Advocating for sustainable social services

Earlier this week, I stood before the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government services on behalf of all Federation members. I explained to them the importance of community social services in BC and I told them that well-funded community social services are a necessity if BC’s communities are to prosper.

I told them that, yes—it’s possible to make change. And I acknowledged the ways this new government has already shown that (e.g., increases to Income Assistance and Persons with Disabilities rates, expanding the tuition waiver program). But I also made clear the fact that the kind of problems that still lay ahead of us will not be solved with the same tools and tactics we have tried before.

The point of these consultations is to give citizens, groups, and organizations the opportunity to provide input on what should be the priorities for our next provincial budget. So my goal was to make sure the committee members understood the following important points.

1. What community social services are
“Someone you know relies on community social services to live their life. The well-being of our children, our families, our neighbours, and friends—no matter what they’re facing: be it illness, aging, inequality, or just bad luck—is intrinsically tied to the well-being of the sector that was built to serve them.”

2. The state our sector is in
“For many years, The Federation has presented to this committee and made clear the need for increased investment in social services. Our concern about the severe underfunding of BC’s community social services is a matter of public record. It is our assessment—after years of tracking the provincial budget—that the economic prosperity of our province has been built on the backs of vulnerable children, seniors, and people with disabilities.”

3. The need for wage increases 
“We can’t keep relying on people to do this work simply because they are “good, caring people.” They are good, caring people but they do demanding, difficult work where people’s livelihoods are at stake. They, like all of us, deserve to feel safe and supported in their positions. If you want to improve service delivery, support and empower the people delivering those services.”

4. How to improve workplace safety 
“The answer is funding increases to the sector so people don’t have to wait as long for the services they need. The answer is funding increases to hire enough staff and to provide them with adequate supervision and proper training—such as trauma-informed approaches to care—so they can carry out their important work.”

5. The value of community-based service delivery
“There is immense value—for all parties involved—in having social services delivered by organizations that are embedded within the communities they serve. Doing so means the money spent on that community stays in that community. It means approaches are based on the knowledge of local history, culture, and geography. It enables local citizens to serve as volunteers and local business to assist with delivery and development—everyone involved has a deep connection to the community.”

6. The importance of collaboration 
“The work ahead of us is complex and it will be difficult. But it will be less difficult if we all work together. The entire sector—MCFD, CLBC, community agencies, Indigenous organizations—needs to be on the same page from day one, moving in the same direction, and at the same pace.”

You can read The Federation’s entire presentation here.

The Select Standing Committee hearings continue across the province through October 13. I encourage you to make a submission. You can present in person or you can make a written, audio, or video submission or complete a survey. The link to the consultation portal is here. The full list of public hearing locations, dates and times can be found here.

The Federation is determined to take advantage of the years of work that have got us to this position. In addition to our presentation to the Select Standing Committee, board members and I are continuing to meet with Social Care Ministers and we have also participated in early planning sessions with Minister Simpson in regards to the poverty reduction strategy the government has committed to legislating in 2018.

If you want to learn more about the actions we are undertaking in support of sustainable community social services in BC, join us at The Federation General Meeting in Richmond next week (or the follow-up webinar on October 19). I look forward to seeing you there!

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director