Advocates for the British Columbia’s most vulnerable youth expressed cautious optimism at the provincial government’s announcement that over 100 front-line workers would be hired for the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“Additional front-line social workers, and support staff, will improve the lives of vulnerable children and families in crisis who rely on these services,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union.
“However, the province still needs to increase wages in this sector to prevent skilled social workers from moving to provinces that pay considerably more.”
The government says they will increase funding to the ministry by $217 million over three years, in the following areas:
“No child should have to live in poverty and uncertainty, and government has an amazing staff of dedicated professionals who, along with countless dedicated individuals in service agencies, foster families and other areas of support, have spent their careers on the frontlines working to make life better for these children.”
B.C.’s representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, had been calling for the government to increase funding by close to $100 million a year to make up for cuts made to the ministry last decade.
“It won’t close the $100 million hole that’s there,” she said.
“To some extent what the budget today reflects is that the government has been pennywise and proud foolish. They’ve had stand pat budgets that got to the position where they actually compromised public safety, and now they’ve started to fill it back in.”
WATCH: Sophie Lui talks to Finance Minister Mike de Jong about this year’s provincial budget, including how fair the MSP changes are, and the measures meant to address Vancouver’s soaring real estate prices.
Turpel-Lafond has been sharply critical of spending practices in the ministry before, and cautioned that it remained to be seen where exactly the new funds would go.
“Now that the money has come back, a lot will depend on whether the money is connected to children. The money can’t be spent on business consultants and management consultants to do vanity makeovers,” she said.
Overall, the budget for the ministry will increase from $1.4 billion this year to $1.5 billion next fiscal year — but the NDP says it’s not enough.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this point. Their first three years in office, they reduced funding for [MCFD] by 28 per cent, this will increase funding the next three years by 18 per cent,” said NDP leader John Horgan.
“We’re still well in a deep hole, and it’ll take a long time getting out of it.”