The Information and Referral (I&R) Service at 411 Seniors Centre Society (411) started in the late 1970s, and is a flagship service of the organization. The I&R Service helps seniors (55+) and those receiving disability benefits to navigate government, health and other systems, and to access a range of benefits. It is well used by low-income seniors, in part due to the 411’s location near Main St. Skytrain station in the east side of Vancouver.
The service provides support for seniors who are facing challenges in a variety of areas including housing, transportation, health, income benefits, pensions/benefits, income tax, future planning, legal, financial, safety/security, emotional support and employment. Participants can drop-in or make an appointment during the regular hours, which are Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. For participants with mobility issues, volunteers (when available) travel to their home to provide support. The service also does presentations for the public on information and referral topics relevant to seniors (e.g., currently they have a partnership to do presentations at some branches of the Vancouver Public Library).
Two staff people are responsible for the I&R Service. The Operations and Information and Referral Manager takes care of training and mentoring, and provides debriefing support for volunteers with challenging cases. The Volunteer and Membership Services Coordinator manages the scheduling of volunteers and booking appointments. The actual information and referral services are delivered by nine trained volunteers, the majority of whom are seniors. The volunteers are able to deliver information and referral services in several different languages including Punjabi, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Swedish and Dutch. The program is funded as a core operation of the 411 Seniors Centre Society, which receives funding from the City of Vancouver, United Way and Community Gaming Grants.