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Social Services News: Spring 2014

We the North
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For members in Developmental Services, Children’s Aid Societies, Community Agencies, BPS Corrections and Child Treatment

Download Social Services News: Spring 2014

CSDC Message from the Chair

Transformation, v.

  1. the act or an instance of transforming; the state of being transformed,
  2. a complete change of form at metamorphosis
  3. the induced or spontaneous change of one element into another…
  4. a process with reference to particular rules, by which one grammatical pattern of sentence structure can be converted into another, or the underlying meaning of a sentence can be converted into a statement of syntax [the order of words in which they convey meaning collectively by their connection and relation].

~Canadian Oxford Dictionary

Hmmm… from these definitions, there does not appear to be a ’value’ judgement as to whether transformation is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in itself. That evaluation may come later as an ‘outcome.’ It does suggest that ‘transforming’ can be passive (accept that it is going to happen) or active (by way of ‘act’ or ‘action.’)

How does this apply to us as activists and workers in community-based social services as we continue to navigate system transformation in the social services community?

Historically, the vision for the creation of public services included the desire for greater equality through the redistribution of wealth so that a greater proportion of citizens could fully participate in their communities and society through the provision of accessible programs and support.

It was a time of community building created through progressive taxation policies and social planning. However, as economist Hugh McKenzie recently noted in his CCPA article, Tackling Ontario’s Public Service Deficit, the cumulative impact starting with the Harris revenue cuts in the 1990s “represents a loss of fiscal capacity of nearly $19 billion a year.”

It appears, as a result, we are no longer in the position of building communities and support services, but are now forced to ‘transform’ what remains in the aftermath.

Those of us who work in community-based services – or who have accessed the kinds of services we provide – have witnessed the ‘real’ cost from this loss of fiscal capacity. Families are becoming increasingly frustrated and desperate to locate the services they need to support their loved ones and can therefore be more vulnerable to the message that the ‘system is broken’ and needs to be ‘transformed.’

Stories told at the Select Committee for Developmental Services and the outcomes from the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest are heart wrenching and fuel the transformation fire. We know that capacity to provide services and fulfill mandates are increasingly challenging and contribute to increased staff turnover and burnout.

But instead of building capacity through good social and community planning, the priority of government has been to put the focus on the individual. Accountability for one’s ability to access or provide services increasingly falls on the client or worker rather than government.

This ‘transformation’ in thinking from ‘the greater good’ to ‘survival of the fittest’ creates a process that opens the door to competitive bidding and individualized funding models. At the end of the day, though, it amounts to less money available to sustain, never mind (re)build services.

As a good friend of mine once said: “Seamless service, seems less to me.”

Those of us working in community-based services are in a unique position to offer thoughtful opinions on the transformation agenda. We do not have to transform passively. We can contribute to the shaping of our collective future. As activists, we have the opportunity to point out the long term risks should we as a society continue down this particular transformation path.

OPSEU’s Developmental Services “We CAN Afford to Care” and Children’s Treatment Sector “Kids Matter” campaigns are two examples of what we can do collectively to contribute to, and influence what, the definition of ‘transformation’ will look like in our communities.

I once used this analogy while trying to explain to politicians the impact years of frozen funding was having on the ability of workers to provide timely and robust services in the Children’s Mental Health Sector: Our challenge is akin to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, while government holds the life jackets.

I am reminded as we move to a more individualized approach to delivering services that those ‘deck chairs’ being shuffled would have been only available to those privileged enough to afford a 1st class ‘seat.’ I don’t wish to go back to those times when passengers ‘below deck’ were left to drown without any control over their fate just because they couldn’t afford it.

Continue to use your collective voices and speak up in your communities to ensure that the outcome of this great ‘transformation’ of our services allows us all to arrive safely onto the new shore – deck chairs and life jackets in hand!

In solidarity,
Deb Gordon, CSDC Chair

Note: If you want to read further about the impact of funding cuts on public services, check out Hugh McKenzie’s full article Tackling Ontario’s Public Service Deficit.

