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Community Services Sector Strategy Program Framework for Anchor and Program Funding Streams

January 2016

Poverty Focus

All program applications will be assessed for their ability to demonstrate how they reach and serve people who are in, or are at risk of falling into, poverty or how they address the underlying causes of poverty through a systems approach.

While there is no official measure of poverty in Canada, we define a state of poverty as one in which income is too low to provide for an adequate standard of living1. However, we know that poverty is about more than income. Poverty is also about exclusion from resources, opportunities, and connections. Therefore, for United Way Toronto & York Region (UWTYR) poverty is not about an income-test or an income cut-off line. Instead, it is about ensuring a focus on organizations and programs that mitigate the effects of poverty, and/or help people and communities move out of poverty, and/or address the underlying causes of poverty.

Programs may demonstrate that they focus on poverty in some of the following ways:

Target population or constituency

  • Provide research or reports that link the target group they are serving (or in the case of a sector serving organization, the constituent group) with a significant incidence of poverty (this could be based on a population, a geographic area) and/or;
  • Provide information about the incidence of poverty among the people they serve.

Program design and impact

  • Provide information about how the program is designed to reach people living in poverty and/or;
  • Provide information about the impact of the program on mitigating the effects of poverty or helping people move out of poverty and/or;
  • Provide information about how systems or social change has or will positively impact those living in poverty.

All programs will be assessed for their ability to demonstrate clear impact.  Where the program has already been in operation, the organization will provide information about the results of their program to-date and where the program is new, the organization will not provide this in the application but will be expected to report on results.  

Use of Funding

In all cases, the applicant will be asked to identify the anticipated overall impact of the program as well as the impact of UWTYR funding.  We understand that our funding may be used to leverage other funding and in these cases, the applicant will be asked to identify the impact of UWTYR funds and report on these impacts.

What is a program?

Our working definition of programs is a group of clear, related, complementary activities that are intended to achieve a desired outcome among the target group(s). In the community services sector, the scale of a program can vary. A program may deliver a specific service (e.g., an after-school program for school-aged children) or a broader collection of related services (e.g., an employment program that provides wrap-around supports).

However, for the purposes of the CSS strategy, an applicant should not submit an application that is:

  • too narrowly focused on only one activity of a program (e.g., providing transportation supports, when those transportation supports are actually part of a broader community-connection program for seniors).
  • so broadly defined that it is difficult to understand the relationship between the activities, target population and intended outcomes (e.g., identifying all youth-related activities as one program, even though they are actually distinct programs with different activities and intended outcomes). 

Choosing a Program Area

Organizations must choose one focus area of the program framework for each program submitted. UWTYR understands that a program may have several objectives and may fit under more than one of the following program areas.  Organizations should consider the following when selecting the thematic area most suited to the program submitted:

  • Choose the area that most clearly aligns with the primary focus of your program;
  • Organizations will be required to report on the results of the program in relation to the objectives identified, so your agency should ensure that reporting will be able to address the primary objectives presented for the program. 

Program Focus Areas

1. Early Learning and Parenting
These programs are designed to promote social interaction and learning opportunities for children ages 0 – 42  years who are experiencing poverty, as well as provide supports, information and resources for parents and caregivers. The emphasis will be on programs in group or community settings. Programs will help give children living in poverty opportunities early in life that will provide a foundation for success in school and in the community.

2. Enrichment and Skill-building Programs for Middle Years
These programs are designed to help children ages 5-12 years to: develop skills and confidence; promote positive social interactions and relationships with their peers and the adults in their lives; and lead to greater success in school. Programs may also provide support to parents to enable their children’s success.  

3. Youth development
These programs are designed for youth ages 13-24 years to: support positive interactions and meaningful relationships with peers and adults at home, in school and in the neighbourhood; promote meaningful participation in, and contributions to, community; promote leadership opportunities; encourage and support youth to complete high school; and support youth to develop purpose and aspirations for their futures. Programs will take a positive youth development approach (PYD)3 


  • Programs funded through UWTYR Youth Success Strategy

4. Homelessness and Homelessness Prevention
These programs provide supports to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to ameliorate the conditions of homelessness as well as helping people transition to housing or to maintain housing.  These programs may help people find and maintain housing; increase social supports; access temporary shelter or housing; access food; or develop skills.

