"This unit brought so much added-value to the table, including helping with issues outside of the child welfare system. The inability of this government to see the benefit of putting people before profit is just so short-sighted.” — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (12 April 2019) — The Pallister government’s trend of slashing valuable programs in the name of so-called fiscal prudence continues with the unexpected closing of the Winnipeg Child and Family Services Newcomer Unit on April 1.
Closure big loss for community
The specialized child welfare unit, created in 2009, helped families that had been in the country less than 5 years navigate the legal and child welfare systems. As of April 1, the 6 members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) in the unit were reassigned and community partners were notified.
“Most of our members working in this unit speak several languages and are uniquely trained to deal with the complex issues faced by those new to the country,” said Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President. “What a shameful loss for these newcomers who often have dealt with living through wars or in refugee camps, and may have different ideas of what is acceptable parenting.”
Block funding starts, services to suffer from underfunding
April 1 also marked the start of the government's switch to block funding for the province’s 4 regional authorities that oversee 24 child welfare agencies. Previously, agencies were funded based on the number of children in care and the number of days they are in care.
Under the guise of providing more flexibility — which many of the agencies believe will only leave them financially unstable and further reduce their ability to put child welfare first — this appears to be the first in what will surely be a long list of casualties to this already overwhelmed system.
“These workers helped keep families together and without the needed support and expertise, they’re worried such families may not remain intact,” Gawronsky said. “This unit brought so much added-value to the table, including helping with issues outside of the child welfare system. The inability of this government to see the benefit of putting people before profit is just so short-sighted.”