Children’s Aid Society workers in five communities will be operating lemonade stands and hosting BBQs today to demonstrate the desperation facing many agencies by the government’s refusal to fully-fund services for vulnerable children.
“It’s come to this,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents staff at many of the cash-strapped agencies. “That fundraising of this sort has to take place in Ontario – one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world – is shameful.”
Fundraisers will take place in Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Brockville, Sudbury and Cornwall. Across Ontario CAS workers will be lobbying their local MPPs for sustainable, long-term funding.
The fundraising events are intended to illustrate how the provincial government’s funding formula to support programs for at-risk children is miserably out of date. Queen’s Park introduced welcomed amendments to the Child and Family Services Act in 2006. More than 200 new directives were issued as a result of the government’s Transformation agenda, but they have not been resourced.
As a result, some agencies faced bankruptcy last year while many others face operating deficits this year. Some have been force to negotiate lines of credit with local banks simply to keep operating because of the failure of the government to adequately fund their programs.
“The McGuinty government needs to get its priorities straight,” said Thomas. “Billions of dollars in badly-needed revenue are being handed back to corporation in the form of tax cuts, but in the meantime his government is deliberately turning its back on some of the most vulnerable young people in Ontario.”
Many of the programs delivered by the CAS are legislatively-mandated. Yet, CAS offices have laid off workers, cut programs and in some instances forced employees to pay out-of-pocket to cover expenses.