In his annual report, Corey o'Soup, Advocate for Children and Youth, notes that social services workers deal with complex and challenging cases, and that too often, government budget cuts undermine programs designed to improve the lives of at-risk children and youth.
Regina (17 May 2017) — While the Advocate for Children and Youth calls for a greater investment in Saskatchewan's vulnerable children, and highlights the need for sufficient resources and supports for social services staff, the government is unwilling to listen to the concerns of frontline workers who support at-risk families, according to Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE).
Saskatchewan's advocate recognizes challenges facing social services workers and how government cuts hurt the vulnerable
In his Annual Report, Corey O'Soup, Advocate for Children and Youth, notes that social services workers deal with complex and challenging cases, and that too often, government budget cuts undermine programs designed to improve the lives of at-risk children and youth.
“Frontline staff in social services have been telling us for years that workload pressures and insufficient supports make it impossible for them to do an adequate job of keeping children safe, yet the minister doesn’t seem interested in hearing what people on the ground have to say,” says Lori Bossaer, chair of SGEU's Human Services Component of the Public Service Sector.
SGEU/NUPGE goes directly to workers to survey working conditions, stress and workload
A request to meet with Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Social Services Minister, to present survey findings about workplace issues in the ministry was postponed and ultimately canceled by the minister, according to Bossaer.
In order to gain insight into the challenges facing social services workers, SGEU/NUPGE commissioned a survey of members working in various areas of the ministry.
“Our goal was to present objective information about working conditions, workplace stress and workload issues to the Minister,” says Bossaer. “We had hoped that this data would convince decision makers that more staff and resources are needed to keep kids safe. But the minister is not even willing to meet with us to find out what her staff have to say about what can be life-and-death issues.”
The survey found that
- almost 90 per cent of social service workers reported that their workplaces are not adequately staffed on a consistent basis
- 64 per cent of workers reported that they simply have too much work to do everything well
- 75 per cent of workers reported that their workloads have increased over the past 5 years
- almost 6 out of 10 workers attribute their workload increases to the fact that management has not filled vacancies in their workplace.
The survey’s findings were backed up by a ministry memo from October 2016, that reported that there were over 30 vacant positions in Social Services’ northern service area. Despite this, the ministry has been slow to fill those much-needed positions, and does not provide information about vacancies to SGEU/NUPGE.
Minister refuses to hear from frontline workers
When Beaudry-Mellor cancelled a scheduled meeting with SGEU/NUPGE, she indicated the issues should be dealt with at the bargaining table. However, government negotiators say the question of adequate staffing is not an issue to be dealt with at the bargaining table.
“It’s unfathomable that the Minister refuses to even hear the concerns of frontline workers who are tasked with keeping children safe, and who face enormous pressures and serious barriers to achieving that goal,” Bossaer says.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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