Fredericton The New Brunswick government is guilty of child neglect, according to the union representing social workers struggling to help families in need in the province.
Children are being left in abusive and neglectful situations because social workers have so many cases they cant assure timely action, says Robert Le Moignan, president of Local 1418 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
In one region, 19 child protection referrals were not investigated for a period of two months due to workload pressures. A 13-month-old baby who was shaken and slapped had to wait one month before a social worker could investigate the abuse, he says.
The union has been pressing for more than a year to increase staffing levels in order to protect the health and welfare of children in the province. But to date the province has hired only 45 social workers out of 172 recommended by the Child Welfare Review.
Every day we see the consequences of this inaction, says Le Moignan. Were doing everything we can to help these children and their families but were angry the province has failed to take this situation seriously, says Le Moignan.
CUPE has taken the workload issue to the bargaining table, pressing for relief for its members who work as social workers. But after 18 days of negotiations, the province has refused to make a commitment to improve service levels. Given the lack of progress, the union will be applying for a conciliation board.
Minister Mockler said after we launched our Walk for Children campaign last year that children shouldnt be used as pawns in bargaining, says Le Moignan. Were proud of our work and we demonstrate our commitment to the children of New Brunswick every day. We contend its the province using the children as pawns, ignoring their needs and putting them at risk.
These children are the most vulnerable in the province. We dont want to see another tragic death before the province takes action, he says.
For more information, contact Linda Morin (506) 684-5518.