VANCOUVER, March 1, 2012 /CNW/ - The disturbing report released today by the Representative for Children and Youth shows that B.C.'s social workers need more resources, training and coordinated supports with other agencies to deal effectively with domestic violence and mental health issues, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU).
"The Schoenborn children died because of a failure to recognize and adequately deal with a situation of domestic violence and mental health challenges," says BCGEU President Darryl Walker. The report follows an in-depth investigation into the death of the Schoenborn children at the hands of their father in April 2008, which could have been avoided, the report says.
"The child welfare system in our province must be improved through better co-ordination as well as improved training for staff, and we also need increased resources," says Walker.
The BCGEU fully endorses the report's recommendations. The report calls for improved co-ordination between child protection, income assistance, mental health, police and judicial authorities for social workers to effectively deal with domestic violence situations. The government must also address existing gaps in providing proper mental health care and services.
"Turpel Lafond recognizes the deep commitment and difficult work done by our members, the front-line social workers in the child protection system," says Doug Kinna, chair of the BCGEU's Social, Information and Health component, which represents social workers and child protection staff in the province.
The report calls for improved training for social workers to support and protect children living in circumstances of domestic violence. The BCGEU supports this, but believes that supplemental staff training cannot obscure the fact that the government continues to do child protection on the cheap, with insufficient resources and unsustainable caseloads for social workers.
The B.C. budget presented last week does not provide additional resources to support the vulnerable children and families that access services through the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). After freezing funding for 2011/12, the government's 2012 budget added just $2.6 million to MCFD funding, a negligible increase of 0.2% over three years.
Meanwhile, huge caseloads continue to be a priority concern for social workers. "Caseloads for B.C. social workers range from 30 to 50 families - low 20s is the standard that should be followed," said Kinna.
To rebuild an effective and pro-active child protection system that works for vulnerable children and families in British Columbia, the government must invest in front-line staff and their training and improve coordination among support agencies and services.
For further information:
Media, please contact Oliver Rohlfs, BCGEU Communications, 604-291-9611