Don't cut child welfare, Premier urged
The Toronto Star, CAROLINE MALLAN, QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF,Jan. 16, 2004.
Children's aid workers are asking Premier Dalton McGuinty to spare their funding when it comes to looming budget cuts in Ontario.
Public servants who work with children at risk say there is not enough money or staff in the system now, without the prospect of losing some resources as the Liberal government grapples with a $5.6 billion deficit.
Linda Aho, a child protection worker from Sudbury who is on the executive of the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU), said despite some positive changes made by the former Conservative government aimed at improving child protection laws, particularly a change in the definition of abuse that includes neglect, the result has been a mountain of paperwork and increased caseloads.
"(Those changes) opened up doors for us to homes we couldn't get into before," she said. "They doubled the staff, doubled the funding and tripled the workload."
Aho estimates social workers spend between 70 per cent to 75 per cent of their time on paperwork and urged the Liberal government to invest in better computer systems and Read More ..aff and services for children and families at risk.
OPSEU president Leah Casselman labelled much of the paperwork as unnecessary "butt covering" by the government aimed at reducing liability should a child be harmed while in the care of the province.
Both OPSEU and CUPE are entering into bargaining with regional Children's Aid Societies in the coming months and yesterday warned they cannot withstand budget cuts or wage freezes.
The Liberals have pegged the collective aid societies deficits in the province at $25 million.
A spokesperson for Children's Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni said the minister is aware that the current funding formula for child welfare is not adequate and can be improved.
"The fiscal framework can almost certainly be improved ... is likely not ideal and needs to be improved," said Andrew Weir.