Research Bulletin August 2017: Child welfare, mental health, social change

This is the first iteration of the new and improved Federation research bulletins. This member service reviews and shares research that explains, analyzes and addresses issues related to what’s going on in our province—the topics we care about and the things affecting Federation members.

The Federation team has been tracking research, analyses, and evaluations that can inform service delivery in BC. Over the coming months, we will share these reports and articles with context and commentary so members can easily identify the emerging research that is relevant to their programs and services.

The first four reports address youth homelessness, child welfare, youth mental health, community engagement, and poverty reduction.

1. Child Welfare and Youth Homelessness in Canada: A Proposal for Action
2. Youth Mental Health and Homelessness
3. A Renewed Voice for Social Canada
4. Indigenous-Driven Organizations Deliver Better Health Outcomes

Our goal is to share useful information in a useful way. If you have feedback about how we can make this service better and/or if you want to flag issues or service areas for our Research and Policy Analyst to pay attention to, please contact us.


1. Child Welfare and Youth Homelessness in Canada: A Proposal for Action (Canada, 2017)

The recent release of data from the 2016 National Youth Homelessness Survey has provided the first national picture of youth homelessness in Canada. The relationship between child welfare and youth homelessness is striking—almost sixty percent (57.8%) of homeless youth in Canada reported involvement with the child welfare system at some point in their lives.

To address this important finding, the authors of this policy brief have proposed a number of evidence-based recommendations for improving the services and supports for young people in and leaving care that reflect a commitment to human rights and equity.

This paper is an important read as the recommendations demand action from various parties: the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, and child protection services and workers. While many recommendations are directed at provincial governments (and should be shared with our government colleagues and provincial representatives), many are also intended to guide program and practice at the community level.


2. Youth Mental Health & Homelessness (Australia 2017)

This report is a follow-up to a national survey of Australian youth that began in 2015The analysis focuses on the relationship between youth mental health issues and youth homelessness. According to the report, young people with a mental illness are 3.5 times more likely to have spent time away from their home compared to their peers.

A key point made clear by the authors is that the link between homelessness and mental illness among young people works in both directions— young people who are experiencing mental illness are at increased risk of homelessness, while those who are homeless are at increased risk of mental illness. As such, the report focuses on the need for (and the importance of) early intervention in addressing both youth homelessness and youth mental health issues.


3. A Renewed Voice for Social Canada (Canada, 2017)

This paper argues that Ottawa’s recent promise of a poverty reduction strategy must be more than a one-time commitment. According to the author, Ottawa’s strategy must provide for independent continuing appraisal and reappraisal of where we are and where we need to be, as Canada’s economy and society changes.

The paper provides useful historical information about past poverty reduction efforts and, drawing on the successes of those efforts, explicitly focuses on the value of (and need for) community voices in any future poverty reduction models.

Our recent analysis of the mandate letters for BC’s new Cabinet Ministers noted—with concern—insuffient calls for the inclusion of community voices. Because of these omissions, any poverty reduction models that can illustrate the importance of community engagement (and potential ways of doing so) will be valuable and helpful resources for BC’s community social services sector.


4. Indigenous-Driven Organizations Deliver Better Health Outcomes (Australia, 2017)

This new report out of Australia found that better health outcomes are achieved when local community organizations (especially Indigenous-led organizations) are allowed to take charge and lead the efforts. The report detailed how four co-operative community centres pioneered a new, collaborative way of conducting health research in rural Australia.

The findings demonstrated that governments should more often relinquish control and instead focus on building collaborative partnerships with local communities. The report also addresses considerations specific to rural public health efforts and the systemic racism minorities face in many healthcare institutions.

The research project detailed by the report offers a successful community engagement model and contains examples of new ways that BC’s community social services sector and the provincial government might share the responsibility of decision-making when it comes to community-specific programs and policies.


Insuring a strong and sustainable social services sector: Some benefits of being a Federation member

We are a sector that takes care of people. In order for us to do that job well, we need to also take care our organizations and the people that make up those organizations—it’s one of the most important things that we do. And The Federation has a number of programs and products available as a benefit of membership that can do just that!

Insurance Products

A strong and sustainable community social services sector must have access to high-quality and affordable insurance products. That’s why we offer members both The Federation Association Benefit Plan (FABP) in partnership with Schmunk Gatt Smith & Associates and The Federation General Insurance Plan (FGIP) in partnership with Megson FitzPatrick Insurance.

All agencies need insurance, and The Federation’s insurance products are designed to benefit all parties involved. We want to ensure the staff in our member agencies have access to good health care products so we can address some of the recruitment and retention issues in our sector. And we want to ensure BC’s community sector has choices when it comes to quality insurance products.

