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Budget cuts


Hello everyone
I'm a Child and Youth Care worker and student in BC, and I am interested in hearing about peoples' reaction to the announced spending cuts planned by the BC government. It seems to me that these cuts may have a very bad effect on the social services sector.
By now most people have probably heard about the huge budget cutbacks planned by the BC Liberal government. Gordon Campbell, BC's premier, has said that he wants three program cutting scenarios from each ministry: one that cuts 20%, one that cuts 30%, and one that cuts 50%. He has promised that the cuts will not come from either health or education spending.
This might be really bad news for the children, youth and families with whom we work. And it might be really bad news for those of us who work in both the government and community-based social services systems. Why? Because it probably means that there will be cutbacks in "non-essential" child, youth and family services. The people we care about are going to lose relationships, material support, and various kinds of other services that they need.

And we are going to lose jobs, and not just a few, but possibly lots and lots of them. How many program and job losses would result from even a 30% cut in non-statutory social services?

The Liberals have cut personal taxes (including huge tax breaks for the wealthiest among us, which they did not mention in their election platform) cut taxes for business, and made several other policy moves that have contributed to what is now projected, even by the Liberals themselves, to become possibly the largest budget deficit in BC history.

The threat of this deficit is now being used as a justification to dismantle government programs that are integral to our communities, which provide good, socially important work for tens of thousands of people in BC, and which. And we all know how much some people need these programs, and how much some might suffer without them.

In other words, the message here is that tax breaks for the rich are essential, while public services for vulnerable children, youth and families are non-essential, along with the jobs of thousands of dedicated social services workers.
What the government is talking about here doesn't strike me as very caring at all, or very fair. They know that everyone worries about health and education, because everyone uses these services, and they know that if they cut in these areas they would face a massive public reaction.

On the other hand, almost no one out there knows what it means to be "in care" or "receiving services" or "placed" or "in a program" or "receiving social assistance". And not too many people really know what it means to be a "child and youth car worker"--sometimes our closest allied professions do not even seem to understand this, so how can we think that the public does?

When job losses of this magnitude are threatened in almost any other sector, it is a much bigger piece of news, and yet this does not seem to be news yet at all.

I am wondering how other Child and Youth Care people are reacting to the prospect of big cutbacks, and what they think we might be able to do about it? Is this a place where the Child and Youth Care Association could help to create public awareness about what this all actually means. Is there some way that we can organize ourselves as Child and Youth Care workers in BC with other allied occupations and speak out against these uncaring and unfair cuts? Are other people and organizations already working on this in BC?

Mike Burnett

Well, its about time. B.C. always seems to be playing catch-up with Alberta. The Alberta Government thought they would be saving money by turning our social service system into a regionalized system. Now that they are discovering that there was no cost savings, Alberta is already begun its' first wave in budget cuts to the system. I feel that we are starting the first of many. We predicted 5 years ago, when the government started it's plans to regionalize, that front line services would suffer. You know, I hate being right all the time, but front line services are now starting to be effected in respect to the almighty dollar. It started with the salaries for foster parent's being cut dramatically (no wonder we seem to have a placement shortage) and now working its way into residential facilities. I believe that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now and can look forward to more substantial cuts in the next fiscal year.

We already have students questioning why they would continue their educational path with the direction things seem to be going in child and youth care. Smaller enrollment in schools equals less qualified people coming into the field. I guess this suits the employer quite fine as that in itself is a cost saving measure. More qualified, experienced staff jumping ship and less qualified people coming in = less money. To make matters worse (gee I hope I'm not sounding too pessimistic here), the wonderful – meek – child and youth care workers that we are will always find ways – no matter what the conditions are – to provide an excellent service to the children. We will work ourselves to the point of early burnout in order to make sure these cuts don't effect the children because its in our nature to do so. The catch is that the government continues to see that we can do a good job with less and less and thus continues to offer less and less (as long as it doesn't effect the kids).

I think this is where your professional association comes in. The union can fight for a small percentage of the child and youth care workers, however the percentage of child and youth care workers is much smaller compared to other member groups in the province. The union is also good at yelling and complaining, but doesn't seem to work very hard at the "selling of excellence." Your provincial professional association should be working for you to present the profession for what it is. It needs help from its membership to be strong and vocal. We as an association can't stand up and yell when only a small percentage of the workers in the province feel that it is important enough to join. How does the government take the association seriously when the work force doesn't? With support in numbers, we can start to work with the government to help them realize what it is we do, and what it is we need in order to continue to provide the excellence in care that we do.

It is not a quick fix to the problem, what I am talking about is a consorted effort to "sell" the profession to the right people.

