Social service agency budgets could get axed

The provincial government could be putting discretionary grants to social service agencies on the chopping block. Speaking with reporters today, Finance Minister Colin Hansen acknowledged discretionary grants could be "impacted" by the government's effort to find $1.9 billion in administrative efficiencies over three years. Asked whether grants "impacted" would include those allocated to social service agencies, the minister said, "We're going through all the discretionary grants line-by-line. In some cases, you've got organizations that may be doing great work. But then you realize it's a duplication of what somebody else is doing. So let's find ways to get those groups working together that reduces the administrative cost of delivering that front-line service."

"There are cases where we've identified that there might be dollars going out the door to an organization when, in fact, those services should be provided by front-line government workers. So we're not looking at it from the perspective of whoever has been funded in the past should get funded in the future. We're saying how best can we deliver those services in the most cost-effective way. And I can tell you, just in the last month and a half, there has been many, many, many hours sitting in committee literally going through line by line and you wind up with something that's $5,000. And somebody says, 'Well, it's only $5,000.' And I say, 'No, no. It is $5,000.' It's been a pretty intense process as we've gone through this."

6 Comments

Hmmmmm......

How many times, exactly, does $5K go into this?

Or this?

Or this?

Or even this?

Sheesh.

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From first-hand experience, I could give Mr. Hanson a list of social service organizations that deserve to get whacked - not because they duplicate front-line government workers - but simply because they are wasteful, lazy, and incompetent.

But Mr. Hanson's analaysis is off-base if he thinks social service agencies are duplicating the efforts of front-line government workers. In many cases, social service agencies are the only ones doing the work, and often with a lot less cost to the tax-paper than BC's unionized civil servants.

I could think of one way of saving money and that is to have the deputy of MCFD pay her own living expenses!!!! Enough with this several thousand dollars a month "living allowance"!!!!

Mr. McLeod--

Civil servant slagging aside, I entirely agree with your point about social service agencies often being the only ones doing the work.

Thus, another bizarre thing about Mr. Hansen's comment is that it would appear to be diametrically opposed to his government's own 'privatization/outsourcing is better' mantra.

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tp--

Would that 'several', you mention equal, perhaps, 'five'?

.

Mr Hansen is absolutely right to scrutinize every $5,000 grant going out to outside contractors, agencies and groups. The first lens needs to be: is a legitimate benefit being provided and can someone else do a better job for the same or less vs. just assuming that past practice or the right connections are all the validation you need.

But I think he will find, at least from my experience in community living, that most of the non-profits currently funded by government to provide essential services like housing and caring for people who can't live independently, are doing so for far less cost than government could even dream of ever matching (and yes, that's partly because many are forced to seek out non-union staff or rely on volunteers to make ends meet, and partly because they do private fundraising to subsidize the cost of operations).

The second lens needs to be: is the benefit meeting a valid need; is it adequate, excessive or not enough; and is it more or less important than other needs going unmet. This decision is based on social judgement and thus requires full transparency to ensure it meets public expectations. In undertaking such an exercise, govt needs to be prepared to acknowledge that in some cases, perhaps many, the funding is woefully inadequate and needs to be augmented, not cut.

But before the Finance Minister even starts thinking about the value provided by government-supported community agencies or cutting vital front-line services provided to ordinary British Columbians in need (health care, education and social services), he must first put his own house in order. And he should start by seriously reconsidering whether BC can afford the appalling salary increases given to MLAs, Ministers and senior bureaucrats, the shocking waste represented by untendered contracts to all those well-connected but grossly overpaid "consultants," or the extraordinarily skewed priorities represented by the gross over-funding of political functions such as the Public Affairs Bureau and government advertising.

Viewed through the second lens above, I doubt you'd find many British Columbians who would agree that outrageous salary increases for MLAs and top bureaucrats, multi-million dollar ad campaigns telling us we're the best place on earth, or the recently-revealed $275/hour contract to a friend of the MCFD Deputy, should stay in place while we continue to deny special education services and early intervention therapy to kids with special needs or cut programs like respite care, which allows families to support challenging individuals at home instead of giving them up into hugely costly government care.

I am a retired government social worker as well as volunteered in the non -profit social service sector. When Colin Hansen says that "there are cases where we've identified that there might be dollars going out the door to an organization when, in fact, those services should be provided by front-line government workers," he tells only a fraction of the story. Non profits,whether unionized or not, provide an essential, cheaper and generally more disposable service. Some of the work done by Government Workers has been peeled off over the years as demands increased. The system constantly reinvents itself peripherally in order to give the impression of progress and beneficial change.
By all means examine budget lines. However do not pretend that much of the work being done, either from a busy government employee's desk or a social service agency workers desk, are not pretty much the same work. There may be better ways to do the work but I doubt there are meaningful economies to be found. Budget trimmers don't care a whit about that.

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