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Children’s advocate speaks out about staff shortages in northern Saskatchewan

Corey O'Soup says sending people to northern communities to temporarily fill positions helps, but the government should come up with a long-term solution. Sean Lerat / Global News

Saskatchewan’s children’s advocate says he is worried about vacant front-line social service positions in northern communities.

Corey O’Soup said it is troubling, especially in light of the suicides last month of six girls in the region.

He said professionals in the north are overwhelmed by the situation.

READ MORE: SGEU says vacant social services jobs hurts struggling northern Sask. communities

O’Soup said sending people to northern communities to temporarily fill positions helps, but the government should come up with a long-term solution.

The province imposed a hiring freeze on Tuesday due to its growing deficit deficit, but says the freeze does not apply to front-line positions such as social workers.

O’Soup said the safety of children is compromised when there are too few staff.

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“We certainly hope that the government considers these important positions to be essential given the impact of their work in the region,” he said Friday in a release.

READ MORE: Mental health professionals focus on schools in northern Sask. suicide crisis

The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union has said the Ministry of Social Services has identified more than 30 vacant positions in its northern service area this month.

Union president Bob Bymoen has said social workers on the job are not getting enough support and are struggling to manage high caseloads.

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