B.C.'s struggling child protection service will be strengthened by the addition of 200 more social worker and support staff positions over the next two years, Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux says.
The announcement came a day after the union representing staff issued a report saying they continue to deal with excessive workload and staff shortages due to high staff turnover, unfilled positions and budget cuts.
Cadieux said the additional staff and centralizing of child protection intake screening is a response to the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union report, and previous critical reports by Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
The BCGEU estimates that 80 per cent of social workers have more than the recommended 20 cases, with nearly half carrying more than 30 and some reporting caseloads of 70 or more.
Cadieux said 70 auxiliary employees are being made permanent immediately, mostly in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, and the target is to bring the total to 200 new positions by the end of 2016.
"We've heard the concerns of our staff about their workload, about their inability to do all of the things that they feel are necessary," Cadieux said.
NDP children and family critic Doug Donaldson said help is still far away for rural and northern communities where recruiting and retaining staff is most difficult. He said the Smithers ministry office has seen 100 per cent turnover of child protection staff in the last three years.
"It's really good that the government has finally woken up, six years after the child representative said that staffing issues and turnover issues need to be addressed," Donaldson said.
A mobile response team is being expanded to help offices with long-standing vacancies cope while new staff is recruited and trained.
Cadieux said the ministry budget has increased by about $47 million since 2008, with another increase set for next year. Adjusting office hours and doing more administrative work online or by phone allows the ministry to focus its resources on face-to-face services, she said.