Evaluation of the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program (ISAP)

4.0  Adequacy of Capacity and Service Gaps

Summary of Findings:

Although the program is generally considered successful, there are many opportunities to improve the program and the outcomes of clients. The main findings that suggest improvements are necessary include comments regarding the inadequacy of funding, service gaps for certain client groups, lack of promotion/awareness of the program, inconsistent capacity of service providers, and a lack of information about clients.

The evaluation revealed many areas where improvements or enhancements to program delivery could be made. Each of these will be discussed below as appropriate, but are presented here as a basis for the ensuing sections:

  • Many community and government services continue to be difficult for newcomers to access or do not meet their needs, particularly employment services. In some communities, certain services for newcomers simply do not exist (e.g., trauma counselling).
  • Service providers indicated they need to spend more time with high-needs clients, especially refugees with special needs.
  • Service providers indicated that skilled immigrants require a different level of service than is currently available in the suite of ISAP services.
  • There is believed to be an overall lack of awareness of ISAP services among immigrants and refugees who are not directly referred to the program.
  • Some service providers and local level CIC representatives feel that communications from CIC could be improved.
  • More clarity around the roles and responsibilities of service providers in delivering ISAP is required. Is the program a first step leading to referrals, or should the program take a more in-depth, delivery-of-direct-services approach to client service?
  • In order to serve special-needs clients (e.g., refugees) and skilled immigrants, SPOs need more CIC support and specialized training.
  • There is an overall lack of information about clients – this kind of information could be used to better target and tailor services.

4.1 Inadequate Resources Compromise Service Delivery

The evaluation found that insufficient resources (human and financial) compromise the ability to deliver a full range of settlement services to immigrants. In interviews, all respondents indicated that the funding allocations under ISAP are inadequate overall. As well, some respondents in all regions questioned the way funds are allocated to the regions. However, while there were many questions and concerns about the methodology used to allocate settlement funding, the model has been found to be generally fair (via a separate review undertaken by CIC). Therefore, finding a better method to allocate the funds on a national/regional level does not appear to be the answer to the issues related to a lack of funding. The evaluation found two main resource issues.

The first resource-related issue lies within CIC itself. At the national and regional CIC levels, it was suggested that an increase in human resources at the program officer level would add considerable value to the program. Additional human and financial resources would enable regional program officers to get out into the communities more, facilitating partnerships and networks, etc., and they would be able to develop partnerships with their federal and provincial counterparts in other departments. At the national level, additional funding would also enable program personnel to pursue partnerships at the federal level and to continue to raise the profile of issues related to the integration of immigrants. As well, additional funding would enable regular national conferences for the sharing of best practices. These measures could solve many issues related to the difficulties some SPOs have in developing networks and partnerships and could lead to more innovative methods of delivering the ISAP program.

The second resource issue relates to the amount of funding available to SPOs to deliver on the requirements outlined in their contribution agreements and on the outcomes of ISAP more generally. Key informants from all sources generally agreed that ISAP was insufficiently funded to achieve its desired outcomes. In fact, the program has experienced no funding increases for eight years, meaning that the overall real funding has been decreasing over time. Moreover, ISAP funding does not cover computer and technical support, administration and rising overhead costs. In addition, there is little money for promotion. While one SPO explicitly indicated that they are using funding from other sources to “subsidize” the delivery of ISAP services, it is likely that other service providers are actually using other funding to at least enhance the ISAP services they offer their clients (e.g., spending more time with clients).

The survey results strongly support the notion that funding is inadequate. Only 23 percent of SPOs consider funding to be adequate to achieve the expected outcomes of ISAP, and only a small proportion more (27 percent) feel funding is adequate for SPOs to deliver on the requirements in the contribution agreements (see Exhibit 4.1 for these findings).

Exhibit 4.1: Attitudes Towards Adequacy of Funding

In interviews, many key informants indicated that there is a service gap between what is currently offered and what should be offered based on the changing profile of ISAP clients. As well, settlement workers do not have the capacity to deal with many of these emerging needs. This situation is also resulting in inconsistent service delivery on a regional and community basis.

