Brantford, Ont. Programs and supports for people with developmental disabilities and their families in Brantford are woefully underfunded, and both community living workers and supported individuals are paying the price, say front line counsellors.
Community Living Brantford provides residential and vocational support for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Chronic provincial underfunding for services has led to long waiting lists, understaffing, heavy workloads and low wages in the sector.
The Canadian Union of Public of Employees (CUPE), which represents 5,000 community living workers province-wide, including the Brantford Community Living front line staff (CUPE 181), is urging the Ontario Liberal government to increase funding for the sector in this coming provincial budget. In 2004, the Liberals only increased funding for community living agencies by .5 per cent.
This chronic provincial underfunding has led to long waiting lists, understaffing, heavy workloads and low wages in the developmental sector. Underfunding is also now manifesting itself in acrimonious contract negotiations between community living agencies and workers, including Brantford, says Sue Symons, unit chair of CUPE 181, that represent the Brantford community living workers now in tense negotiations with the agency.
Our agency administration should re-think their hard-line strategy at the bargaining table that is now on course for conflict. Front line workers are the services our agency provides. We want to enhance services, not shut them down, and our agency should share our goal of reaching a negotiated settlement, says Symons.
An employer study found that community living workers are underpaid by 25 per cent compared to other social service workers, and that the low wages result in a high staff turnover rate. Both the union and the agency administrations across the province agree that increasing the wages of community living workers and providing better training for them, will stem the high staff turnover rate and, ultimately, improve the quality of community-based services provided those with developmental disabilities and their families.
For more information, please contact:
Sue Symons, Unit Chair, CUPE 181 - (519) 756-8071
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications - (416) 578-8774