Government sticking to residential youth-care plan, Jackman says
NDP presents 3,800 names on petition in House
Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Clyde Jackman said the government won’t reverse a decision to change how it provides group home services to troubled youths, despite 3,800 names on a petition and sustained criticism from the NDP.
Workers from several group homes around the province who are losing their jobs through the change in service were at Confederation Building Wednesday, along with Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).
When the government announced the changes in late March, then-minister Paul Davis said contracted residential placement services would provide better service for the youths involved. But NDP MHA Gerry Rogers calls it “creeping privatization” which will hurt services.
“Some of the staff have been working in these facilities for over 20 years,” Ms. Rogers said. “They will be gone and replaced by people who are going to be making $13 an hour. That’s what people make when they’re cooking hamburgers.”
In at least one case, in Stephenville, the new service provider is having trouble getting its operation up and running, which is adding to the turmoil right around the end of the school year for the youths in government care.
“We know how difficult it is just for an individual or a family to find a house, buy a house, renovate and furnish it,” Ms. Rogers told reporters. “In the Stephenville home, the children were to be moved on the 19th of May. Here we are on the 21st of May. There still isn’t a house ready. There’s no house at all bought yet, let alone renovated and furnished.”
Mr. Jackman said the timing of the switchover isn’t ideal but they’re doing the best they can.
“We deal with the circumstances that we have. Should we have gone a little bit longer? Maybe we should have, but it’s the circumstance that we’ve got before us now,” he said.
Mr. Jackman said the service is changing, which is why the types of people being employed will change, too.
“The type of qualification that would have been needed previously under a correctional type of facility is different than what we would need now under more of a foster type of support,” he said. “We’re providing a different type of care here now.”
Ms. Furlong told reporters that the whole saga is having an impact on the children currently in care.
“The children in Burin, for example, have been told that they will likely not be attending the same high school that they were hoping to attend next year,” she said Wednesday.
“They’re graduating from the junior high and would have been going to the senior high. Their graduation is Friday night. They’re so distraught that they’re saying they don’t think they’re going to be going to their grad now.”
NDP MHA Gerry Rogers spoke to workers from residential care homes for youths with special needs Wednesday in St. John’s. The government is changing how it provides those services, which means workers are losing their jobs.