What is behind the changing profile? As mentioned in Section 3.0, there are currently three basic streams through which immigrants can be selected for admission to Canada: as economic class immigrants, family class immigrants or as refugees. The distinction between these selection streams is important to understanding the services required by immigrants, because the settlement needs of a skilled worker from one country differ considerably from those of another.

According to the CIC Facts and Figures [note 6], of all the immigrants who landed in Canada since 2000, 60 percent were in the economic stream, 29 percent were in the family stream and 11 percent were refugees. The most recent immigration plan developed by CIC continues to aim for a balance between economic and non-economic immigrants [note 7]. 

Since education is a criterion for selection as a skilled worker in the economic stream, immigrants are also increasingly well educated. As reported in Schellenberg [note 8], in most major centres, the share of recent immigrants aged 25–54 who have a university degree is about 12 to 15 percent higher than the share of Canadian-born individuals in the same age group. However, Schellenberg also notes that recent immigrants are less likely to be employed in occupations requiring a university degree and are more likely to be working in Canada in low-skill occupations. This contrasts with their employment situation prior to coming to Canada. According to the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada [note 9], approximately 50 percent of immigrants had held positions in management, administration or natural/applied sciences in their country.

It was also reported that an overwhelming number of immigrants have settled in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, largely because family and friends are already living there. However, increasing numbers of government assisted refugees (GARs) are destined to settle in smaller centres, in keeping with efforts on the part of CIC. The extent to which these newcomers remain in the smaller centres (or whether they migrate to larger centres) is not clear.

This data on immigration class, education and settlement pattern support the views of key informants and focus group participants that the varied immigrant profiles have differing needs that current programming is not meeting. Moreover, settlement workers do not have the capacity to deal with many of these emerging needs.

Many SPO key informants explained that they do not have the resources to help certain types of clients, such as professionals, because they do not have the expertise required to satisfy their needs (specialized employment or labour-market questions, for example). The lack of employment services geared to professionals or methods to assist them to acquire Canadian experience leaves many well-educated professional immigrants frustrated and disillusioned about why they were admitted to Canada in the first place. Settlement workers are often on the receiving end of this frustration. Some settlement workers attempt to satisfy these needs without the capacity to do so, which is unsatisfactory to both sides and is time intensive.

Refugees also have special needs that cannot always be met. This includes trauma counselling for torture or other mental health needs. In some cases, SPOs do not have the partnerships in place in the wider community for referrals. This was either because service providers lack the time/resources to dedicate to this activity, or because the community resources are simply not in place in the community (e.g., trauma counselling is not available in every community). This is particularly problematic in the Atlantic Region (as discussed earlier), where SPOs report having few partnerships, yet they are receiving a large number of GARs. SPOs also note that these clients are very time-intensive, making it difficult to serve other clients, including independent immigrants.

In order to address the needs of the better-educated immigrants who do not need significant intervention or one-on-one counselling, Ontario Region has recently introduced Newcomer Information Centres (NICs) in Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton (the latter is actually a satellite arm of the Mississauga NIC). These centres are discussed in further detail in a case study, however, the applicability of the NIC concept to other regions is not promising. One advantage of having a NIC in a large centre such as Toronto, is that it benefits from having a lot of skilled immigrants who prefer to access services on their own. Smaller centres in other regions, and even in Ontario, may not be good candidates for a NIC, since there simply would not be enough skilled immigrants to justify a full-time person operating a walk-in help desk.

4.2 Insufficient Promotion Leads to Lack of Awareness

The evaluation determined that there is a lack of promotion that leads to a lack of awareness of program services (although only 26 percent of survey respondents identified lack of awareness as a barrier to accessing ISAP services). Key informants reported that there is very little promotion of ISAP, primarily because there is a lack of financial resources. However, even if there were more money for promotion, service providers would require more funding for service delivery (to handle the increases in numbers of clients presumably generated by the promotional activities).

In the current model, promotion is largely up to the SPOs. Many SPOs do promote ISAP as part of promoting the other services that they provide (e.g., in brochures including other services such as LINC and Host), as well as through outreach activities to the community. The survey indicated that SPOs use a variety of mechanisms to promote their services, including word of mouth (99 percent of SPOs indicated this), brochures (used by 98 percent), targeted presentations to newcomers (92 percent), advertisements or stories in community newspapers and on radio/television (91 percent), and websites (89 percent). Newsletters and posters are used by 83 percent and 81 percent of service providers, respectively. The survey also asked service providers which promotion mechanisms were most effective. A large majority (83 percent) indicated that word of mouth is the most effective mechanism.

