The B.C government's response to the challenge of recruiting social workers – by changing hiring credentials to no longer require a social work degree – only superficially addresses the chronic recruitment and retention challenge in the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and does not address many of the key issues, including the unsustainable workload pressures faced by ministry workers.
On January 31, the government announced changes to social worker hiring credentials to "consider the combination of a related degree, post-graduate diploma or post-graduate certificate in a human services field… along with a minimum two years of post-degree work experience" when hiring people to fill entry-level social worker positions.
We understand the need to broaden the talent pool of workers entering the social work field, but simply changing the hiring criteria won't provide the systemic change that is needed to address the long-standing recruitment issues in MCFD. Expanding the range of professionals working with children and families is one thing. But replacing highly-educated and trained social workers with alternative professions is entirely a different matter.
We believe the answer to the recruitment and retention issues in MCFD is not to de-skill qualifications to attract more applicants, but instead to treat social workers with respect and dignity, making the ministry a place where people want to pursue a career.
Grand Chief Ed John's report talks ab out reviewing the entry level qualifications for frontline workers, but it says nothing about lowering the professional standard for social workers. We wouldn't think of hiring nurses without appropriate certification, even though the profession also faces significant recruitment challenges, so we need to ask why this new standard is appropriate for social workers.
The complex nature of child protection social work requires a very high level of educated, skilled workers. Without a significant investment in educational resources and opportunities to allow more people, especially indigenous workers, to achieve a social work degree, the standard of professional care could become compromised over time.
We've been talking about these issues for years, with the existing and previous governments. And we're not alone. The BCGEU is working to schedule a meeting with Minister Katrina Conroy and we'll work with other professional groups like the BC Association of Social Workers to make the case that these issues require a comprehensive plan that produces meaningful solutions for BC's children and families. We believe that this plan should incorporate Grand Chief Ed John's recommendations, but must also reflect input from BCGEU members on the frontline.
Social, Information and Health Component 6
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