Whether it’s excessive workloads for frontline staff or inadequate services for people with addiction or mental health issues, many of the problems discussed in the report can be traced back to the failure of federal and provincial government to adequately fund social programs.
Ottawa (20 August 2018) — A report from the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) released this month found that unmanageable caseloads were a “critical issue” for 75 per cent of social workers working in child welfare. The report, Understanding Social Work and Child Welfare: Canadian Survey and Interviews with Child Welfare Experts, included a survey that was completed by 3,258 social workers with experience in child welfare.
The survey also found 44 per cent of child welfare social workers have experienced threats or violence and that, of those who no longer work in child welfare, 45 per cent left because of stress or vicarious trauma.
Survey shows commitment of children welfare workers
What was also clear from the survey was the commitment people working in child welfare bring to their jobs. When asked what gave them job satisfaction, the most common responses were being able to provide support to, and to interact with, the people they serve.
Addressing over-representation of Indigenous children, youth and families must be a priority
65 per cent of those surveyed reported that their caseloads included Indigenous children, youth and families. As research has shown time after time, that appalling figure is due to how Indigenous people in Canada have been treated rather than individual families.
Child welfare social workers were very clear on what needed to be done. Over half saw reducing poverty, improving services to help people with addiction and mental health problems and addressing systematic racism as essential to improving child welfare. The report also looked at the progress federal, provincial and territorial governments are making — or not making — at implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
Underfunding of social programs root cause of many problems mentioned in the report
Whether it’s excessive workloads for frontline staff or inadequate services for people with addiction or mental health issues, many of the problems discussed in the report can be traced back to the failure of federal and provincial governments to adequately fund social programs. As a history of federal funding produced by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) shows, funding for social assistance and social services has not recovered from the vicious cuts made in the 1990s.
NUPGE members working in child welfare won’t be surprised by the report
For NUPGE members working in child welfare the report from the CASW won’t be a surprise. The conclusions match what the union has been hearing from members for years.
The findings in the report remind us of why it is so important to keep up the fight to reverse cuts to social services funding. It’s also a reminder of the cost of failing to address the reasons so many children, youth and families need child welfare services.