Ontario Region recently undertook a pilot project promoting ISAP in ethnic newspapers and in areas where immigrants gather. This was found to be effective and will likely be repeated. Due to the differences in priorities for service delivery in the regions (i.e., the Atlantic Region tends to serve mostly refugees, whereas the Ontario Region tends to serve mostly immigrants), there is more emphasis on promotion in Ontario and less in other regions. It is likely (although unsubstantiated) that if promotion were increased in other regions, the proportion of skilled immigrants served would increase.

Many immigrant focus group participants in Ontario noted that they had been in the country for several months before finding out about services provided through ISAP. This supports concerns expressed by key informants that there is a lack of awareness in the wider immigrant community about the services that are available. Focus group participants who were GARs did not indicate a lack of awareness, likely because they were referred directly from RAP.

4.3 Lots of Reports But Not Enough Data

There is a perception among service providers of a lack of consistency between different SPOs in reporting content requirements (e.g., some SPOs are required to prepare narrative reports while other are not) and frequency (e.g., some SPOs are required to report monthly while others are required to report quarterly). However, CIC respondents feel that this “lack of consistency” is, in fact, a reflection of the flexibility of the program guidelines and requirements.

Many service provider key informants indicated that there was too much reporting required and that it was inconsistent between CIC settlement officers. SPOs that deliver all four settlement and resettlement programs (ISAP, Host, LINC and RAP) have to prepare four reports. Activity and financial reports are always required, but some CIC offices request narrative reports as well. In some cases, this has to be done on a monthly basis. There are also inconsistent reporting cycles. In some regions, reporting is done on a quarterly basis, in others it is done monthly.

Service providers responding to the survey felt that the support and tools for collecting and reporting program data (such as iCAMS) are generally in place – 62 percent of respondents said they are adequate or more than adequate. However, that leaves a sizeable minority (38 percent) who indicate that the tools are not adequate.

However, when CIC representatives were asked whether reporting was appropriate and adequate, they indicated that the current approach generally meets their needs. It appears that reporting is another manifestation of the flexibility afforded to the regions to deliver ISAP, as long as basic guidelines and requirements for accountability are met.

All respondents did mention that there is a serious lack of data about the clients accessing ISAP. Currently, reports submitted by SPOs are not rolled up to other levels of CIC. While CIC respondents indicate that they eventually expect to get this information from iCAMS reports, service providers were less optimistic about when they would see reports and whether they would see any reports at all.

At this point, it is too early to really say how useful the reports from iCAMS will be. However, it is anticipated that client data will tell CIC: what proportion of all newcomers of all classes are accessing ISAP; what clients look like in terms of their gender, age, country of origin, mother tongue, education, family composition, etc.; what level of service is being delivered; which services are most in demand; which services have waiting lists; how long clients tend to access ISAP services; and how many clients are repeat customers, as well as other pieces of information. This information will be invaluable for CIC NHQ, CIC regions and local offices, as well as for SPOs.

There is also a paucity of outcome-related information for newcomers who access ISAP. Although databases exist with this type of information (e.g., the Immigrant DataBase and Longitudinal Survey on Immigrants in Canada), the latter does not have information tied to whether ISAP services were accessed and would, therefore, only provide general, contextual information at this point.

4.4 Lots of Information, Not Enough Communication

The evaluation found that there is considerable information sharing between CIC and the SPOs, and there are opportunities and avenues for information sharing between the SPOs. Key informants reported that information sharing takes place by phone, e-mail, through the Internet, and at conferences and committee meetings. The survey findings regarding the adequacy of communication/information/ feedback from CIC indicate that most service providers feel this is adequate (35 percent) or more than adequate (44 percent).

However, while there appears to be ample information available to SPOs, some SPO interview respondents indicated that it is not adequately targeted. That is, the abundance of information available on the Internet and through electronic newsletters may be useful for some, but that service providers who are not “Web savvy” are not accessing the information with the same level of frequency and thus not applying it in their service delivery to clients in the same way. Similarly, it was mentioned that service providers who do not sit on a national working group or other committee often feel “out of the loop.” These service providers believe that more targeted communications would be beneficial for them. They indicated that this would save a great deal of time that would have been spent navigating through the considerable amount of information on the Internet or directly sent to SPOs.

4.5 Need for More Clarity from CIC

There appears to be an issue relating to clarity of the roles and responsibilities of the SPO and CIC, in terms of what is within the mandate of ISAP. The evaluation revealed that generally there is an understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities, but that there is not always agreement. From the viewpoint of CIC, ISAP is intended to be the first step in assisting newcomers to settle. Clients can require a lot of assistance or very little, depending on the nature and needs of the client. However, according to some CIC respondents, some SPOs are undertaking activities outside the scope of ISAP (and thus outside of their contribution agreements), likely with funds from other sources. These additional activities include taking clients to appointments, advocacy, etc. One CIC representative also suggested that the concept of the School Support Program/Settlement Workers in School also blurs the line between ISAP services and more general assistance to newcomers. According to the CIC website, in using ISAP resources, immigrant-serving organizations can:

  • refer to economic, social, health, cultural, educational and recreational services;
  • give tips on banking, shopping, managing a household and other everyday tasks;
  • provide interpreters or translators, if needed;
  • provide non-therapeutic counselling; and,
  • help prepare a professional-looking résumé and teach job-searching skills.

SPO respondents said that it is their duty to help their clients, regardless of what is funded under ISAP and what is not. Their perspective is that newcomers have needs that exceed the services currently offered under ISAP and that funding should be increased and ISAP expanded to meet these needs. As well, the issue of eligibility comes into play here, with many service providers saying that many Canadian citizens and refugee claimants also require the services offered under ISAP. Respondents to the survey were quite polarized on this issue, with 38 percent saying they disagreed that criteria was appropriate and 43 percent saying they agreed with the criteria. Respondents from the PNT Region were more likely to agree with the criteria (61 percent) and respondents from the Atlantic Region were more likely to disagree (50 percent).

Another issue where there is work to be done for CIC in terms of improving clarity is improved definitions of core ISAP services. That is, many service provider and CIC respondents indicated that there is not a clear definition of many ISAP services, including counselling, service bridging and even referrals. For example, how far can a service provider go in providing a referral? Is it expected that the service provider calls the other organization, sets up the appointment, takes the newcomer to the appointment, follows-up with the organization and the newcomer? Or is the service provider simply expected to make the appointment?

4.6 CIC Supports to Service Providers Adequate

Service providers generally view other support and tools provided by CIC positively. Overall satisfaction is quite high, with 57 percent indicating they are satisfied or very satisfied with the tools and support provided by CIC for the delivery of ISAP settlement services (only 18 percent were dissatisfied). Exhibit 4.2 presents other results pertaining to adequacy of support and tools from CIC.

CIC officers are generally considered to be knowledgeable. A majority (79 percent) of service providers report that CIC officers’ knowledge of ISAP services is at least adequate, and 68 percent say that the knowledge of CIC officers of the SPO context for providing services to newcomers is at least adequate.

The overall relevance of research and best practices disseminated by CIC is varied by region. The PNT Region respondents were particularly positive about the relevance of the research, with 78 percent saying it was adequate or more than adequate (compared with 62 percent from Ontario and 33 percent from the Atlantic). Again, the PNT Region was more keen on the best practices disseminated, with 78 percent saying it was at least adequate (compared with 70 percent and 68 percent for the Ontario and Atlantic regions, respectively).

Exhibit 4.2 Adequacy of Support/Tools from Citizenship and Immigration Canada


6. http://www.statcan.ca/english/research/89-613-MIE/2004003/89-613-MIE2004003.pdf

7. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/publications/immigration2003.asp

8. http://www.statcan.ca/english/research/89-613-MIE/2004003/89-613-MIE2004003.pdf

9. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada: The First Six Months in Canada – The Importance of Family and Friends,.” Presentation by Jean Bergeron, June 7, 2004.

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