Govern­ment stick­ing to res­i­den­tial youth-care plan, Jack­man says

NDP pre­sents 3,800 names on pe­ti­tion in House

The Southern Gazette - - EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT - BY JAMES MCLEOD TC ME­DIA St. John’s Tele­gram James McLeod Photo/The Tele­gram

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.

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