An $11 minimum wage is still a poverty wage

After a three-year freeze on the minimum wage in Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a change. On Jan. 30, Wynne announced the minimum wage will increase to $11 an hour beginning on June 1 and that legislation will be introduced to increase the minimum wage by the cost of living each year.

Although this change is a good step forward, there is still a long way to go. At $11, workers will remain 16 per cent below the poverty line and will continue to struggle to meet basic needs. The Minimum Wage Campaign continues to call for $14 in order to reduce inequality and help workers rise above the poverty line by 10 per cent.

Workers continue to be angry over this issue despite the recent rise to $11. Many full time workers earning the minimum wage report having to choose between paying for rent, hydro or food and many are being forced to look for additional work to catch up. Simply put, $11 is still not enough to live on.

Despite the increase to $11, we need to continue to support the call for a minimum wage of $14. Momentum must continue building since low paid workers lead the call for decent work.

Join the movement and get involved in your local community. Participate in a day of action on the 14th day of each month in your local community, organize a day of action, or write to your local MPP.

http://raisetheminimumwage.ca/

http://www.workersactioncentre.org/updates/minimum-wage/11-minimum-wage-not-enough-workers-still-earning-below-the-poverty-line/

The Psychotherapy Act – does this affect you and your job?

In previous CSDC newsletters we have tried to keep our membership informed about the potential implications on workers once the Psychotherapy Act (2007) is proclaimed. The Act was introduced as part of an omnibus bill in 2007 and since then, the Transitional Council has been charged with creating the Regulatory College: “College of Psychotherapists of Ontario.” The target date for enactment of the Act is April 1, 2014.

The challenge this particular Regulatory College presents to members is how to implement the section of the Act that controls the practice of psychotherapy.

The Act defines “Psychotherapy” as:

“The practice of psychotherapy is the assessment and treatment of cognitive, emotional or behavioural disturbances by psychotherapeutic means, delivered through a therapeutic relationship based primarily on verbal or non-verbal communication. 2007, c. 10, Sched. R, s. 3”

In reading this definition, do you believe your work, as defined in your job description fits within this definition? If so, as the Psychotherapy Act is currently written, you would most probably have to become a member of the College to continue to be able to work at your current job.

The transitional council appears aware of the complications the inclusion of the controlled act section and definition poses for a large number of workers in the community services field of work. They appeared to initially try to remedy the situation by creating a second category of membership: the Registered Mental Health Worker category. However, the Ministry indicated they did not want this category included, so at present there remains confusion as to who will/will not have to be members and what happens to those individuals who do not qualify for membership as per the Council admission criteria? In the worst case scenario, will this mean loss of job?

We are hearing from members that as the proclamation date approaches, there are employers who are defining what job descriptions within their workforce appear to meet the psychotherapy definition ‘standards’ and have informed our members that they need to begin to prepare for application to the College once operational. This includes the completion of an e-learning module (costs of $60) which we understand from those members who have already completed it takes a minimum of eight hours to complete. The application fee for admission to the college (once registration begins) is $125. It was noted in recent transitional council minutes that should an applicant be considered “woefully unqualified,” the admission fee will be refunded.

In the January 2014 transitional council minutes, it was suggested that the proclamation may either be delayed a further two to three months until the issue of how and who to apply the definition of the controlled act of psychotherapy is resolved, or that proclamation would move forward on April 1st with the exception of the controlled act section so that applications can start to be received. Note that workers who are members are the College of Physicians, Nurses, Psychology, Occupational Therapists and Social Workers & Social Service Workers are excluded from having to apply as their own regulatory colleges have been amended to include the controlled act definition of psychotherapy.

We understand that there is significant anxiety among many of our membership about the potential negative repercussions on their employment status should the Act be proclaimed as written. We encourage you to keep informed and make decisions based on the most current information available. Given that April 1, 2014 is quickly approaching, we are advising you to prioritize this issue with your employers.

