Please spare a moment to think about all the Community Service Workers standing ready in case your family needs help or support. In fact, your family is probably already receiving support from one of these workers.
Ottawa (08 Feb 2016) — Some provinces are celebrating Family Day this month (it’s today in British Columbia and next Monday in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta), but no matter what province you live in, please spare a moment to think about all the Community Service Workers standing ready in case your family needs help or support. In fact, your family is probably already receiving support from one of these workers.
If anybody in your family receives home care, they’re being supported by a Community Service Worker. Career counselling, or help with an addiction, or psychological support? Those are all provided by Community Service Workers. If anybody in your family lives in a group home, or a transition house, or needs emergency shelter, they’re also in the caring hands of Community Service Workers.
Vital to healthy communities
Community Service Work is vital to the health of our communities, but it's not often appreciated. Sadly, even dangerously, that means it’s often the first place where cuts are made when budgets get tight. And for the past 30 years, budgets have been getting tighter and tighter.
That tightening started in the early 1990s when the federal government drastically reduced the amount of money provided for Community Service Work. Until then, the federal government gave the provinces 50 cents for every dollar they spent on social assistance and community services.
The system changed so that each province received a lump sum for health care, education, and social services, and each provincial government would decide how that lump sum would be spent. And then they cut those lump sums. Soon, the provinces began siphoning money from social services to spend on higher-profile priorities in health care and education. The upshot has been this: over the past two decades, nearly $50 billion has been cut from spending on Community Service Work.
The consequences are clear
The consequences of such a massive funding cut are hidden in plain sight. They include significant increases in homelessness, food bank dependency, addiction, untreated mental illness, and an overcrowded prison system in crisis. It’s the reason child care expenses are so high and why the wait times for home care are so long. It’s why our communities feel less warm, and welcoming, and neighbourly.
Fortunately, it is well within our power to rebuild the kinds of caring communities we all want. Communities in which we take care of one another and in which no member of any family is left to fall through the cracks.
Our union is calling on the federal government to return to an approach in which it shares fairly in the cost of community services, and on the provincial governments to ensure their health care, education, and social assistance programs aren’t funded at the expense of community services.
Ambitious but achievable goals
These are ambitious goals, no doubt. But they are also achievable. They start with you. And so again, I ask you to take a moment this month to think about the members of your family and the many important ways that they’re supported every day by Community Service Workers.
NUPGE National President
James Clancy is the National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE