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How CAS Wastes Money
March 18, 2015 permalink
According to a recent report by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex is squandering (taxpayer's) money. The report lists nine areas of wasteful spending, none of them areas that improved the lives of children. The ministry has not released the report, the London Free Press got it through freedom of information.
Child welfare agency found to have wasted money on office renovations, consultants and bloated management
A review of spending at the London and Middlesex Children’s Aid Society, kept under wraps for months, revealed nearly two dozen executives made more than $100,000 and the agency shelled out thousands of dollars for taxis and iPads.
London’s child welfare agency squandered money on costly office renovations and highly paid, bloated management ranks, a just-released report by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services states.
The ministry put the Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex under review in late 2013 because the agency that cares for vulnerable children was running a deficit.
In a 25-page report kept under wraps for months, the ministry slams the CAS for budget deficits, having too many executives, paying them too much, its medical clinic and questionable expenses in its 2013-14 budget.
Highlights of the report, obtained by The Free Press after the paper filed a freedom-of-information request:
- The CAS spent $300,000 to renovate a leased office at 685 Richmond St.
- The agency shelled out $51,000 in parking fees.
- 22 executives were paid more than $100,000. The number at comparable agencies was 15.
- The agency spent $50,000 in taxis, including $3,535 for one client during two months.
- The bill for technology was nearly $85,600.
Included in the tab were 23 iPads ($19,600), $26,000 for remote access to desktops and $40,000 in other costs.
“It appears the CAS could have taken steps to reduce or eliminate its deficit in 2013-14, had necessary measures been implemented in a timely manner,” the report said.
The CAS moved into leased space at 685 Richmond St. from an office on Dundas St., acting director Regina Bell said.
“They moved walls, installed electric blinds, there was all kinds of money wasted there,” said Karen Cudmore, president of Local 116 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union that represent CAS workers.
The CAS has scaled back the Richmond St. office, Bell said. Employees there will move back to the agency’s Oxford St. headquarters in about a year and the Richmond office will close, she said.
The agency has trimmed staff and is cutting some programs and services, freeing up space at its headquarters. Details of the cuts to programs and services will be announced later this month.
Tracey MacCharles, the minister of Children and Youth Services, said in a statement her ministry made 37 recommendations to help the Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex whip its budget into shape.
“We expect that all CASes function effectively and efficiently, and that includes balancing their budgets,” she said in a statement about the ministry report.
The ministry is encouraged that the agency has acted on 25 of the recommendations and is following the handling of its finances closely, MacCharles said.
“We are optimistic that with the hard work and dedication of the new leadership and new executive, that the London-Middlesex CAS will return to balance. Until that happens, we will continue to provide support.”
As acting director, Bell is steering the agency as it tries to balance the books while meeting its obligations under the law to protect children.
Former director Jane Fitzgerald — at one time Ontario’s highest-paid child-welfare agency boss — is on a paid medical leave of absence.
Bell maintains that the CAS has made progress since the ministry’s report was completed in February 2014.
“I think the board and us have made a real effort to reduce costs. We get accountability, we want to be seen in a positive light,” she said. “Our staff are highly professional and proud of the work they do.”
In the report, the ministry forecast the CAS would have an accumulated deficit of $11.6 million by 2017. The estimate has been cut to $500,000, Bell said.
She cited other areas of progress:
- The executive ranks will be cut to four from eight full-time equivalent, addressing a key concern in the report.
- Other expenses, such as high taxi and volunteer driving costs, have been reduced and more cost controls are in place in those areas.
“We have reduced taxi cab use, we have tightened drivers’ expenses and decreased mileage significantly,” Bell said.
The report flagged the agency’s average cost of $12,000 for every open case. The average for other agencies is $9,000, adding $3 million to the CAS budget.
Many workers at the London and Middlesex CAS have a master’s degree in social work and therefore are paid more, Bell said.
“It’s a key variable. We have more (highly educated) staff than others. It increases the cost.”
Though the CAS has implemented nearly three-quarters of the ministry’s budget recommendations, the two sides remain divided over the agency’s medical clinic.
The agency spends about $300,000 a year for the clinic staffed by a pediatrician and nurses. The ministry doesn’t provide funding for the clinic and recommends the agency use community resources.
A committee is studying outsourcing the clinic’s work, said Michelle Bacon, project manager at CAS.
“Its primary purpose is to meet the medical needs of kids in care. It is highly valued by staff and care providers. It cannot be replicated in the community.”
Staff also oppose shutting the clinic, Cudmore said.
“I will fight to the death for our medical clinic, but the ministry is all over us to get rid of it,” she said.
“We have serious medical and mental health issues and we have well-qualified docs here.”
- London Middlesex Children’s Aid Society 2013-14 budget: $64.3 million (The Ministry of Children and Youth Services gave $3.9 million to pay off debt, $3.3 million for 2013 deficit)
- Projected 2016-17: $61.3 million
- Projected 2019-20: $55.5 million
- Staff: 366, hourly and salaried
- Children in care: 740, aged birth to 21.
Highlights of a provincial review of the 2013-14 budget of the London and Middlesex Children’s Aid Society:
- $300,000 was spent on renovations to a leased office at 685 Richmond St. Parking fees for the office were $51,000.
- $174,500 was spent on consultants.
- The average cost of an open case was $12,000, $3,000 higher than the provincial average.
- 22 executives made more than $100,000; the average at comparable agencies was 15.
- The agency had more executives, office administration and clerical staff compared with other agencies.
- The bill for the agency’s medical clinic was $300,000. The agency doesn’t get funding for the clinic.
- $50,000 was spent on taxis, including $3,535 during two months for one client.
- Six volunteer drivers claimed more than $3,600 a month.
- The agency shelled out $19,600 for 23 iPads, $26,000 for remote access to desktops, and $40,000 in other tech spending.
Source: London Free Press