Curtis Stevens
President, CYCAA


Hi Mike,

Thank you for your comments and outrage at the process now underway to cut services for young people and families in B.C. For those reading these messages in other parts of Canada, North America and the world, these concerns have been, are now, or soon will be shared concerns. the world is entering a recessionary period, and these are dangerous times for those we serve.
Personally, I have been meeting and talking with various individuals and groups who are equally concerned and eager to have some effect on these proposed changes. Many of them are in the position of being seen as "interest" groups, and thus feel both vulnerable and dismissed if they speak out. We are not a sector secure, well placed or highly effective in the use of power and influence strategies at the governmental levels. At the same time, we do need to take the time to exert whatever piece of influence we might have – with well-placed individuals, colleagues, groups, organizations etc. Some of us will be meeting with the Minister of Children and Family Development over the coming weeks, but one gets the feeling from some of his public presentations that even he feels somewhat helpless in the face of these massive changes originating from Treasury Board and Cabinet levels.

The reality is, as you know better than most of us Mike, that our work and our sector of concern is not well understood, is not highly valued, and is not subject to public backlash the way other work and sectors are. That being said, we must continue to put the plight of these children and families in front of the public and decision-makers whether or not the prospects of short-term response are likely or not, because virtually no one else will.

To borrow the longstanding slogan of the ANC in South Africa: "The struggle continues; victory is certain." It may not happen this year, this decade, or even in my lifetime, but some day the world WILL care for traumatized, neglected and abandoned children as much as it cares for sports heroes, tax breaks and designer jeans. It's morally unthinkable not to believe that ignorance and insensitivity cannot and will not be overcome. In the meantime, we need to draw courage from each other, inspiration from the child advocates of our past – the Korczaks, Montessoris, Makarenkos, Redls, and many more – and continue to speak up and speak out however we can. We must also build, and re-build as necessary, those organizations that can have a stronger collective voice on behalf of these young people and their families.

Thanks, Mike, for continuing to speak up and speak out for young people!
Jim Anglin

Mike, life sucks doesn't it?

This has been a reality for us in Ontario the past ten years in community social services and children's mental health. We always seem to be the poor cousin of the education, corrections, and Health care systems. We need a Ministry of the Child to encompass all these aspects, but I will not hold my breath. When we talk about our youth and families who are in need, they seem to be the ones we hurt first and the most.

Unfortunately what I have found and experienced is that you have to keep a stiff upper lip, go through the anger, frustration and loss of program services and staff. (Sounds a lot like grieving doesn't it?)

I have found that for me and the area in which I work, (Children's mental health in the education system), is that when the individuals come to us for help, we also have to say; what is the responsibility of the education system; and what is the corrections system responsibility; as well as the health care system, because we don't have the resources. So how will this child/families difficulties be shared among us. My sense is that we do not allow the government, policy makers, and other systems to download on us. But it seems once again that the almighty Child and Youth Care who must be the most flexible and accommodating individual ensures that all the bases are covered but not necessarily by us. I'm not sure if this making much sense to you ,but I do feel your frustration. You are on the right track with seeking feedback from others and getting this discussion going. Best of luck and you have my support.

Ron M
CYC, London, Ont.

Hello All:
I am a Child and Youth Care worker who is employed with the provincial government as a Social Worker. Currently, my job is to administer and monitor the early intervention programs. My experiences so far as a public servant is that the public has an expectation that the government can and should provide limitless funding to please everyone all of the time. The role of SW is challenging in that the guidelines/policies exist to promote fair and equal services to people in need. The funding is finite. We SW's as a team, are continually looking at the need and try to juggle them with the resources available. Eligibility criteria is quite rigid and needs to be demonstrated to access the various programs available. We often lament the lack of resources and spend a fair amount of time engaging in conflict resolution because the public has access to us as individuals representing the government. It does seem unfair to me that the wealthy got tax breaks, but it wasn't unexpected, seems to happen over and over again.

I wanted to assure you that the SW's sitting around our team table do care! We feel as powerless and are in as much of a vacuum as the rest of you. The core review process will be completed at the end of October, when did it start? September? The buzz words of 'deregulation' and 'devolution' scare us too. We do not know what our jobs will look like or if we'll still have one. Still and all it is time to have a good look at how services are provided, how to be more efficient in eliminating duplicity , how to empower families and communities and how to put the dollars where they are service provision. Change conjures up fear...and in this scenario, the fear I think, is justified. The fear is that the service providers will be poorly paid for their work and undervalued...that the children and families will not have access to qualified people to guide them. What to do then? I voice my thoughts and opinions at every opportunity that presents itself. As a government employee I have plenty of opportunity. I believe that I have important things to contribute and am grateful for my experiences as an ECE and my education as a Child and Youth Care and for being in the 'right place at the right time'. I believe that I will be heard. I believe in the strength of the community members that I work with and look forward to the possibility of doing things better than we have. I think about Chaos Theory and the butterfly wing that changes the direction of the storm. I know my voice is small, but it matters. I try to look at the future by being creative, to be pro-active rather than to be reactive and fearful...

Verna Oberg


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