MEDIA ADVISORY - Staff shortages, workload, major contributing factors of failure of BC child protection services, report shows

VANCOUVER, Feb. 6, 2014 /CNW/ - Repeated failures to report, intervene and protect a young, vulnerable First Nations girl who took her own life in 2011 amounted to a complete failure of B.C.'s child protection and mental health services, the Representative for Children and Youth stated in a report released today.

"The safety and well-being of vulnerable children is being compromised because the government is not committing the resources required to protect vulnerable children with desperately tragic consequences," said BCGEU President Darryl Walker.

The report shows staffing shortages and workload pressures in the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) were major contributing factors to the functional collapse of B.C.'s child welfare system. The Representative also points to the Ministry's complete failure to ensure the physical safety of frontline social workers who feared for their own lives.

"MCFD is in an almost constant state of crisis. Recent province-wide meetings with BCGEU social workers have told us loud and clear that child safety is being compromised by staffing issues and workload problems in the Ministry," said Walker. BCGEU represents frontline MCFD staff, including child protection and family service workers.

"Making real change and improvements in the child welfare system is going to require the will of the B.C. government and a much more strategic action and investment plan for recruitment, health and safety, and retention of frontline workers," added Walker.

The BCGEU endorses the report's recommendations, and commits to supporting an urgent, comprehensive assessment of staffing and safety issues in the Ministry to be conducted jointly by BCGEU and MCFD. However, the forthcoming 2014 BC budget must allocate proper government resources to address the long-standing challenges faced by MCFD. The provincial government budget will be tabled on February 18. "We are requesting a meeting with Minister of Children and Family Development, Stephanie Cadieux, to address the issues raised in today's report. These troubling issues can only be meaningfully addressed with the input of our frontline workers," says Walker.

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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Media: for more information please call Evan Stewart, BCGEU Communications (604)291-9611