Government must make a deep and sustained commitment to improve staffing and resources allocated to the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), the B.C. Representative for Children and Youth said in a report titled The Thin Front Line issued today.
The BCGEU welcomes and endorses the Representative’s report, which calls on government to significantly lift MCFD funding and staffing levels. Frontline workers are unable to fulfill their child protection mandate at current staffing levels, The Thin Front Line says. There are fewer B.C. social workers today than in 2002.
“The Representative is saying that frontline child, youth and family workers are buried under massive caseloads and constrained by severe staffing shortages, says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “The Representative’s findings reinforce what we said our Choose Children report last year.”
“Social workers require more time, resources and proper tools to be effective at their challenging job. BCGEU strongly endorses the Representative’s report and recommendations,” says Smith.
Child protection workers face “extremely heavy workloads” which lead them to routinely fail to meet mandated timelines and an inability to build relationships with vulnerable children, youth and their families, the report says.
“We have been saying for years that British Columbia cannot continue to do child and family welfare on the cheap. Being cheap only leads to mistakes and to terrible tragedies,” says BCGEU Vice President Doug Kinna, who represents child and family welfare workers in B.C.’s public service.
The Representative’s recommendations include lifting MCFD’s budget to fully fund front-line child protection work at staff levels to cover vacancies, leaves and sick time. MCFD is constantly operating at 90 percent capacity, but needs to over-hire staff, the Representative says. BCGEU strongly supports this recommendation.
Government responded to the BCGEU November 2014 Choose Children report by committing to hire 200 social workers within a year. However, it failed to address other key areas of concern, such as caseloads, unfilled staff vacancies, and occupational health and safety concerns.
“British Columbia’s political leadership must take responsibility for the proper functioning and resourcing of the child and family welfare system or carry the shame of failing to help the most vulnerable,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.
B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system also requires a major investment in resources, staffing, and cultural training, says a related report titled Closing the Circle being released by the BCGEU today.