Federation Projects & Issues Update

The past week and a half at The Federation office has been very focused on issues arising out of the government’s Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate. On Monday, I shared with members a letter the Federation Board has sent to BC’s Minister of Finance Carole James.

This letter highlighted our growing concerns about the sustainability of BC’s community social services sector and the increasingly precarious position we have been put in as the result of government actions (such as the Employer Health Tax calculations and changes to the Master Insurance plan). We are also setting up a meeting with Minister James and I will be providing updates to members as our work on this important issue progresses.

In the meantime, there are also a number of other projects and issues that The Federation team continues to work on…

Labour Market Partnership Research

Thanks to funding provided by the Ministry of Advanced Education Skills and Training, we have been working with our partners at SparcBC and CSSEA to address critical information gaps about our broad sector. This research project is an important part of The Federation’s ongoing work to address the recruitment and retention challenges BC’s community social services sector faces.

With this research in hand, we will be able to work with the provincial government to design a well-informed labour market strategy to better attract people into the sector. Later this month some of you may be contacted by SparcBC to participate in some interviews. The Federation will also be circulating a survey for both managers and front line staff. I encourage you to take the time to help us collect this important information.

Social Sector Pensions 

The Federation staff team is also researching issues related to pensions in our sector and exploring what a sector-wide pension plan could look like. In order to aid this effort, we would like to hear from our members about your current pension plan (if any) and how retirement benefits affect (or might affect) recruitment and retention at your organization.

If you have not already completed this short survey, please consider doing so today.  All responses will remain confidential. If you have questions about this survey and/or this initiative, please contact The Federation’s Member Services Coordinator Kathy Powelson at kathy@fcssbc.ca.

Social Policy Forum Videos 

For those of you that were unable to attend last month’s Social Policy Forum (and those of you that were there that want to review the presentations), recordings from the event are now up on the Conferences page of The Federation website.

You can watch Tim Agg’s presentation on the Reimagining Community Inclusion initiative (as well as the Q&A session) and Allison Bond’s presentation on MCFD’s Strategic Plan and Priorities. We have also included a link to the webinar recording of Frances Rosner’s slides and review of recent changes to Indigenous child welfare legislation.

A New Leadership 2020 Cohort

Our next Leadership 2020 cohort launches at the beginning of May. (And there are still a few seats left if you and/or your staff want to take part!) We’ve been told the length of the residencies can pose a barrier to attending so this cohort will be prototyping a slightly shorter version of the program.

We are also thrilled to welcome Kelly Foxcroft-Poirier to the hosting team along with Chris Corrigan, Caitlin Frost, Annemarie Travers, and Rebecca Ataya Lang. You can learn more about the program and download the Application Form here.

Rick FitzZaland
Executive Director


Federation Research Bulletin: March 2019

This month’s research bulletin includes articles and reports about harm reduction in BC, substance misuse, vulnerable youth, child exploitation, mental health, social work outcomes, inequality, and reconciliation-informed policy and practice.

  1. Vulnerability and child sexual exploitation: Towards an approach grounded in life experiences (2018, UK)
  2. Decision Support Systems, Social Justice and Algorithmic Accountability in Social Work: A New Challenge (2019, UK)
  3. Mobile supervised consumption services in Rural British Columbia: lessons learned (2019, Canada)
  4. True, Lasting Reconciliation: Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in BC law, policy, and practices (2018, Canada)
  5. Let’s stop blaming ourselves for stigmatizing mental health (2019, Canada)

For more information, additional research, and/or if you have feedback about how we can make this member service more useful, please contact The Federation’s Research and Policy Coordinator, Pam Alcorn at pam@fcssbc.ca. Subscribe to get future Research Bulletins sent directly to your inbox!


1. Vulnerability and child sexual exploitation: Towards an approach grounded in life experiences

This study uses the concept of vulnerability as a frame through which to understand and address the issue of child sexual exploitation. Researchers used qualitative interviews and participatory workshops (including life mapping and in-depth discussions) to collect information and insights from people who had experienced child sexual exploitation.

The study examined how vulnerability is shaped through individual factors, situational dynamics, and structural forces (family bonds, disrupted attachments, particular places, social divisions, institutional responses) and explores lived experiences to provide valuable insights into possible programming and legislative responses.

The authors argue that in order to respond effectively to vulnerability inherent in cases of child sexual exploitation, we need to move beyond discussions of ‘risk factors’ and denial of agency and towards an understanding of ‘critical moments,’ intersectional inequalities, social marginality and how these shape the actions of vulnerable young people.

2. Decision Support Systems, Social Justice and Algorithmic Accountability in Social Work: A New Challenge

Across a range of fields (social work, health, education, criminal justice), government departments and organizations have amassed an enormous amount of data about citizens. And now new techniques for extracting and analyzing this data are being used to develop algorithmic-driven decision support systems—the “next generation” of decision support tools in the vein of checklists and practice frameworks like Signs of Safety or Solution Based Casework.

This new approach has mainly been deployed in criminal justice and child welfare services (e.g., to predict outcomes for someone who accessed a service or model potential child welfare interventions). However, these systems have already been shown to make incorrect recommendations to decision-makers, or recommendations which perpetuate existing social prejudices that disadvantage service users.

This article provides insight into current examples where this new decision-making approach has been deployed and suggests principles and approaches that might prevent new decision-making processes from perpetuating injustice and inequality. The authors also suggest that social workers must serve as advocates where such systems are in place and be educated about how, why, and when the recommendations of such systems should be challenged.

3. Mobile supervised consumption services in Rural British Columbia: lessons learned

This report evaluates the impact of two mobile supervised consumption sites piloted in rural BC communities surrounding Kelowna and Kamloops in response to the overdose-related public health emergency declared in 2016.

The independent evaluation team used quantitative and qualitative data collected from clients, service providers, and community stakeholders to gauge the effectiveness of this new intervention and to provide insights into the unique challenges rural and smaller communities face in responding to BC’s overdose crisis.

According to the report, the mobile supervised consumption sites were considered effective both by those accessing them and those providing services. However, a number of logistical challenges suggest that such interventions should only be considered a temporary solution while long-term services are created in rural communities.

4. True, Lasting Reconciliation: Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in BC law, policy, and practices

This report was jointly produced by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It examines the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as it applies to Canada, takes stock of current efforts to implement the UN Declaration in BC, identifies roles and responsibilities required in implementation efforts, and makes recommendations on actions going forward.

This report is aimed at and relevant for at a wide array of audiences—the general public, politicians, government officials, service providers—and it provides a four-point action plan for the implementation of the UN Declaration in BC to be considered by Indigenous peoples, government, advocates, and the public at large.

5. Let’s stop blaming ourselves for stigmatizing mental health

In this article, a Canadian psychiatry professor surveys and summarizes contemporary mental health research in order to explain why we need more than public education campaigns to address stigma about mental health issues.

According to the author, if we start stigma reduction education with the default assumption that we all hold certain types of stigma (and that we can never eradicate it) we can start having a different kind of conversation. In order to respond in a non-judgmental way to the explicit stigma perpetuated by others, we need to acknowledge and normalize our own implicit stigma; reducing stigma cannot be accomplished without practicing self-compassion and self-forgiveness.

The brief and straightforward article links to many supporting resources and academic research so that readers can further investigate the points that are raised. And while the focus is on mental health, these insights can help practitioners understand and address other stigmatized issues just as effectively.