5. Employment and financial security
These programs support access to income support programs as well as promoting employability, skills building and networking opportunities to assist people experiencing poverty to participate in the labour market.  Pre-employment programs are eligible for populations that face significant barriers to the workforce. Additionally, programs in this area may offer other supports to promote employability and/or financial security.


  • Programs funded through UWTYR Youth Success Strategy

6. Counselling and Mental Health for Individuals and Families
These programs offer support to individuals and families experiencing poverty to: handle life’s challenges or mitigate the effect of mental health and/or addictions challenges in their lives.

Counselling and support
These programs have intensive and often ongoing contact with participants delivered by trained staff.  These programs often use more intensive and structured forms of outcome measurement as well.  Programs will also offer intervention or assist people to navigate the health and social service system to get supports.   

Group and community programs
These programs have intentional goals to reduce harm, assist with transition, or provide peer and community support that will help people develop or sustain relationships and supports in order to develop and maintain coping and life skills needed to participate fully in their community.  

7. Programs to support people to live independently
These programs offer interventions and support to assist people with physical or cognitive challenges to live independently and to cope with challenges they face to maintaining independence in their homes or to participating fully in their communities.

8. Community Building and Connections
These programs and initiatives provide opportunities for individuals and families to connect with each other, with the broader community and with services and programs they may need to mitigate the effects of poverty or find their way out of poverty. Programs promote opportunities to engage people in their communities and reduce social isolation; help people navigate access to resources; promoting culturally competent programming as well as increasing understanding among cultures.

Community building:
Programs enable low-income people to form bonds and networks with one another, promote diversity and inclusion, reduce social isolation, and develop their potential. These programs may support individuals to connect with each other or promote broader connection to a community. Programs will identify strengths and leverage the knowledge, skills and experience of participants to enable greater connections.  

Service access:
These programs will enable people to gain access to services and supports that they would not have been able to access on their own. These programs seek to address barriers of equity seeking groups and individuals in order to effectively connect people to needed supports.

9. Programs to address domestic violence
These programs assist people who are experiencing domestic violence or who are fleeing violence.  Programs offer crisis support, opportunities to heal from the trauma of violence, and support to access resources and services needed to live free from violence or to reduce the risk of violence.

10. Social and Systems Change
These programs and initiatives seek to create change at the community, sector, institutional and/or public policy level. Programs may use community building or connections as a part of the process but their end goals will focus on broader system, institutional or policy changes.

Community development initiatives will focus on enhancing or building the capacity of community members to participate in social change efforts and may:

  • bring individuals together to influence their local communities
  • support community planning
  • build local leadership to voice issues of concern
  • test innovative solutions to community issues
  • promote social and community engagement for the purpose of affecting institutional or policy change  

Research and public policy initiatives may focus on:

  • identifying and researching social and/or policy issues
  • providing policy analysis, development and/or advocacy
  • strengthening community-based policy activities
  • engaging constituents (organizations or individuals affected by poverty) in research, policy and advocacy work  

Sector-level initiatives may focus on:

  • strengthening collaboration between organizations and networks on key community services sector issues


1. UWTYR uses the after-tax LIM50 as a measure of low income. Low income measures (LIMs) are relative measures of low income, set at 50% of adjusted median household income. These measures are categorized according to the number of persons present in the household, reflecting the economies of scale inherent in household size. In 2010, median household income in Toronto was $58,381.

2. Age ranges are a guide for applicants.  Populations served by a program may include those just above or below the age ranges identified.

3. PYD is a theoretical framework that is defined by UWTYR as an approach that includes:

    • Focus on the development of youth assets (e.g., commitment to learning) and not solely on the reduction of problem behaviours (e.g. school dropouts);
    • Seeing the potential in all youth and including youth in decision-making and program design; and 
    • Consideration of the multiple contexts in which youth live (e.g., family, school, work, faith communities).