They’re not case files. They’re children.

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It’s time government gives back what it’s taken from children at risk.

Tell Christy Clark to Choose Children Read the report
Tell Christy Clark to Choose Children Read the report

B.C.’s child and family welfare system is falling apart, putting vulnerable children, youth and families at risk.

Executive summary

Frontline workers can’t get to them when they most urgently need help. Workers are buried under massive caseloads, severe staffing shortages and a complete lack of resources. This can’t continue.

Before long, another child or youth is going to get hurt or die. British Columbia cannot continue to do child and family welfare on the cheap.

It’s time government gives back what it’s taken from children at risk. B.C.’s political leaders need to get their priorities straight. This budget, choose children.

If you agree, take action!

Yes! The Province must Choose Children

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“The government cannot continue to abdicate their duty to the vulnerable. By failing to support them, they are perpetuating the abuse. We are going to have a dead kid at some point.”
Government is failing to prioritize funding for at-risk children, youth and families

British Columbia cannot continue to do child and family welfare on the cheap.

The B.C. Liberal government has failed to prioritize proper funding for services and supports for vulnerable children and their families for the last decade.

Budget numbers speak for themselves. Since 2008, Ministry for Children and Family Development (MCFD) funding has been cut by $44 million, before inflation.

In 2004/05, spending per capita on child, youth, and family services in B.C. was $360. Today, it’s $287 – a cut of more than one-fifth – even as the consumer price index rose by 17.3% during the same period.

Yet B.C. is experiencing increasing demand for child, youth, and family services.

Every year, MCFD provides services to around 155,000 children and youth and their families—or about 17% of BC’s population under age 18. The province’s child and youth population is projected to grow by an estimated 27,000 over the next five years.

The complexity of support needs required continues to increase because of persistent high childhood poverty, increased diagnoses of complex physical and mental health disorders for at-risk children and youth, and the unfortunate over-representation of Aboriginal youth in B.C.’s social welfare system.

Solution: Increase funding to child, youth and family services in the short and long term to address staffing and other concerns

At minimum and in the short term, government should restore $44 million in MCFD funding cut between 2008/09 and 2013/14, and adjust this amount for inflation.

Tell Christy Clark to Choose Children Read the report
Child, youth and family workers can’t get to vulnerable children

Protection of a child’s best interest should trump everything.

Child, youth, and family workers know this, but they don’t have enough resources to do the job they are mandated to do.

They are faced with unmanageable workloads and poor caseload management that directly impacts the availability, timeliness, and quality of support for those most in need.

In B.C., less than one in five frontline child, youth, or family workers has a caseload consistent with best practices.

Over 80% of surveyed Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) workers have a caseload greater than 20 per month. Nearly half reported working on over 30 cases per month. One-third were also carrying another worker’s caseload at the time of the survey. This is often the result of an unfilled vacancy or long-term absence without backfill.

They are being directed to manage high volumes of work by reducing the amount of time they spend with clients.

Caseloads are also becoming more complex.

Frontline workers feel as though their workload makes it impossible for them to make a difference, which is extremely demoralizing. They are expending enormous energy and resources on strategizing the management of their excessive workload demands, often to little effect.

Solution: Adopt standard caseload standards for MCFD and MSDSI workers based on best practices.

MCFD and MSDSI must provide a comprehensive assessment of workload measurement options for workers in different classifications and regions, developing caseload standards that take into account both general and complex cases.

Such standards should be used to inform critical staffing and hiring decisions, and will help ensure the safety and wellbeing of both clients and workers.

In developing its own set of standards, the provincial government should refer to best practices, including the recent Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry in Manitoba that calls for funding formulas that “allow agencies to meet the caseload ratio of 20 cases per worker for all family services workers”.

Tell Christy Clark to Choose Children Read the report
Child, youth and family workers are burning out due to lack of staff

B.C.’s children, youth and family workers face chronic problems of understaffing and poor staffing management, both for frontline workers that directly deliver services and the people that support them.

Child, youth, and family workers are over-compensating for the system failures. The unspoken expectation is that child, youth, and family service workers are dedicated to their clients, and will unflinchingly work additional hours at no extra pay.

Extra hours of unpaid work appear to have been normalized for workers at Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and practically institutionalized at Ministry for Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI), surveys show.

This situation is unfair and wrong. This is lean government gone mean, and an abuse of the goodwill and dedication of all child, youth, and family service workers who deserve respect and support in their work.

Solution: Fill current vacancies and create a comprehensive, transparent, and accountable staffing strategy

The provincial government should take immediate steps to fill current vacancies throughout MCFD and MSDSI, including both frontline and administrative positions.

In MCFD, new hiring should include an additional 100 FTEs per year over three years to address significant workload pressures, health and safety concerns, and to guarantee a service improvements for vulnerable children, youth, and families.

Workers assigned to fixing ICM should be returned to service delivery functions, and should not count towards the 100 new FTE count.

Government must also impose and disclose a timeline for the creation and adoption of new staffing strategies from both the MCFD and MSDSI.

These strategies should introduce clear actions to address issues of recruitment and retention in both ministries, using a combination of clear standards (for example, frontline service to administrative service ratios) and new incentives.

Tell Christy Clark to Choose Children Read the report
Child, youth and family workers are using failed child welfare software

The Integrated Case Management (ICM) is software intended to improve information sharing between B.C. social welfare services, such as income assistance, employment services, but also child protection and family services.

But instead of improving services and supports for the vulnerable, ICM has made things worse. ICM may be so deeply flawed that it cannot be salvaged.

First, ICM’s suitability for social welfare is questionable. B.C. is the only Canadian province to choose this particular type of software; five other provinces have opted for another. Frontline child, youth and family workers in B.C. were never consulted on the decision to go with ICM.

Second, ICM’s original $181 million price tag has ballooned to well over $210 million to fix the crashes, confusion, and backlogs caused by its troubled implementation.

It has also proven to be unreliable. ICM crashed repeatedly in May 2014. Poverty advocates said that vulnerable families and adults were unable to get shelter and support payments. Child, family, and youth workers faced real client hostility and threats as a result of interrupted and delayed processing of social assistance payments.

Third, a vast majority of British Columbia’s child, youth, and family service workers report being negatively impacted by ICM, including more than three-quarters (77%) of frontline Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) workers and nearly nine out of ten (89%) frontline Ministry for Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI) workers.

In fact, ICM is the number one problem at work for MSDSI workers.

Solution: Review or replace ICM

The provincial government must commit to a clear public timeline for arriving at a decision to either replace the troubled ICM or allocate the needed resources to: 1) address its critical weaknesses; 2) ensure its proper day-to-day functioning; and 3) safeguard against the impacts of a future collapse.

Workers assigned to fixing ICM should be returned to service delivery functions, and should not count towards any increased staffing at MCFD or MSDSI.

Tell Christy Clark to Choose Children Read the report
"I have always loved being an employment assistance worker and helping people. Now I'm a data entry clerk. Someone will die from the lack of service and I sincerely hope it is not one of the clients through our office."
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