TORONTO, Ont.- Services provided by front line workers who serve at-risk children and families must remain the focus of both funding and spending of Children’s Aid Society (CAS) agencies across Ontario, says Sid Ryan, speaking in the wake of allegations of misspending reportedly contained in an Ontario Auditor General’s Report to be released December 5.
“Not having seen the report, I can only say that if there is misspending or misappropriation of funds, we cannot condone this. But for us, the most important issue remains the continued under-resourcing of front line services,” says Ryan, Ontario President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents workers in child welfare agencies. “The Ontario children’s aid system has been grossly under funded and the McGuinty government hasn’t provided the necessary funding to ensure the capacity of agencies to undergo transformation. We are talking here about vulnerable children and families who must be served in a full and timely manner.”
Front line workers in Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario face possible layoffs and cuts to program services for children because the provincial government has miscalculated how much funding it needs to provide as part of a planned transformation of the sector.
“There is a $64 million deficit in funding from the McGuinty government for services and front line work,” says Ryan. “Because of this shortfall, agencies that got on with the government’s transformation agenda are now facing possible layoffs and program cuts to the very services that the province’s children and families depend on.”
Ryan says that a review by the Child Welfare Secretariat set in motion a huge transformation of how the sector operates and is funded. He says the problem is that the government seriously miscalculated by 300% how much funding it would need to provide, according to CUPE estimates. Agencies need $40 million and they have only received $10.5 million.
While CUPE will comment on the Auditor General’s report upon its release next Tuesday, a CUPE study entitled “Overloaded and Under Fire” showed as early as 1999 that social service workers faced staggering workloads, high stress and deteriorating health and safety conditions, including exposure to violent situations.
“Front line staff are hard-pressed to provide direct care to families and at the same time complete all documentation required,” adds Ryan. “Both are important and many employees end up doing their documentation on their own time without pay because they are making a choice to see families first, and document later.”
“At-risk children and families served by our committed and caring front line workers need services and protection now,” said Ryan. “Along with the Auditor General’s report, McGuinty needs to step up to the plate to ensure there is adequate front line staffing and training to do the job.”
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CUPE Ontario President