Last month, we told you the provincial government would be taking a knife to "base line" funding for social service agencies so it can meet its budget target for fiscal 2010/11. This, according to a memo exclusively obtained by Public Eye. On Friday, The Vancouver Sun carried a story about that memo - with Children and Family Development Minister Mary Polak telling the paper the cut would amount to $10 million. So what's the response from the sector to that reduction? Well, in an email sent to Federation of Community Social Services Agencies members on the same day the broadsheet published that story, the group's executive director Jennifer Charlesworth stated, "We aren`t happy that there will be budget cuts and the Federation continues to work at the political and public level to advocate for adequate resources for the community social services sector."
Nevertheless, Ms. Charlesworth encouraged agencies to participate in local and regional discussion with government about where those cuts should be made "in an effort to sustain front line supports for citizens." The following is a complete copy of that email.
From: "Jennifer Charlesworth"
Date: February 12, 2010 12:13:28 PM PST (CA)
To: "Jennifer Charlesworth"
Subject: Update to members re: announced funding reductions in MCFD
I am writing to update you on a number of matters starting with the Minister of CFD`s announcement today about funding reductions. We have been in conversations with MCFD in the past 24 hours to try and obtain information about funding targets and the regional consultation or review processes that should now be underway in every region. There are some misunderstandings out there and misinformation so we hope to provide you with some clear information in this note.
MCFD funding reductions: The Minister has announced that there will be a $10M reduction to contracted services in 2010-11 and a further $5M transfer from the general services or `mainstream` contract services to Aboriginal contract services. This amounts to slightly less than 2% of the contracted services budget for MCFD + about a 0.5% transfer to Aboriginal services. Based on the parameters that were set out by the ministry in a letter dated January 21 (attached), these reductions will not be done on an across-the-board basis. Some services and programs will receive no reductions while others may receive more than 2%. The regions now know what their targets are for reductions and I expect that they will be sharing this with service providers in the next week. (I don`t know where things are at with the other ministries; I understand that CLBC will be as per the September 2009 budget update)
Regional consultations: As noted in the letter from MCFD, there is an expectation that MCFD regional staff will engage the community service providers in discussions about how the fiscal pressures and challenges will be addressed, while preserving services and organizational sustainability. The regions are at different stages in this process and have been approaching the discussions in diverse ways. Your Federation regional director is your primary point of contact for any questions and concerns that you have about this process. Some of the parameters that were set out in the letter are being interpreted in ways that do not reflect the original intent, so we raised concerns with the Ministry and they have already convened a teleconference meeting with the regional ADMs and REDs to ensure that there is a consistent interpretation of the parameters. They will be backing this up with Qs and As for staff, that will also be shared with us (we expect to receive these on Monday and will distribute to members). The Ministry will likely not be able to make all the decisions prior to April 1st, but they have indicated that it is their goal to ensure that no agency is surprised by decisions reached - discussions at the group and individual agency level will be a priority. They are aiming to have as transparent a process as possible given government requirements and will not be making special `deals` with any sub-sector or group or agency.
In-scope and out of scope for review and possible reductions: As noted in the January 21 letter, Aboriginal services are not in scope for review and any possible reductions. The funding will be sustained and in some cases enhanced with the transfer of resources noted above. In addition, foster care rates and supports will not be reduced. All other services and program areas are 'in-scope' for review. It should be noted however that Child and Youth with Special Needs (CYSN) services will be reviewed through a separate process. There have been some statements to the effect (including in the Legislature) that these are exempt from the review process - this is not the case and clarifications are being provided to staff and Minister`s office, etc. One decision that has already been made is that funding increases for a number of CYSN services that were set out in the original 2009-10 budget will not be rolled out.
Accessing information and briefing: The Ministry and the Federation will now be holding weekly meetings or teleconferences to keep the lines of communication open and address any issues arising. I addition, we will be receiving a letter and Qs and As by Monday that provide clear information about the extent of funding reductions and the process Sarf Ahmed has agreed to be available to our members during the scheduled February 25th webinar
Of course we aren`t happy that there will be budget cuts and the Federation continues to work at the political and public level to advocate for adequate resources for the community social services sector. At the same time, we encourage members to participate in these local and regional discussions about the continuum of care and fiscal challenges in an effort to sustain front line supports for citizens.
As we move towards the March 2nd budget we will be communicating regularly with you, and urge you to keep us apprised of what you are facing in your agencies.
hang in there!
Jennifer Charlesworth, PhD
Federation of Community Social Services of BC