On the brink of yet another potential strike or lockout in Children’s Aid over workload issues, the Wynne government has introduced legislative changes to child protection services that ignore key commitments critical to addressing the problems that put kids at risk of falling through the cracks, says Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario.

“Children’s Aid workers should not be forced into a labour disruption to ensure they are able to provide the level of attention cases need,” says Hahn. “Without real caps on workload and the necessary funding commitments, the proposed legislative changes won’t solve the important issues they are meant to address.”

“Years of austerity budgets have wreaked havoc in child protection services and it is taking its toll on front line workers,” says Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair of CUPE Ontario’s Social Service Sector. “The dedicated Children’s Aid workers in Guelph and Peel were forced out on strike to protect the services they provide. It looks as though their colleagues in North Bay and Parry Sound may soon have to follow their path to the picket line.”

Bellwethers for the state of child welfare in Ontario, crushing workloads and increased health and safety concerns are one of the major points of conflict in negotiations. These same issues were supposed to have been previously resolved in 2011 through a provincial discussion table that focused on the systemic problems facing the child welfare system. An agreement was reached on a number of key areas of concern, yet those solutions have not been implemented in many agencies across the province, including Peel and North Bay – Parry Sound.

While child welfare services in Ontario have been underfunded for years, many of the current problems stem from the distribution of funding to Children’s Aid Societies (CASs) under the provincial government’s current funding model. It has created urgent pressure in some agencies. Overall, government funding to CASs since 2010 has not even come close to keeping up with inflation.

“The daily reality for the people who work in child protection is that workload needs to be addressed. This was first identified with a workload study in 2001 and been recommended in numerous coroner’s inquest reports. Many front line workers live in fear that with the complexities and intensification of the cases they carry, one of the children on their caseload could fall through the cracks,” says Hahn. “If the government is truly committed to fixing the problems facing the CAS, then it must deal with workload and health and safety issues that child protection workers face every day, along with providing the funding necessary for expanding the mandate of services.”

CUPE is Ontario’s community union, with more than 260,000 members providing quality public services we all rely on, in every part of the province, every day. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards, universities and airlines.