In the interim, we are recommending that OPSEU members:

  1. Keep informed. Monitor the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario website for updates. www.crpo.ca
  2. Approach your employer to find out what their position is in regard to registration and what job classes they believe the controlled act definition applies/does not apply to.
  3. Should the employer define positions that will now require membership in the College of Psychotherapy – as is currently written in the act (or the other defined Colleges that include the definition of the controlled act of Psychotherapy), begin a process of discussion as to what supports will be offered to your members to proceed in completing the e-learning module and/or application process (e.g.: time, covering fees, collecting data for application such as supervision and training hours).
  4. Contact your sector executive and advise them as to what positions (job classification and number of FTEs) that will potentially be impacted within your workplace. We are trying to keep track of this information.

Action on Workplace Stress Project — Implementation phase update

Our “Action on Workplace Stress” project continues at the workplace and policy level. The Mental Injury Tool Group (MIT) made a presentation to Ontario’s Ministry of Labour (MOL) in October 2013 suggesting that the MOL include psychosocial hazards into their enforcement agenda for Ontario. We want the MOL to develop tools and for inspectors to write orders and enforce reasonable precautions to protect workers from unhealthy work demands or work organization and other psycho-social hazards known (and shown in your surveys) to negatively affect health. Many labour unions suggested the same thing to the MOL at the February 2014 MOL consultations on enforcement strategies.

Workplaces are also in the implementation stage. Units received final reports in the summer and have already begun discussing the results with joint health and safety committees and with employers. Brainstorming ideas to resolve the identified issues is critical since solutions will vary by workplace. Then, change the ideas to recommendations that the joint health and safety committee (or co-chair) will discuss and put forward. Management must respond in writing within 21 days to written recommendations with a timetable or reasons why they do not agree with recommendations.

The Mental Injury Tool Kit found at http://www.ohcow.on.ca/ will help and has an extensive list of resources from around the world that contain lists of improvement suggestions for you to consider.

However, we need more understanding of how factors such as work organization, rewards and recognition, work demands etc manifest themselves in YOUR workplaces.

Therefore our next step in our project is to drill down to the details and collect the “story behind the story.”

Here’s how you can help:

Look at what your top three organizational factors are that affect health outcomes in your workplace and send me a short paragraph about how these play out in the workplace in a very specific example.

Send to Terri Aversa at taversa@opseu.org

Here’s an example:

“Our top issue was quantitative demands—I do a lot of what I think is unnecessary paperwork. For example, I have to log my activity in nine places for every one visit I do. And I do not know why all these people need the stats because I am not provided with an explanation.”

Another example:

“Emotional demand is a top issue. I am an intake worker for a program for people who sometimes are very desperate for services. I feel horrible because as I am hearing their story and helping them with an application I know (but they don’t) that their application will be denied because it is too late in the year and the money is already gone. Their denial letter will come from another government service and I cannot tell
them the outcome.”

Please take a few minutes to jot down a paragraph of your own about how the factors in your report affect your work and send it in. We will use these to write a final report, to develop sample recommendations, and to develop a booklet about how these factors actually manifest themselves in the social services sector.

Social Impact Bonds: The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

What are Social Impact Bonds (SIBs)?

  • A way to finance the public and non-profit sectors through the private sector rather than through direct government funding
  • A form of privatization of social services

How do SIBs work?

  • At the Peterborough Prison in the UK, a SIB was rolled out to reduce re-offending rates.
  • UK Ministry of Justice and Social Finance UK (intermediaries) raised funds from 17 investors to fund the program.
  • Service providers were initiated to help offenders navigate the system of supportive services and establish new services to address unmet needs.
  • The 17 investors would be paid back by the government if the program was successful, meaning that re-offending rates decrease by 7.5 per cent over six years for 3000 short-term prisoners.
  • Investors can earn returns on this program of up to 13 per cent each year the re-offending rates are cut by 7.5 per cent.

Why are SIBs a threat to social services, workers and clients?

  • They allow profit to be made on social problems.
  • Only programs that are considered to have “successful” outcomes get funded.
  • Private capital hold a lot of decision making power in terms of the dynamics and funding of intervention programs.
  • The most vulnerable service users can become even more vulnerable since they are not viewed as “successful,” or “appealing” investments.
  • Public dollars are given to private corporations.
  • They do not address broad, societal issues that cause problems for service users such as affordable housing and good jobs.
  • Cheaper service provision will lower standards and produce precarious employment.
  • In the UK and the US where SIBs are being tried, dramatic levels of inequality are on the rise.

