Last week, Premier Horgan announced the measured approach that BC will be taking as our province moves forward in its ongoing response to COVID-19. This approach aims to balance vital population health goals—saving lives by protecting the most vulnerable and preventing the health care system from being overwhelmed—with the need to get people safely back to work and address the unintended consequences of the strict public health guidelines BC has been following.
A Phased, Tiered Approach
Each different economic sector (i.e., tourism, construction, hospitality, social services) is being tasked with creating a phased approach to resuming pre-pandemic service levels. For the social services sector, this work will be coordinated by the Social Services Sector Roundtable. With guidance from the Roundtable, different funding ministries will be responsible for working with community social services to advise on more detailed subsector plans that are applicable to unique service areas (e.g., children and family services, childcare, housing, community living).
Sector-Wide Plan >> Subsector Plans >> Organizational Plans
The goal is for these sector-wide and subsector plans to provide enough direction so that each organization can tailor the directions to their own distinct needs. Rather than an approval process for organizations to follow, there will be a set of tools and guidelines empowering and helping you make decisions and plans that are right for your staff, programs, and clients.
As we see it, the main challenge will be ensuring that you have the information you need in order to make these decisions and create plans for your organization. This will remain a primary focus for The Federation in the weeks to come and we will now be aided by the Roundtable in getting timely, accurate information to you.
The Sector-Wide Plan
The Roundtable is working on a draft of the sector-wide social services plan right now. The various subsectors are represented within it and the sector’s funding ministries have been charged with reaching out to social service umbrella groups to gather input. The plan includes a 4-stage approach for resuming service delivery levels and recognizes the key considerations that will influence how this staged approach unfolds (e.g., workforce issues related to wages, burnout, staffing; access to childcare options for employees).
The planning process has also taken into account anticipated increases in service needs within program areas such as anti-violence, supports for children with special needs, families living in poverty or at risk of homelessness, and those living with mental health issues. The community organizations at the Roundtable have been very clear that considerations such as these need to be addressed in order to resume pre-pandemic service delivery levels.
The Federation’s Approach
The Federation has convened a small working group of members to provide input on the sector-wide plan to ensure that it represents the diverse needs and interests of our membership. The working group is approaching this task using the same two-part framework that guides all the Federation’s efforts: (1) a commitment to live into reconciliation and resurgence, and (2) an unwavering focus on the strength and sustainability of our sector.
Indigenous people and communities (both urban and land-based) faced daunting systemic inequity and steep social barriers prior to the pandemic. Every single one of us must ensure that our approaches to resuming delivery of social services do not unfairly affect Indigenous peoples in any way.
The strength and sustainability of this sector are central to any discussion we have about the availability and accessibility of services in BC. Our sector has responded with creativity and compassion during the past months and adapted how we work in order to keep working. But issues related to wage gaps, funding structures, and procurement continue to cause stress and, if not addressed, could weaken this essential sector at a time when it is most needed.
One Important Question
As our sector and our organizations move forward and plan what the future will look like, there is one other aspect of this crisis we want to address. I believe it will be important to understand what we have learned about service delivery and sector capacity as a result of the adaptations we have been forced to make over the past weeks and months.
This is an opportunity to create a new way of doing things because, in many cases, the way things were done wasn’t working. So to help take advantage of this opportunity as best we can, The Federation has created the world’s shortest survey. It is only one question. We want you to tell us what needs to stop, what needs to be done differently, what needs to keep going, and what needs to be created anew regarding BC’s community social services.
The survey tool allows you to see what others have shared and vote for other people’s responses. Please take a minute to respond by the end of the week. Just go to this link and enter the passcode WYFR4A. Let us know what you have learned and experienced and we will use it to guide the work that will take place in the coming weeks and months. As always, do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions or concerns. Contact information for the entire Federation team is available on our website.
In closing, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks for everything you have done over the past few months. I know this might seem like a daunting task, especially when you have all already given so much and I want you to know that you are seen and you are appreciated. I sincerely hope that you, your families, and the people you serve are safe and healthy and well taken care of.