'NAPE has been telling government for many years that there are systemic problems.' - Carol Furlong.
St. John's (20 May 2009) - The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE) says an initial review of a report on child and youth protection - released last week - contains no surprises.
NAPE president Carol Furlong said she is pleased to learn that Joan Burke, the minister of child, youth and family services, intends to act on the report’s recommendations.
“NAPE has been telling government for many years that there are systemic problems with child and youth protection services in the province," Furlong says.
"NAPE has raised most if not all of the concerns expressed in the report. NAPE also advocated for a dedicated department as opposed to being part of the health boards. We have made it clear to government that social workers would welcome any kind of effort to address systemic issues and would appreciate an opportunity to be part of the solution.”
Furlong says efforts to date to correct the problems in the system have been "ad hoc in nature, more of a quick fix.”
"Currently, despite the amount of information available, there has been an absence of long-term planning to ensure the right human and financial resources are in place to meet future needs, yet for the most part these needs are predictable. NAPE has raised this very issue with government on numerous occasions. Such planning is essential to the success of the new department.”
Furlong says child and youth protection is a complicated, high risk area of social work practise.
"The level of liability makes it exceedingly stressful. We know social workers are struggling with untenable workloads. The shortage of social workers and the high level of burnout and turnover in child and youth protection, are symptoms of what is ailing the system," she adds.
"Myriad problems result from a constant turnover of case workers. NAPE has raised the issue of recruitment and retention on many occasions, and the report acknowledges there is an urgent need to stabilize the workforce. The bottom line is that to make this work, government must act immediately to retain experienced social workers and attract new ones.”
Furlong emphasized that social workers spend a significant amount of every working day on administrative duties, time that should be dedicated to their clients, she adds.
"It is vital that the documentation process be made more efficient as this would increase the amount of time social workers can devote to the children and families they serve. Social workers in child and youth protection are required to consult with managers on a daily basis. Yet our members are telling us they often have difficulty accessing managers and that the best fix for this would be smaller teams and more clinical managers. It is imperative for NAPE and front-line workers to have an opportunity for some meaningful input as the process unfolds,” she argues.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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