Have SIBs been tried anywhere else?

  • Pilot projects are being looked at in many parts of the world.
  • They originated in the UK, where there are now 14 SIBs in areas such as reoffending, foster care, homelessness and at-risk youth.
  • The process (even in the UK) is ongoing and there have been no evaluations to assess the model.

Will Ontario adopt SIBs?

  • The Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, Eric Hoskins, indicated that the province will pilot two SIBs in 2014 in health and social services.

Publicly funded and delivered social services are designed to address social needs, to maximize our social good. For-profit companies and initiatives are designed to create a profit. We know from experience that privatization of any kind results in paying more for less. Permitting private investors to make a profit on people struggling with mental health, addictions or poverty crosses a line for many; people are not objects to be traded based on their potential to perform correctly.

The public sector belongs to citizens who should decide what kind of a society they want to live in and how best to get there.

For more information, please visit: http://nupge.ca/sites/nupge.ca/files/publications/privatization-by-stealth-sibs.pdf

Sector 15: Child Treatment

CTS activists prepare to launch bargaining

On Feb. 7 CTS members gathered in Toronto to map out a course for the 2014 bargaining year. Fourteen of 31 CTS units in bargaining this year will be working with their membership, the sector and OPSEU staff in negotiating contracts that will support our collective ability to attract and retain workers and their expertise in children’s mental health and children’s treatment during times of ‘troubled waters’. In this round, we are setting sail for new and unfamiliar territory as the Ministry begins the process of moving towards a ‘Lead Agency’ model that will have the responsibility for implementing MCYS’s vision for delivering community-based child and youth mental health services.

The MCYS ship “System Transformation” has now been launched following MCYS announcement in January that described the boundaries of the 34 service communities.

The move toward a lead agency model will be phased-in by the end of 2015 with 16 of 34 lead agencies being selected in 2014 (Phase 1) following an RFP process.

Of the 11 OPSEU CYMH Units in bargaining this year (the remaining three bargaining units are children’s treatment centres), six will have the additional challenge of being first to set course, being in Phase 1 of the selection process for lead agency. Deadline for applying to be a lead agency is tight with intent to submit application already having passed and the application deadline set for March 14.

Members who attended the bargaining forum gathered ‘provisions’ and ‘tools’ for the challenging voyage ahead through sharing of knowledge and information, preparing priority demands and developing plans to navigate together the waters ahead to a new unfamiliar ‘territory’. If you were unable to attend the bargaining forum, please contact any of the CTS executive or your staff rep who can provide you with the toolkit of information that was developed at the meeting.

In this round of bargaining we need to be pulling our oars in sinc. With that we will be ready to face whatever challenges we face in the coming months.

Deb Gordon, CTS Chair

Organizing update

On Nov. 14, staff at Algoma Family Services voted 73 per cent in favour of joining OPSEU. OPSEU welcomes 107 staff at the facility which provides specialized child and youth mental health services for community members in Algoma.

Jeff Arbus, OPSEU Region 6 Vice-President, played a key role in organizing these workers and warmly welcomes them to our child treatment sector. “The staff at AFS showed exceptional consideration and respect for each other throughout this process,” said Arbus. “I am excited to have them join our northern family. I know they will benefit from the networking and advocating that we will continue to do on behalf of children and families impacted by mental health issues.”

Sector 4: Children’s Aid Societies

Telling Stories from the frontlines

The CAS divex is collecting information on what transformation looks like in the field. When we met in November with our bargaining council we agreed that we would provide stories that we can take to Teresa Piruzza, the minister of children and youth services. Our intent is to show the minister how the funding formula is affecting the work of frontline workers and their clients. If you have a story please ask your local president or highest ranking steward for the template.

We’ve had a few changes in the last two months. Jennifer Smith resigned as vice chair due to workload and a yummy new side business. Her speciality foods are pesto, chimichurri etc), and I can vouch for how delicious they are. Thankfully she has agreed to stay on as a member of the bargaining council.