We know that many members have chosen other insurance providers and it is important to us that members have options. As hard as we work to make sure the Federation’s insurance products are as good as anything else available, we work just as hard to make sure members have and always will have the freedom of choice.

That said, by purchasing benefits and insurance through The Federation, our members can stretch their money and increase the value of their membership dollars. These insurance products are a significant revenue source for The Federation and enable us to do even more work advocating for and improving BC’s social care sector.

As Federation members, you have access to a suite of insurance programs that provide high-quality, comprehensive, reliable, and consistent insurance products at a reasonable cost. You can safeguard your organization with insurance that works for the unique needs of your agency, and even the smallest agencies can provide extended benefits for their staff with a plan that is one of only three plans compliant with the requirements of the BC Community Services Collective Agreement.

We all care about the strength and sustainability of BC’s community social services sector, and one of the biggest benefits of being a Federation member is being able to contribute to our sector’s longevity while supporting all the people we work with. If you have any questions about switching to a Federation Insurance Plan, please contact Donna at The Federation office.

Investment Pool Accounts

The Federation has an agreement with Realize Strategies to share with members a variety of services. One of these services is the Vancity Investment Pool Bank Accounts program.

This program features on-demand deposited funds with customized interest rates for surplus deposit funds and specially modified service charges for basic account activity. For more information on this program, contact Donna at The Federation office.


The Federation also has an agreement with Momentum Conferencing that grants our members discounted teleconferencing rates. Plus, upon signing, a credit of $35.00 will be applied to your teleconferencing account. Contact Donna at The Federation office for further details.


The NDP government’s mandate and The Federation’s next steps

Last week, BC Premier John Horgan released the mandate letters sent to each newly appointed Cabinet Minister as well as select Ministers of State. These letters (and additional information about each minister) can be found here. While there are many significant and promising objectives, there are also some omissions that our sector needs to address.

In the Supply and Confidence Agreement between the NDP and the Green Party, there was mention and recognition of the community sector’s role in serving the people of BC. That recognition is noticeably diminished in the mandate letters. This is perhaps most obvious in the letter to MCFD Minister Katrine Conroy which is narrowly focused on child protection and ministry social workers and lacks any mention of family support options.

While there are gaps and exclusions that we must pay attention to, I am nonetheless hopeful about the content of the letters. There are multiple directions related to reconciliation and more meaningful engagement with BC’s Indigenous people (both land-based and in urban communities) as well as a number of substantial commitments to help the people of BC thrive.

Helping the vulnerable people of BC

Altogether, the mandate letters reflect a government that is paying attention to the needs of the vulnerable people in this province. The increase to Income Assistance and Persons With Disabilities rates, the commitment to poverty reduction, and plans to improve access to childcare are all positive steps forward. We are also pleased to see a renewed focus on a continuum of services in areas of mental health, housing, and support to older adults.

Overall, I am hopeful about the approaches proposed by our new government. Pilot projects and incremental steps (toward things like poverty reduction and basic income) reflect a more thoughtful, responsive approach to tackling the more complex issues our province is facing. These are processes that The Federation can and will support and ones that open the door to more intentional and meaningful involvement of community agencies and community members in policy development.

The role of the community sector

That said, I firmly believe that there needs to be a bigger role for the community sector in the work these mandate letters demand. As we move forward, one of the main objectives of The Federation will be to help the new NDP government both understand the significance of these various omissions and recognize the pivotal role the community sector plays in planning and implementing social policy in BC.

This will be important for two reasons. A focus solely on services delivered by government ignores a large piece of the social care system when planning for resource allocation. Additionally, many skilled people with first-hand experience and knowledge about community needs and are left out of important decision-making processes.

We will all have an important role to play in the years to come. The Federation will continue to advocate on behalf of the sector, strive to ensure community voices are heard, and support and share models of community engagement—such as the recent Sustainability and Innovation pilot projects—that do the same.

Next steps

This work has just begun. I am continuing to schedule meetings with Ministers, Deputy Ministers, and key staff in the social care ministries. Your board members are providing valuable leadership and direction and surfacing feedback from Federation members about how we should engage with government.

We now know the new NDP government’s first steps. Together, we will help them get to work while also suggesting what the following steps should be.

To this end, The Federation has created an in-depth review of the mandate letters, the key priorities they map out, and the omissions that we will be sure to address over the coming months. Across all areas mentioned below, The Federation remains committed to advocating for increased funding to community-based services and greater involvement of the community sector in policy planning and development.

I encourage you to use this resource when talking with your own local MLA and government colleagues. Help them understand the important role community social services play in caring for the people of BC. Make sure they understand the value we add to social policy planning and development.

If you have any questions about the mandate letters or The Federation’s plans for working with the new NDP government, feel free to contact me.