Rural communities face unique challenges and opportunities in providing social services, including service delivery to residents who live far apart from each other. In rural Alberta, many social services are provided by local Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). In Lac La Biche County, adaptable local FCSS service delivery to seniors, young families, and youth is a priority. “We offer a variety of programs from ages 0 – 90 and above. And the reason we are able to offer such diverse and amazing programing is because we’re so blessed within our county that our council believes in us, and they have above and beyond to support what the government requires them to give,” said Kristen Shewchuk, Coordinator with the county’s Young Family Connections team.
Adaptability was especially critical during the pandemic, as Councillor Charlyn Moore explained.
“The programming that our staff came up with during COVID, the extra steps they took to reach out to the families that they kind of thought might need that extra support was heartwarming, necessary, and it saved people.”
Also key to providing social services in rural areas is meeting people where they are located. Certainly, large distance between people requires unique solutions. In Lac La Biche County, this is addressed through a county-owned bus that is used to bring people from across the municipality directly to services. This allows Lac La Biche County FCSS to ensure residents receive services locally, without having to head into a city.
FCSS also helps to build the next generation of rural leaders, as Councillor John Mondal described.
“It’s not just taking care of the seniors and the younger generations. We are developing the younger generation to become the future and take care of the program and become the volunteers and grow with the programs.”
By ensuring access to social services in their communities, municipalities contribute to not only the well-being of their residents, but also their community. Social services are critical to attracting and retaining new residents, thereby also supporting local economic development.