The Multi Year Action Plan for the Ministry of Child and Family Development released by the B.C. government addresses some key goals from the Ed John report, but fails to address the central issue of staff retention as identified in the Plecas report, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union says.
Under the plan’s objective to “enhance services, supports and systems to better serve all children and their families,” the first strategy is to “prioritize recruitment, retention and training in key areas.” However, there are no actions or funding allocated to increase retention rates.
“Implementing a staff recruitment strategy without a plan to address retention will do little to increase services and stability in this sector,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “The serious issue of attrition must be addressed for new staff recruits to make a real difference in children’s lives.”
While the government claims to have hired 300 new front-line social workers over the past two years, ministry documents show a net increase of only 200 workers during this time. In other words, for every three new workers hired during this time, the ministry lost one.
“Wage rates are the main impediment to keeping social workers in the public service,” says Social, Information and Health Component 6 vice president Doug Kinna. “The Plecas report clearly shows that wage rates for social workers are about 11 per cent below the national average. The recent recruitment incentive for staff in hard-to-recruit communities is a start, but doesn’t address the real issue, which is the need for a market wage adjustment for social workers in this ministry.
“A lot of resources are put into training new staff who are hired into the ministry, but that training can be wasted if staff move to another province or state that pays more competitive wage rates.”
The BCGEU is once again calling on the B.C. government to address the comparatively low wage rates of ministry worker through a market wage adjustment, to improve the longer-term recruitment and retention of highly trained social workers.
“Continuity and institutional knowledge are valuable commodities in any organization,” says Smith. “If we can’t retain the staff that we hire, our province’s vulnerable children, youth and their families remain at an unacceptable risk. We must do better to serve B.C. families.”