Toronto community social service agencies call on provincial government to join hands, build communities with needed reinvestment



    Over 90 agencies, 1,500 participants showcase work at Queen's Park event

    TORONTO, June 5 /CNW Telbec/ - A decade of underfunding by the provincial
and other governments has severely eroded the ability of community social
service agencies to meet the needs of thousands of people in Toronto who
depend on their services, said leaders from the sector at a major Queen's Park
event today. Over 150 Toronto community social service agencies and labour
organizations have endorsed a campaign calling on Premier Dalton McGuinty to
create an accord with them to revise funding frameworks, and reverse the deep
cuts made in the 1990s by the Conservative government in order to meet demand
for services.
    In a gathering called "Joining Hands to Build Community" on the Queen's
Park lawns, over 90 agencies and upwards of 1,500 participants showcased the
work of community social service agencies that provide Torontonians with
daycare, home care, children and youth recreation programs, seniors services,
crisis intervention, family counseling and employment/skills training. These
organizations support local engagement, bringing residents together to solve
problems and improve their neighbourhoods.
    "These are essential programs that build our quality of life and keep our
communities healthy," said Liane Regendanz, Executive Director of St.
Stephen's Community House and a member of the steering committee for the
campaign--a joint project of Toronto's community social service agencies,
labour and community partners. "Yet a decade of underfunding and
under-resourcing has left our community social service agencies unable to meet
our costs--for basic necessities like heat, capital expenses and decent wages
and benefits for our skilled and caring front line workers."
    The provincial government accounts for 79% of all government funding to
the sector. Despite a 23.11% increase in inflation from 1996 to 2006,
provincial funding has not kept pace. When it comes to program funding, an
analysis of 155 programs in Toronto--of which governments funded 96%--found
that these programs were underfunded by 14%, on average.
    The widespread underfunding has meant community social service agencies
are hard-pressed to maintain their administrative structure and pay workers
fair wages, according to the group's research.
    "Social services funding was severely eroded during the Harris years, yet
demand and expectations have continued to rise creating a 'perfect storm'
facing community social service agencies," said Toronto and York Region Labour
Council president John Cartwright.
    "Replacing core, stable funding with piecemeal program grants has meant
that too many front line staff are now temporary or part-time. Where is our
commitment to good jobs? Too often these vital services are only made possible
through huge workloads, insecure employment or wages that continue to fall far
behind the cost of living," he said.
    In 1995, the Ontario government unilaterally eliminated its contribution
to the Community Neighbourhood and Support Services Program (CNSSP). It had
provided stable, core funding to non-profit agencies to cover overhead and
administrative costs and build organizational capacity. According to
Regendanz, this cut dramatically affected small emerging ethno-specific and
cultural communities, as well as the diverse communities they serve. Community
social service agencies have struggled to meet crises arising from increased
poverty and violence in Toronto communities.
    Sandra Costain is a young outreach worker whose work with young women in
Regent's Park won widespread acclaim. Sadly, when another program's funding
fell through, she lost her job. "Teen pregnancy was double the city's average
and school drop-outs were high. Working with 23 women, 90% of them went on to
complete high school and there were only two pregnancies in the group," says
Costain. "Because of underfunding and staff reassignments, the program no
longer exists."
    The Community Social Services "Joining Hands to Build Community" campaign
is calling on the McGuinty government to:

    - Invest in community service infrastructure,
    - Return to core, stable and fair funding,
    - Commit to funding fair wages and benefits,
    - Ensure funding keeps up with inflation.

    Members of the steering committee include: Canadian Union of Public
Employees - Ontario, Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, COSTI,
Family Service Association, Labour Community Services, OCASI, Ontario Public
Service Employees Union, St. Christopher House, St. Stephen's Community House,
Toronto and York Region Labour Council, Toronto Neighbourhood Centres, Toronto
Training Board, and YWCA Toronto.
    For more information on the Community Social Services Campaign, please
visit: www.socialplanningtoronto.org/cssc.


    
    Backgrounder: A "perfect storm" facing community social service agencies

    Scope/funding

    - In Ontario, community and social services employ 268,400 people and
      involve more than 620,000 volunteers contributing about
      63 million hours of volunteer time in 2003.
    - Funding comes from government, earned incomes (fees, etc.), and grants
      and donations.
    - Provincial government accounts for 79% of all government funding and
      54% of agencies' overall revenues.

    Key funding issues

    - In 1995, Ontario government unilaterally eliminated its contribution to
      the Community Neighbourhood and Support Services Program (CNSSP). It
      provided stable, core funding to non-profit agencies to cover overhead
      and administrative costs, and build organizational capacity.
    - While inflation rates from 1996-2006 were 23.11%, provincial funding
      has not increased in any significant way to keep up with these rates.
    - A 2004 analysis of 155 programs totalling $36.5M (of which 96% was
      funded by governments) found that service programs were underfunded by
      14% on average.
    - Funders have increased their monitoring, reporting and evaluation
      requirements, but don't fund agencies to do this work.

    Cumulative impact

    - Most funding no longer covers core organizational costs including:
      rent, utilities, staff training and supervision, volunteer
      coordination, fundraising, financial management and reporting.
    - Administrative structure of most agencies has been hollowed out;
      resources have been stretched to shore up programs underfunded by
      government.
    - Large amounts of staff time are spent on fundraising and chasing short-
      term, project dollars.

    Human resource crisis

    - Staff generally account for three-quarters of community agencies'
      expenditures.
    - Wage rates in this sector are consistently below other public and
      private sector employers.
    - Non-profit and voluntary organizations are filling a greater proportion
      of their staff positions with temporary employees (31%) than Ontario
      employers (10.9%).
    - A study of Halton community social services showed that front line and
      administrative workers have significantly higher levels of
      temporary (17.3%) and part-time (26.4%) employment; smaller
      organizations show higher temporary (26.4%) and part-time employment
      (as high as 70.6%).
    - Workload (31%) and insecurity of non-permanent positions (29%) are main
      reasons for staff leaving their jobs.

    Key recommendations

    - Create an accord between the province and sector to discuss funding
      frameworks, policy development.
    - Reform provincial funding frameworks to:
        - Invest in community service infrastructure,
        - Return to core, stable and fair funding,
        - Commit to funding fair wages and benefits,
        - Ensure funding keeps up with inflation.
    - Ensure funders pay the full cost of services they need delivered in
      communities-not drain community services to deliver their services.
      This will enable other resources from fundraising to fund service
      innovation and address local needs.
    




For further information:

For further information: Valerie Dugale, CUPE Communications, (647)
225-3685; Alissa Von Bargen, Community Social Planning Council of Toronto,
(647) 230-9164

Organization Profile

Canadian Union of Public Employees

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COMMUNITY SOCIAL PLANNING COUNCIL OF TORONTO

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