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Support services expanded for Ukrainians fleeing violence

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 3:15 PDT, Wed April 13, 2022

Displaced Ukrainians will have access to more vital community programs and supports as the province expands the Service BC phone line to include United Way British Columbia's bc211 service.

Available 24 hours a day, bc211 is a multilingual service that connects people to more than 15,500 free social supports, services, and community programs throughout the province. This confidential service is offered in more than 150 languages, including Ukrainian and Russian. The service will also connect the people of British Columbia with opportunities to help out in any way they can. With the province's support, United Way is adding more personnel and staff training to handle an increase in calls related to arrivals from Ukraine.

"Expanding services to include bc211 marks our next step in supporting Ukrainians arriving in British Columbia with the services they need," said Nathan Cullen, Minister of Municipal Affairs. "United Way's experienced approach in handling crises will help expand Service BC's phone line, ensuring we're able to support more people and families arriving from Ukraine in accessing newcomer supports as well as assist in co-ordinating the incredible generosity of British Columbians."

While displaced Ukrainians arriving to B.C. can continue to contact Service BC at 1-800-663-7867, visit one of Service BC's 65 service-delivery centres in person, or go to gov.bc.ca/WelcomingUkraine, they will now be connected with a bc211 resource navigator at any time, day or night. The social supports available to people who call bc211 or visit bc.211.ca include food and shelter services, mental-health and addictions support, legal and financial assistance, and support for seniors.

"Service BC has received hundreds of calls for support over the past week, and we know that demand will increase as more displaced Ukrainians arrive on our shores," said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens' Services. "The addition of bc.211.ca will expand supports currently offered by Service BC and provide targeted guidance to both arrivals and volunteers."

Michael McKnight, president and CEO of United Way British Columbia, said: "United Way British Columbia supports communities and strengthens the vital connections that make them healthy, and this includes newcomers seeking safety and belonging. Through our newly integrated service, bc211, we are eager to provide support for displaced Ukrainians as they navigate this challenging transition and to also connect compassionate British Columbians to volunteer and donation opportunities."

In addition to the expansion of United Way British Columbia's services, the province has ensured more supports are available to help Ukrainians settle in B.C., including:

• access to free employment services and supports available through 102 WorkBC Centres, including skills training, employment counselling, and access to the WorkBC provincial job board with more than 49,000 job postings, job application tips, and career tools;

• school districts are free to enroll K-12 students from Ukraine and can waive additional fees they might have for extracurricular activities, such as music or soccer camps, where the financial situation of the family necessitates it;

• affordable and no-cost mental-health resources for children, youth, and their families from community counselling providers throughout British Columbia; and

• ensuring Ukrainians arriving though the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program are eligible for domestic tuition at public post-secondary institutions. As well, post-secondary institutions are delivering access to on-campus supports, including mental-health, accommodation, and financial assistance such as emergency grants or tuition deferrals.

Most Ukrainians coming to B.C. are expected to arrive through the CUAET program. Between March 17 and April 6, Canada received more than 119,409 applications from Ukrainians under this new emergency travel program. In that time, more than 30,000 applications have been approved. Ukrainians arriving through this program may settle where they choose.

As the situation in Ukraine evolves, B.C.'s response will also evolve. The province is working across ministries, with the federal government and the Ukrainian community to ensure the right supports are in place when they are required. Additional supports will come online in the weeks ahead.

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