Fiscal restraint measures at kids ministry

Children and family development top bureaucrat Lesley du Toit has told staff her ministry will be looking at "fiscal restraint measures" in the coming weeks. According to an email distributed on Wednesday, that means it may be "necessary to revisit" timeframes for some ministry initiatives. Although there will be no "across-the-board hiring freeze."

Instead, the ministry will "have to prioritize and find ways to innovatively move our agenda forward" at a time when the government is projecting a significant decline in its revenues. But most of the financial impacts of that decline will "affect next year and the outgoing years." Ms. du Toit expects to manage some of the ministry's budget pressure through "natural" staff attrition and more better managing travel, meeting and conference costs.

In his 2006 independent review, former conflict of interest commissioner Ted Hughes stated British Columbia's child protection system "had been buffeted by an unmanageable degree" of organizational change since the Campbell administration took office. And "much of this has gone on against a backdrop of significant spending cuts, even though it is commonly understood that organizational change costs money."


From: Gabitous, Jason MCF:EX
Sent: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 11:07 AM
To: MCF All Exchange mailboxes
Subject: DM Message to staff

Sent on behalf of the Deputy Minister

Dear colleagues:

I want to say thank you to all of you who have worked so very hard in the past year to increase our effectiveness in service delivery. We've come quite a way together on our transformation journey since 2006. This year, we refined our work plan for change and published Strong, Safe and Supported: Government's Commitment to Children, Youth and Families. We have firmly established a focus on the full continuum of services, including prevention and early intervention, and a strengths-based approach to supporting and protecting vulnerable children and youth.

The Strong, Safe and Supported Congress earlier this year was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our good practice and focus on the 5 pillars which require full implementation in order to bring to life the commitment we have towards our children, youth and families in BC. Further regional congresses have afforded many people the opportunity to share in both our celebration of success and our continued dedication to improving circumstances for vulnerable children, youth and their families.

As we proceed forward, we are faced with a number of challenges which is not unusual during a change process. A significant component of our work is to develop resilience in children, youth and families. That same resilience should be reflected in our ministry, and it will be as we continue to turn challenges into opportunities for growth. A significant challenge for the coming years will be the economic situation in BC. As you are aware, the global economic situation has changed dramatically over the past few months and of course the BC economy is not immune to the effects of this economic crisis. Government revenues are now projected to decline significantly. Strong, Safe and Supported will continue. While it may be necessary to revisit some timeframes, we remain committed not only to these initiatives but also to our vision of a system of support for these children and families that is much more responsive to needs.

BC is required by legislation to balance its budget and in order to achieve this, fiscal restraint measures are required and we will be looking at this in the coming weeks.

The economic reality we face does not change the demographic reality of an ageing workforce and we know that there will be strong competition for increasingly scarce labour supply in the future. There will be no across-the-board hiring freeze. We will manage some of this budget pressure through the natural attrition that will occur as people retire or leave their positions.

A strong component of transformation is innovation; doing what we do differently. In this time of tightening our budget, we will have to prioritize and find ways to innovatively move our agenda forward to deliver the best possible services for children, youth and families. You will soon see some of these innovations emerge in the Practice Framework and Change Management Plan which will be ready in January. In the meantime, there are a number of practical ways you can assist with these challenges. For example, I require you to consider ways to do your work that create efficiency with regard to travel, meetings and conferences. You will hear more details of these measures through your Leadership.

Some financial impacts will affect this fiscal year, but most will affect next year and the outgoing years. All Ministries are working together to ensure that there is a strong corporate plan to manage financial challenges together. As with other Ministries, over the next few months our Leadership Team will propose actions specific to MCFD and staff will be given the opportunity to comment on and shape the outcomes to the extent that time allows in the tight timeframes.

Challenges always bring with them opportunity. While the economic pressure may not seem like an opportunity, we as a ministry are committed to finding ways to address this situation with innovation and efficiency while we continue to support children, youth and families. I would encourage us all to view this time as an opportunity to courageously move forward on changes that we would inevitably have made through transformation but perhaps over a longer period of time. Some of these courageous steps include a new approach to assessment, to quality assurance and to practice. I know that you may be feeling nervous or uncertain about these changes. I ask for your patience and understanding as we go forward and commit to you that I will communicate any new information as it becomes available.

In a challenging fiscal environment, it is more important than ever that we have the good people we need to do the work. To that end, I want to express my deep appreciation for what you do each day.

Kind Regards,
Lesley du Toit
Deputy Minister

1 Comment

When I see reference to MCFD's new approach to assessment discussed in the same breath as "opportunities" to respond to economic pressures, it makes me very, very afraid.

The new functional assessment models that MCFD is working on to determine need and eligibility have been proposed by many to address the terrible current inequity of children, youth and young adults with special needs who are being denied desperately-needed supports and services, simply because they have the wrong diagnosis or IQ score.

As soon as we started talking about fiscal restraint, I realized it would take no time for the beancounters to seize on this as an opportunity to do the opposite - i.e. to instead use this change to deny access to those children who ARE currently guaranteed access based on an autism diagnosis.

If this is where Ms. Du Toit is going, she clearly has not been around long enough to witness the fury of thousands of desperate, driven "autistic parents" who feel they are being wronged by government, and she's obviously not listening to the bureaucrats who have been around long enough to remember Auton.

It's also curious that her memo mentions not a word about how she intends to manage the massive new task of effecting the latest transition that the Premier dumped on MCFD staff when he ordered CLBC moved to Rich Coleman's new Ministry and the separation and re-integration of all services for children and youth with special needs back into MCFD's regional bureaucratic framework.

I fear we may see very troubling times ahead.

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