Local 211 to serve all southwestern Ontario (continued)

“Today is actually the first day,” Tom Malenfant, the city’s manager of customer service said.

“We’ve got staff who will be put into place in terms of expansion planning.”

Areas the Windsor-Essex call centre will cover outside our region will be Chatham-Kent, Lambton, Middlesex, Elgin and Oxford counties.

Malenfant said expansion will likely begin to take place this fall. “It’s likely going to be Oxford County” that will be covered first.

The 211 service provides information on government and the non-profit sector, everything from government phone listings to United Way agencies to where to make a consumer complaint.

Windsor–Essex has been one of the pioneers in Ontario offering 211, which started here in 2007. It has had the only 211 service in southwestern Ontario.

The province created the Ontario 211 Services Corp. to oversee the expansion and disburse funds so that eight regional calling “hubs,” one being Windsor-Essex, could handle geographic areas in the province with about 1.4 million people each.

“The goal is to have everybody in Ontario have access to 211 by the end of 2012,” Malenfant said.

Malenfant said the local centre will work with officials in other regions to get the system up and running.

“There’s a lot involved making sure their data records are complete, how it’s going to be manned, call estimates,” he said. The service runs 24 hours, seven days a week.

It should be distinguished from Windsor’s 311 call service, which handles information specifically about City of Windsor government services.

In 2008 the province put aside $13 million to expand 211 over four years plus $4 million annually beginning in 2012. “Community partners” are municipal governments and the United Way.

Across the province people have called most to get information about health and government services followed by community agencies and financial assistance.

Women, the 211 corporation says, “make up the vast majority of callers” – 75 per cent.

WindsorOntarioNews.com

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