Sea to Sky Community Services ranked among highest social service agencies in Canada 

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Sea to Sky Community Services (SSCS), the biggest non-profit social services agency to provide care and outreach in Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, is now ranked one of the top agencies in Canada after an in-depth assessment of its work.

Three assessors from the Commission for Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) looked at 32 areas of service delivery over the week of Nov. 12, and told SSCS staff at a meeting on Nov. 16 they had no recommendations for changes to SSCS's operations and structures, something almost unheard of.

"I've only seen this once before in my career (as an assessor), and I was told that seven per cent of all organizations get no recommendations, so it is really, really quite the accomplishment. Everybody can be really, really proud of themselves and the work you do," CARF assessor Lorrie Hefferman told SSCS staff.

Her fellow assessor Lyn Taylor-Scott echoed Hefferman, telling SSCS staff: "I have to say that in the 11 years that I have been surveying I've always heard about organizations that had no recommendations, but I had never experienced this. Congratulations."

CARF is an international non-profit accreditation body that has assessed 49,000 health and welfare projects in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia in order to establish best practices. It was founded in 1966 and in Canada in 1969.

CARF's written reports cover a service provider's strengths and areas for improvement, and are used by governments and private funders as an indication of excellence of service.

Among other things, the assessors judged the internal operations of SSCS, such as its administration, information technology and human resources, as well as its work in the Sea to Sky communities it serves. They also spoke to residents who use its services and stakeholders in the social services sector.

SSCS has approximately 140 staff offering 40 individual programs from Britannia Beach to D'Arcy. The accreditation is agency wide and lasts until 2015.

SSCS programs available to Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton residents include an infant development program for at-risk under threes, counselling for abused women, a support house for adults recovering from addictions and Newport House in Squamish to support independent living for adults with developmental disabilities. More on these and other programs can be found on their website at sscs.ca.

In Whistler, SSCS works independently of Whistler Community Services Society, though the two agencies work together in some programs and share building space at the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation Social Services Centre in Spring Creek.

Lois Wynne, the director of SSCS, described the CARF results as "amazing."

"It's jaw dropping. The bar is high now and we've got to work to keep that bar up there," Wynne said.

When asked if this high ranking could translate into funding increases for the SSCS, which has suffered from cuts to its early learning programs and other projects in the current economic climate, Wynne was hopeful. "I hope on a local level, there's some timeliness for us this year going into new projects. A little bit of the good word out there... there are folks out there who don't know about us," Wynne added.

"I think to have an outside organization come in with individuals who know nothing about us and to get that kind of result just adds to the credibility that we might think we know, and hopefully the community will go 'wow!' And hopefully people will be interested in participating or being involved somehow."

Taylor-Scott complimented SSCS for its family-centred approach.

"Parents are appreciative of the services offered and the expertise of the therapists, consultants and educators," Taylor-Scott said, reading from CARF's draft report on the assessment. "Samples of comments of family members included 'Everyone goes beyond what is expected,' 'We've met great people who have helped to make our path easier', 'we couldn't have done it without the support', 'SSCS is a lifesaver.'"

Nancy Thompson, the SSCS quality assurance manager, said they had been undertaking CARF assessments every three years since 2003, but this was their best report to date.

Wynne said they expect to receive the final CARF report within six weeks.

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