Alberta community social services struggle with staffing crisis | National Union of Public and General Employees

Alberta community social services struggle with staffing crisis

NUPGE acknowledges the commitment and dedication of workers in the field


Edmonton (30 Oct. 2008) - With the approach of NUPGE's Community Social Service Workers Appreciation Day on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008, Alberta families are providing a timely reminder of the importance of qualified caring workers.

Families Who Care, a group of mothers with children and adults with disabilities, and their supporters, gathered recently on the steps of the Alberta legislature in Edmonton to send a strong message to the Alberta government to address the ongoing crisis of a lack of qualified staffing for people with disabilities.

Dwindling funding for these community services has jeopardized retention of qualified workers. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), 340,000 members strong, acknowledges the commitment and dedication of workers in the field and recognizes the challenges that decades of funding shortfalls has brought.

"The crisis is getting worse as the demand for caregiver services grows and the agencies cannot attract and retain the necessary qualified staff for the many Albertans in need," says Lorrie Baer, a single mother of two children with disabilities, and one of the organizers of the rally.

"As the primary funder, the Alberta government has failed to provide adequate funding to pay staff competitive wages, and it is our children who are suffering with the constant turnover of caregivers," she says.

Seven-year search

Robert Le, a 21-year-old terminally ill quadriplegic living with his foster family, adds:

"For seven years we have searched for an emergency placement that would be willing to take me should anything happen to my caregiver. None can be found. At one point a government worker told us that disabled clients were being dropped off at the homeless shelter or they could abandon me at an emergency ward. I don't want to be seen as a burden to society but this is how the government makes me feel."

Kim McLeod, a mother with a seven-year-old son with cerebral palsy, provides a graphic description of of her son's experience:

"I have had some exceptional caregivers and dealt with many under-qualified caregivers which can have disastrous results. My purpose is not to point fingers but to raise awareness. These caregivers are dealing with special needs people and must have the appropriate training," she notes.

"I have had staff pull his mickey tube out of his stomach and call me at work not knowing how to put it back in with my son screaming in the background. On another day his harness and seat belt were not done up on his wheelchair and the day after that his feeding pump had a flow error, no one checked it and so that day he had no food at all."

Baer says it is critical that politicians recognize the situation.

"Our human services system is in crisis right now due to many years of under-funding. The government must stop saying they can't afford to address the issue. This government obviously has the resources to properly invest in the human infrastructure that is required to build strong healthy communities for everyone. It is time they just showed that they care." NUPGE

More information:

Two Ontario communities endorse CSS Appreciation Day
Nov. 6 is Community Social Service Workers Appreciation Day

Occupational Groups: