One of the messages that The Federation has been using for many, many years describes our sector as one of three legs of a stool. The point this makes is that without a stable social care sector the other two legs—health and education—aren’t able to keep our province strong and steady.
This idea has been a key part of our communication and advocacy efforts for over 10 years. It has informed our submissions to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, numerous editorials we have had published, and countless conversations and meetings with government.
In February, for the first time that I can recall, a BC Finance Minister made specific mention of the community-based social service workers in a provincial budget speech. And now, in this ongoing state of emergency, we are seeing on a daily basis the many ways that BC’s community social services sector is being called on to support those in need, maintain emotional and social wellness, and care for those who would otherwise fall between the cracks.
For many, many years the community social services sector has been drawing attention to the impact we have on the health of our cities and communities. And now people are paying attention. BC’s Provincial Health Officer is responding to this crisis by, among other things, explicitly calling on our sector to keep doing what we have been doing for years—showing up and caring for our clients, supporting those in need, and ensuring that vulnerable people are not made even more vulnerable by this public health crisis.
Over the past few weeks, Premier Horgan has called together an economic recovery task force for the province and The Federation has been invited to participate to ensure that the perspective of the community social services sector is included. The Premier chairs this task force along with Finance Minister Carole James and the Minister of Jobs, Economic Development, and Competitiveness, Michelle Mungall. The Federation joins SUCCESS, Creative BC, the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, BC Federation of Labour, and several boards of trade as the non-governmental members of the task force.
The fact that the social services sector is already being included in the planning of our province’s economic recovery feels like a major milestone and something we should be proud of. My work on this task will, of course, be informed by the knowledge and experience of the Social Services Sector Roundtable Reference Group and, for this reason, I am especially thankful for the strong, collaborative effort that our partners and sector allies have put into this initiative over the past year. To me, this is a perfect example of what it means to be altogether better.
And while this crisis has demonstrated the importance of a strong social care system, it has also laid bare some of the gaps in the system that still exist. The fact that we are urgently needed does not mean the inequities and barriers that challenge our sector have magically disappeared.
Right now, some of the lowest-paid staff in the sector are the ones that our entire province is relying on most. Many folks across the sector often work in more than one setting. Communications challenges feel amplified due to the urgency of the crisis. Planning and risk management are made even more frustrating when you are struggling to access timely information.
A number of the issues that The Federation has been talking about for years have been put in sharp focus. We are working to address them at this moment while also trying to learn from them and connect the dots for our partners and funders so that the sector will come out of this stronger and more able to face what the future holds.
I want to acknowledge all of the frontline staff who are showing up for their shifts ready to support people and who are being flexible and creative so that no one is left behind. Thank you for your patience and compassion as you support your community members.
I want to acknowledge the community social service leadership teams who are finding ways to keep your organizations operating, making tough decisions without all the information that is needed, and continuing to provide guidance and security to their staff teams. Thank you for going above and beyond in a time of unprecedented crisis.
I want to acknowledge the boards of directors who are guiding their organizations through this uncertainty. Thank you for ensuring that our services and supports continue to operate in the spirit of the visions and mission with which they were created.
And I want to acknowledge our colleagues in the provincial government for working with us as true partners in a time of chaos. Thank you for your willingness to speed up and take the kinds of risks that do not often come easily to government.
If you have any questions, concerns, or information to share, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact information for our entire staff team can be found here. We are doing our very best to keep members informed and supported as things unfold.