Kathy Cossette from Local 168 (Sarnia) will join the sector executive as member at large. Welcome aboard, Kathy!

We would like to thank OPSEU staffers Tracy More, Francesca Sinicropi, Rob Field, Luisa Quarta and Terri Aversa for their continued support of our efforts.

Please remember to submit your dues to:

Nicole Dennison
156 Drive-In Road
Pembroke, Ontario
K8A 7P1

The dues were changed at the last BPS Conference, they are now 50-cents per member or if you have a small unit the minimum amount is $100.00 per year. If you are going to OPSEU’s annual convention this year you may also remit your dues there.

CAS worker safety subcommittee

The survey was released on Feb. 5 to all human resource directors with copies to all executive directors. An email was also sent to the highest ranking on Feb. 7 to make sure that all units had submitted the link to the survey.

Both employers and unions identified the importance of safety for child welfare workers in Ontario as an area for development during the PDT process. This survey will provide important insights around the current state of worker safety from employees engaged in the delivery of child welfare services. Results of the survey will be used to develop policies and programs to improve your health and on-the-job safety.

All information collected in the survey will be kept strictly confidential by SPR. No individual information provided in the survey will ever be seen by anyone outside of the SPR researchers. Information regarding individual CASs will also be confidential (the survey will not publish or rate information for individual CASs). All survey results will be used to develop a provincial strategy for improved worker safety.

If you have any questions, please email workersafety@oacas.org to reach the worker safety subcommittee.

Black Wednesdays

We are urging everyone to wear black to your workplace on the FIRST Wednesday of each month. Let’s all stand together for child protection services that we can be proud of. We know that investing in prevention reduces the need for protection.

Recommendations from Jeffrey Baldwin Inquest

The jury at the Jeffrey Baldwin inquest strongly recommended a full review of Ontario’s child protection standards, with a top recommendation being to merge the province’s children’s aid societies into one central agency. That was one of the 103 recommendations delivered on the final day of the coroner’s inquest into the murder by his grandparents of the six-year old almost 10 years ago.

Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children and youth, said that although he was pleased with the jury’s recommendations he is still urging the premier to call a public inquiry into the protection of children.

To learn more about the Provincial Advocate’s report on the Baldwin inquest please visit: http://provincialadvocate.on.ca

Sector 2: Developmental Services

50 units head to bargaining table in 2014: coordinated priorities, support, and strength

This is a very important year for our sector. We have all worked hard to get to this point and we are not letting up! Fifty of OPSEU’s 67 bargaining units in developmental services have a March 31, 2014 expiry date. With thousands in bargaining at the same time, we have a chance for significant progress.

We have been working for months to prepare for coordinated bargaining on agreed-upon priorities and to put the funding and service crisis front and centre for the public and for elected politicians.

Last autumn, we had a successful and well-attended lobby day at Queen’s Park. Following that we held our bargaining conference to establish priorities. On Jan. 14, we delivered turnovers to MPPs to bring attention to the high turnover rates in the sector because of low wages and increased part-time hours and temporary jobs.

Turnover is a problem for workers, employers, and families alike. Workers find it almost impossible to make ends meet and have to look for work elsewhere. It’s costly for employers to frequently hire and train new employees. And continuity of service goes missing for the people we support and their families.

On Jan. 15 we surprised employers across the province with all 50 notices to bargain. We are organized. We are standing together. And we need to reach our members throughout the sector to make sure they have the information and opportunity they need to be part of action at this critical time.

Mobilizing from the ground up is key to our success. We need to have every member in every unit engaged and talking with each other. United and strong, we will show employers that we are all fighting for decent contracts. And we will show Ontario’s Liberal government that we are fighting for quality public services for people who rely on them.

Developmental services have never had anywhere near the amount of money needed to support families dealing with autism and other developmental disabilities. And the gap between what’s needed and what’s available is getting wider every day.

No amount of politicking will explain this away. There is more money in Ontario than there has ever been. We can afford to care. For our members in developmental services and for the people we support and their families: This is our time. This is our year.

In Solidarity! Together we will triumph!

