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Halifax – The union representing child welfare workers in agencies across the province says news that the Department of Community Services is launching a 1-800 number this weekend to replace on-call services raises some serious questions about service delivery.

CUPE Spokesperson John Atwater says, “We were informed on Friday that the so-called Provincial Child Welfare Emergency Duty Service will be launched on Sunday, November 26. These plans are not sitting well with the frontline workers who deliver these services.

The new system will supposedly rely on workers’ case notes being updated and on the computer system within 24 hours. But many rural CAS workers are on the road for days at a time, don’t have laptops and don’t have any way to access the system outside of their offices.

In some cases, we have trouble meeting the old standard of updating case notes in 72 hours, never mind 24 hours. This new system is unrealistic, unless they want child welfare workers sitting at their desks most of the day doing what amounts to secretarial work,” he says.

Says Atwater, “The Department has hired brand new social workers who are still being trained to staff the 1-800 service, but will not be familiar with the different communities and diverse populations across the province. Their primary mandate appears to be ‘screening’ out calls that are not of an urgent or life threatening nature. What happens to the other calls that don’t get handled?

When local workers are called by the 1-800 service, they won’t be allowed to call their own supervisors for direction, as they once did. Local CAS workers will now have to report to a Department supervisor who is not their employer.

There is also some question as to whether social workers in rural settings will still be allowed to take a second worker with them for safety reasons, when they go to apprehend a child,” he says.

For information:

John Atwater
President, CUPE Local 3928
(902) 759-8068 (cell)

John McCracken
CUPE Communications Rep.
(902) 455-4180 (0)