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Toronto—Chronic provincial government under-funding and workplace restructuring is resulting in increasing rates of violence, injury, bullying and workload related stress for both workers and clients in the developmental services sector, concludes a new study by McMaster University researchers.

Entitled ‘Improving Work Organization to Reduce Injury and Illness: Social Services, Stress, Violence and Workload’, the study was funded by the Worker’s Safety Insurance Board after the agency noted the alarmingly high rates of work-related injuries by workers in the sector.

The research, which focuses on the experience of counsellors who work with people with developmental disabilities at three-sites in Ontario, was released today at a Sudbury media conference by Donna Baines, McMaster University, Professor, Labour Studies and Social Work, and principal researcher, Gwen Miller, Counsellor Developmental Services, Fort Frances and Steve Sanderson, ACL Ottawa.

The study found that restructuring of services has resulted in increased workloads and health risks associated with overwork and burnout at all three sites studied.

“Workers and clients are being exposed to higher levels of stress and violence and there are serious incidents of workplace bullying and traumatic work cultures. There are several measures that are not costly, but go a long way toward redressing the serious problems in this sector,” said Baines in highlighting the study recommendations that include:
  • an immediate increase in government funding to the agencies in this sector;
  • monies should be made available for staff training and development in all aspects of client care and health and safety practices;
  • WSIB should extend its coverage to include stress related leaves;
  • agencies can lower violence and stress in the workplace by increasing the use of full-time workers rather than part-time, split shift, or casual workers and placing a cap on overtime.
“For years we have advocated similar recommendations. The influx of new government funding for this sector is key in allowing agencies to hire additional staff with increased training at better wages. Enacting the recommendations in this independent report will result in safer workplaces for both workers and clients,” said Sanderson.

CUPE represents 5,000 developmental services workers province-wide. Today, the study findings were presented to CUPE members from the sector attending the annual social service workers conference in Sudbury.


For more information please contact:
Donna Baines, McMaster University, Professor,
Labour Studies and Social Work
(905) 525-9140
Gwen Miller, Counsellor Developmental Services, Fort Frances
(807) 274–3233