Patti Markland, Chair

Sector 5: Community Agencies

Connecting with all 51 units in 2014

We hope that you all have been enjoying the incredible snowy and cold winter by ice skating or skiing or some other fun winter activity. The DivEx members have been busy working on our goals for 2014. A member of the DivEx will be contacting you in the next several weeks. We would like to attend one of your LEC, unit or GMM meetings to introduce ourselves, discuss how we represent our members, and listen to the issues you face in the workplace.

We want to support all Sector 5 units to strengthen their union visibility, and to defend their rights through collective agreements so that when the local is in bargaining they will be in a stronger position.

We also want to campaign on some key issues – like pensions – that are important to our members but which are missing from many collective agreements. We feel it is important to continue to have open dialogue about the work in community agencies as well as the struggles we face.

Organizing update

Welcome to members form the Human Rights Legal Support Centre

We welcome our newest Sector 5 members at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre in Toronto. In a vote held Feb. 6, workers voted 95 per cent in favour of joining OPSEU.

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre offers human rights legal services to individuals throughout Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to Ontario’s Human Rights Code. Their services include legal assistance in filing applications at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and legal representation at mediations and hearings.

Amy Clements, Chair

Sector 7: BPS Corrections

New campaign launch: “Comparing Apples to Apples”

The BPS corrections sector has just begun to roll out its “Comparing Apples to Apples” campaign which highlights the ministries unfair funding and operational practices. The intent of the campaign is to create awareness as part of a lobbying effort to highlight discrepancies between agencies and facilities which are either directly funded or operating under the transfer payment model in Ontario.

Petitions will be available over the next few months, on-line and at numerous events, to support our members working in youth justice facilities. In Ontario we work with the same youth under the same ministry (MCYS) but we have very different standards. Our top issues are: inconsistent and sometimes low standards, often causing health and safety concerns.

Youth worker wages range from as low as $15.41 per hour in the BPS, to as high as $32.64 in the OPS.

To make matters worse, many of our members are working without WSIB coverage. In the BPS there is no mandate to provide WSIB coverage and this has left our members vulnerable as they risk being injured at work without having any workplace injury insurance. We often work with the highest risk youth in the province and although violence is an inherent risk in our workplaces it must never be part of the job.

Many members in our sector are also worried about job security as bed utilization rates continue to remain low across the province. We wish all the best to the members who lost their jobs at Yonge House (Kingston Drop-in Centre Inc.) and Eagle Rock (WAYS) as a result of the ministry closing those open custody/detention facilities.

OPSEU staff will be working with members to help coordinate our political lobbying efforts as we share our message with MPPs across the province. Please support our campaign and take the time to sign our petition.

Jonathan Guider, Chair

Bargaining Summary Winter 2014

The following sectors are in bargaining:
Child Treatment – 1 unit arbitration
Developmental Services – 4 units bargaining
Youth Justice – Children’s Aid Societies – 1 unit conciliation
Community Services – 1 unit bargaining, 2 units conciliation

Films of interest

Miss Representation (2011) (85 min)

Workers in social services are predominantly women and yet, we continue to have to fight for issues such as pay equity and gender equality inside our workplaces. Check this documentary out to ‘expose’ why women continue to have such a tough fight.

About the Film

Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. The film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

Blood Brother

Rocky Braat, a young man from a fractured family and a troubled past, went traveling through India without a plan. Then he met a group of HIV positive children living in an orphanage — a meeting that changed everything for him.

Rocky left his life, friends, and career in Pittsburgh, Pa., to live with the kids. Steve Hoover, his best friend and filmmaker, was unsettled and intrigued by this drastic action. In an effort to find out what compelled Rocky to give up every source of stability in his life, Hoover decided to trace Rocky’s story, following him to India.

He witnessed Rocky and the kids endure disease, abject poverty, and death. But, strangest of all, in the midst of these troubles he also saw their deep joy. And he came to understand why Rocky had given up everything he had to experience it.

‘Blood Brother’ is a story of friendship. It’s a story of a life, stripped down to its essence. Most of all, it is a story about love, enduring in the face of death.


Authorized for distribution by:

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Ontario Public Service Employees Union