Carole James MLA Report – October

Contrary to what the B.C. government seems to think, one size doesn’t fit all. But that seems to be the direction this government is taking with a number of services and supports in our communities.

The latest example is the rigid new service model in the area of employment skills. Moves by the government to force social service agencies into this new system is causing all sorts of problems. It’s easy to see that the entire approach needs to be revisited.

The province is creating turmoil for organizations like PEERS, which has now had to close a drop-in centre and pre-employment program for sex workers in Victoria. I’ve been raising concerns about the government’s approach for more than a year. When I asked the Minister about it in the spring of 2012, she said that it would all work out. Well, it certainly has not.

Here is the situation on the ground in our community:

Until last year, PEERS, like many other helping organizations on the South Island, received its core funding from the B.C. Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation. But when the government moved the contract to a fee-for-service billing model under its Employment Program of B.C., that’s when trouble really started.

The situation being faced by PEERS is troubling for a number of reasons, but most especially considering the government’s assurance that it would follow the recommendations contained in the 2012 Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. The report makes clear the importance of emergency services to women engaged in the sex trade provided by centres like PEERS.

Mr. Wally Oppal recommended that funding be made available urgently so that these centres could stay open 24 hours a day. Instead, because of funding decisions by the provincial government, PEERS has been forced to discontinue its vital services that help women leave sex work for more stable and secure employment.

The employment programs offered by non-profit organizations in our community serve a unique population with complex needs. Not all employment programs fit neatly into the government’s fee-for-service model.

I have heard concerns expressed by employment contractors, large and small, that the current model is too complex, and fails to recognize that individuals are unique and may need a range of services to support them in their goal of employment. It is also complicated by an unmanageable computer system that takes away from valuable and much needed time with clients.

We must be addressing the challenges in a comprehensive way that includes supports for addictions, mental health, and poverty reduction. I’m hearing it over and over again from social service providers: this new approach isn’t working, and citizens are suffering.

Government must listen to the professionals in the field and fix this system so that it works for everybody, and most especially for those in need in our community. I am proposing some solutions to the Minister, and will continue to work closely with our social service organizations to highlight the deficiencies in the province’s payment structure and referrals systems.

My community office is open regular hours through the autumn, and my staff is available to help residents of Victoria-Beacon Hill with issues and concerns. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can assist you with access to government services or any questions about provincial programs.

1084 Fort Street
Victoria, BC V8V 3K4
Phone: 250 952-4211