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CAS Cutback

March 26, 2013 permalink

Eighteen of 350 union employees of the Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Society have been terminated for budgetary reasons. The second article gives families reason to hope for twenty more terminations next year. These former workers can now participate in productive parts of the economy. In the final paragraph the unregistered child protection workers claim to be social workers.



Job Cuts At The Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society

Windsor Essex CAS
Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society as seen in this file photo

The Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society has terminated eighteen case aides and family access workers due to a budget shortfall.

President of Local 2286 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is warning families and the community about the negative impact of the cuts, and the cumulative damage that chronic underfunding is having on child protection services in Windsor and Essex County, and across the province.

“Cutting these vital services to deal with budget shortfalls is really short-changing the people of Windsor and Essex County, and especially vulnerable children in our community,” said Cathy Matthe, CUPE 2286 president. “Windsor-Essex CAS is saddled with a 4.3 million dollar deficit for 2012-2013, with 1.6 million in historic debt. Across the province, there is a 67 million dollar shortfall in funding, and for our agency that meant getting a line of credit to provide mandated services – the Ontario government is essentially starving our system with underfunding.”

CUPE represents 350 employees at the agency, including child protection, family well-being, kinship services, public relations, administrative support, and other children and family services workers. The latest round of cuts could be just the beginning, as funding allocations for the next fiscal year have not been announced yet, and any shortfall could mean future layoffs.


Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society lays off 18 workers

CAStle Windsor
Exterior of the Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Society shown Tuesday, March 26, 2013.
DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star

With Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society announcing that 18 casual case workers are to be laid off due to budgetary deficits and that the situation could be more dire in the coming months, the government is hoping to solve the problem with a “new funding model.”

The layoff news was first announced by Cathy Matthe, president of CUPE Local 2286, who said the cutbacks are forced by a $70-million provincial funding shortfall across Ontario and that the local CAS office is “saddled with a $4.3-million deficit for 2012-13″ plus $1.6 million in historic debt.

“Cutting these vital services to deal with budget shortfalls is really shortchanging the people of Windsor and Essex County, especially vulnerable children in our community,” she said. “The Ontario Government is essentially starving our system with underfunding.”

CAS Director Bill Bevan confirmed that the employees have been terminated but noted all the positions effected are part-time, temporary or casual staff. He added that the workload will be redistributed among permanent staff. However, he added, the society may have to trim up to 20 more positions next fiscal year if funding does not improve. He hopes those cuts can be done through attrition, again with work to be redistributed.

“We will have to re-balance our workloads to be able to still do a good job,” he said. “We have the fourth highest case load in the province, considering our population, and it’s a great deal of work, given the socioeconomic situation and the struggles people face in our community.”

Teresa Piruzza, Minister of Children and Youth Services and MPP for Windsor West, responded Tuesday it is the government’s priority that “no child gets left behind,” and added, “I’m obviously concerned about the layoffs.”

“My office has already been in touch with the Windsor-Essex CAS to discuss the situation and ensure that children’s needs are put first.”

However, there was no hint in her statement, released in an email, that new money would be forthcoming in the near future.

“We have increased funding to the Windsor-Essex CAS by almost $12 million since 2003-04 — more than a 27-per-cent increase,” she said. “This year we’re providing more than $54 million to the agency. Across Ontario, funding for child protection has increased by approximately 40 per cent since 2003-04, to $1.5 billion in 2012-13.”

She said her ministry would continue to work closely with the local office, to help it manage expenditures more efficiently.

“We have listened to the good advice from the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare and Children’s Aid Societies regarding funding models over the last year and my ministry is introducing a new child welfare funding model in 2013-14.

She added details of the plan are not available now but will be announced “in the near future.”

Meantime, Bevan said the work load is not diminishing. He said his office conducted 3,200 investigations last year and has opened 1,550 ongoing cases, with a permanent staff of 375 employees and a budget of $55-million.

Bevan said the agency is awaiting the government announcement, expected in April, of annual funding formulas to determine how much money the agency can expect to operate with in the next fiscal year.

“We’ve been waiting long enough,” he said. “We need to know where we’re at in order to provide our mandated services.”

But Matthe said changes to the funding formula have been set at two per cent and that would not even cover cost of living increases, adding “we’re already stretching the money as far as we can.”

Bevan also confirmed Matthe’s statement that the local CAS has even been forced to seek a $4 million line of credit to provide mandated services. Matthe said the underfunding has had an impact on such services as orthodontics, psychology, food vouchers and has resulted in cuts to programs like March break camp and recreational activities. She said visitation programs are also being effected. The cuts, she said, are putting children at risk.

The union is urging voters to contact their MPPs to demand funding be restored. Bevan added that the province will be considering funding levels in April and the local CAS office would need an additional $6-million to balance the books and maintain current operations.

The union represents 350 employees at the agency, including child protection, family well-being, kinship services and administrative support.

“The workload is already very stressful,” said Matthe. “We have to multi-task and can’t keep up with the demands. What we do now is 75 per cent paperwork. But we’re social workers. We signed up to work with kids and families.”

Source: Windsor Star