Canada: Ford government slashes funding to children’s aid societies - PressFrom - Canada

CanadaFord government slashes funding to children’s aid societies

06:40  23 may  2019
06:40  23 may  2019 Source:

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The Progressive Conservative government is slashing the budget of Legal Aid Ontario, including eliminating funding for refugee and immigration law Legal Aid Ontario sent a letter to staff Thursday as the government tabled its first budget, saying the province is reducing funding to the organization

Last fall, Premier Doug Ford ’s government slashed that funding for all children ’ s aid agencies to 25 per cent of costs, Koster says. The funding formula for societies , Huether added, is based on the socio-economic needs of a community, the number of children in care and the volume of abuse

Ford government slashes funding to children’s aid societies© Chris Young Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, did not respond to the Star’s request for comment, but a ministry spokesperson said the well-being of vulnerable young people is the government’s “utmost priority.”

The Ford government is reducing funding for children and youth at risk by $84.5 million, according to an analysis of provincial spending estimates by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies.

The reduction includes a $28 million cut to the $1.5 billion the province gives 49 children’s aid societies in Ontario, increasing concerns about the ability of agencies to serve and protect vulnerable children. The cut comes as 18 child protection agencies struggle with deficits totalling more than $12 million.

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Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was a federal assistance program in effect from 1935 to 1996 created by the Social Security Act (SSA)

A large cut to legal- aid funding from Ontario’ s Progressive Conservative government will leave some of the province’ s most vulnerable and impoverished people without proper representation in court, lawyers warn, while also slashing Legal Aid Ontario’ s budget for refugee and immigration cases by

The deficits have already forced some agencies to lay off staff and reduce the number of children at risk they take into care.

“A decrease in children in care does not mean there are fewer children in need of protection,” the OACAS warned in a PowerPoint produced in late March, outlining its core messages before the provincial budget was tabled.

Ford government slashes funding to children’s aid societies© Jim Rankin Nicole Bonnie, chief executive officer of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, expressed concern about the impact the Ontario government cuts will have on vulnerable families.

The association’s post-budget analysis suggests their warning may not have been heard.

The $84.5 million cut for youth at risk is contained in a May 16 “briefing note” the OACAS sent to top CAS officials, and obtained by the Star. The calculations are based on the government’s operating and capital spending estimates tabled in the legislature May 9.

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The government ' s modernizing efforts also include adding video conferencing for in-custody court appearances. It will also leverage technology to generate administrative efficiencies. Government officials said this was designed to allow people living in northern communities to save on travel costs.

Legal Aid Ontario is cutting jobs and "exploring regulatory changes to support service improvements, efficiencies and cost savings" after the Doug Ford The changes come after the Ford government slashed the agency' s budget by 30 per cent, meaning it had 3 million fewer to spend compared to

The OACAS calculated funding envelopes that fall under the budget line of “child and youth at risk,” including services for child protection and youth involved with the justice system.

The association is uncertain about the full impact of the cuts. Some funding envelopes have been eliminated and new ones created. It’s unclear if programs funded under the eliminated envelopes will continue to be funded under the new ones. Some of the cuts may involve the closing of unused facilities or resources, particularly in the area of youth justice. But when all the pluses and minuses are calculated, the funding shortfall is $84.5 million, according to the OACAS.

“We are concerned about the impact of any potential cuts to our members and to the families that they serve,” Nicole Bonnie, chief executive officer of the OACAS said in an email response to questions.

“At this time we do not have details as to which programs will be funded or who will deliver them,” Bonnie added. “We are waiting for more detailed information from the ministry to understand the exact nature of the impact on child welfare.”

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Children ' s Aid Societies (CAS) in Ontario, Canada, are separate, independent organizations which have each been approved by the Ontario government 's Ministry of Children and Youth Services to provide child protection services.

The Ford government has cut millions in funding for programs that provide after-school jobs for needy teens, classroom tutors for kids, “student NDP Education Critic Marit Stiles said “these cuts are going to be deeply felt by children in classrooms. For Doug Ford to take the axe to our kids’ schools is

Bonnie hopes to soon meet with Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “Our message is and always has been that the children and families we serve are the most marginalized and disenfranchised, and programs that support their well-being need to be fully funded.”

The minister’s office did not respond to direct questions about the cuts. In an emailed statement, MacLeod’s press secretary, Derek Rowland, described the well-being of vulnerable young people as the government’s “utmost priority.” The steady decline of children being taken into care since 2006, he added, has helped most children’s aid societies balance their budgets and the ministry is working with those that haven’t.

“We will be holding Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies and other providers to higher standards to keep our kids safe,” Rowland said, denouncing what he described as “the lack of oversight and relaxed regulation” of the previous Liberal government.

Rowland said the government is increasing investments in prevention programs “to ensure kids keep out of trouble.” The government also “expects significant savings” in the youth justice sector after a review found “underutilized detention facilities.”

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+ TORONTO – The Ontario government is slashing millions of dollars in funding for programs that are aimed at providing students with extra skills and support, leaving school boards to figure out how students will be affected.

It will allow children ’ s aid societies to securely share confidential child protection information with one another and to better manage case files and finances. The Ontario Ombudsman oversees and investigates more than 1,000 provincial government and broader public sector bodies, such as

A plan to reduce the number of children’s aid societies through amalgamation is also being considered by the ministry.

What isn’t in doubt is that children’s aid societies will have less core funding to work with.

One children’s aid society, Brant Family and Children’s Services, has struggled with deficits that forced the layoff of 26 workers in March, in a community facing perhaps the worst opioid addiction epidemic in the province. Its executive director then posted a letter to the Brantford area community on the agency’s website, warning of serious consequences.

“When governments cut child welfare services (managers, front-line staff, and support services), children ultimately die or are allowed by society to live in unbearable, violent and neglectful conditions,” Andy Koster wrote.

“With higher caseloads and tight timelines, workers are forced to move from one crisis to another instead of planning and working proactively with families to prevent future incidents,” he added. “Despite best efforts, children fall through the cracks and suffer the consequences of insufficient resources.”

The cuts for children at risk also comes on the heels of the government eliminating the office that advocated for children and youth.

Kiaras Gharabaghi, director of Ryerson University’s School of Child and Youth Care, denounced the cuts as implemented without consultations.

“They are cuts that have no interest in making the system work better for kids and families,” he said in an interview after reviewing the OACAS document.

“This sector requires a different approach,” Gharabaghi added. “It’s one where young people die by violence, by suicide, by neglect. It’s not the same as increasing class sizes in schools to save some money.”

Sandro Contenta is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @scontenta

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