and community development supervisor Natalie Serl says.

The social plan is created based on research and engagement done within the community on topics such as housing, food security, childcare, homelessness and more. The plan takes an in-depth look into what areas need to be focused on in order to grow and maintain a healthy community. Serl says the document leads to change within certain areas of the community.

“Food security ended up having its own sub-plan of the food and agricultural plan, and that became its own guiding document,” she says. “We’ve developed the affordable housing strategy because that came from an area of housing and homelessness within our social plan."

The social plan uses community feedback to address important issues and connects various agencies in hopes of bettering the community, according to Serl.

"The greatest thing about the social plan is it really does bring all kinds of social agencies together,” she says. “It's such a great way to bring ideas together, talk about where we need systemic change, talk about where we need to advocate for enhancements and improvements and be able to talk with elected officials.”

The previous social plan was created in 2009, and Serl believes that one to be the first for Kamloops. In that social plan, there are current key issues that are missing that will get more recognition this time around.

"The previous plan was written before the opioid crisis, and we know that the landscape certainly has changed in mental health and substance use in our community,” she says. “Someone you know, if not yourself, has been affected by the opioid crisis, so it's certainly an area we need to work towards to get solutions."

In addition to the opioid crisis, childcare is another major area of focus for the new social plan. She is currently working on an inventory of childcare spaces within the city and hopes that with more attention on the issue, families in Kamloops will soon have a simple, streamlined approach to finding childcare.

"Childcare has become a recent topic we're diving into. Access to childcare and those types of support, they were referenced in the social plan but as far as I’m aware, in that time we hadn’t really dived into exploring that further until now,” she says.

A consultant will be hired and paid $40,000 to put together a new social plan, which Serl says will likely take one year. The funding is coming from last year’s city surplus. Serl notes that research is done beforehand, and the conclusions of those studies will determine the focus of the plan. The childcare inventory, a point in time homelessness count and services for seniors will be looked into.

“We'll have to work with the consultant and our communications department but I would like to see open houses, forums, and workshops, and they’ll be geared towards specific sectors, specific demographics, and key stakeholders and partners, such as Interior Health,” she says. "I would like to see the community at large participate."

In addition to childcare, homelessness and addiction, the new plan will have a much stronger focus on the senior population and those with disabilities. Coun. Dale Bass pointed out the lack of recognition for those demographics in the previous plan at a recent city council meeting.

“We have agencies that provide services to many demographics, but I do think seniors and persons with disabilities is another area that we certainly do need more information and services for,” Serl says.

According to Serl, the creation of the social plan will be somewhat modelled after social plans in other communities such as Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Surrey and Prince George. She says that Thompson Rivers University students help with conducting research and will look into the methods and recommendations of other communities' social plans. She says a team of between five and ten people are responsible for conducting research prior to the consultant being hired on.

Serl points out that the previous social plan was a series of recommendations based on issues, and hopes that the new one will have more of a goal-focused approach.

"Going forward the new plan, I'd really like to see it have goals and targets and specific outcomes that the community wants to see, and that’ll be the next evolution of where we are with social planning,” she says.

Serl says that this time around, the social plan will be reviewed and revised when need be. She says that the ten-year period between plans will likely not happen again.

“My vision is to have regular updates,” she says. “Maybe it's amendments or rewrites to the plan, or maybe it's just the progress indicators that we're able to work with. I think as our social landscape changes, we have to be cognizant of plans being able to change, too."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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