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2012-06-21 at NOON

Union president questions province's choice to end community program

By Jeff Labine,
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The president of CUPE Local 3367 says she questions the Ministry of Children and Youth Services decision to cut the city’s community support team in order to establish a program just like it.

The ministry announced that they would be terminating the contract with Creighton Youth Services for its community support team for the Thunder and district. The counseling program for at risk youth was established in 1988 as a way to help troubled young offenders avoid reoffending and not to serve time in custody.

Beth Alkenbrack, president of CUPE Local 3367 that represents members both in Thunder Bay and in Kenora, said the contracted didn’t need to be terminated and the reasons provided by the ministry were about finances.

She questioned the ministry trying to be financially responsible when they chose to close an entire program only to replace it with something similar.

“Our concern is we have that program already,” Alkenbrack said.

“I’m not sure what the fiscal responsibility is to close one program and start a new program and call that a good financial answer. Our concern is that these are youth that continuity of care is extremely important.”

“We go out and do the work with the youth in the community whether they are in custody, in any of Creighton’s youth services or in the community. Our jobs are to do what we can in the counseling program to lower the return to custody, lower the use of custody and lower their risk to reoffend.”

She said the program that they have is the only one in town and not having it could mean an increase of reoffending teens.

On average, the program looked after around 50 youth and their families. She said the amount of time they spend helping youth can vary from a few weeks to their entire adolescent years.

She said all of this has been unnecessary since there haven’t been conversations about cutbacks, or other potential options to find a better fiscal answer.

It could cost less than $10,000 to have a youth serve their time with the community support team while youth in custody homes could cost anywhere from $150,000 to $270,000.

The program was put in place to try to reduce the number of youth in custody, she said.

“The service that we do is not a custody service; this is the counseling therapeutic rehabilitative part of the highest risk kids,” she said. “We need to continue that service. The ministry is bargaining with Creighton to say that their overall costs are this and we’re not covering everything. Maybe the overall costs started at more than what it would cost to run the community support team. Ultimately, they still have all the other services.”

Alkenbrack also acknowledged the work of both of Thunder Bay’s two MPPs who have been helping the youth centre.

MPP Bill Mauro (Lib. Thunder Bay – Atikokan) said the Creighton Youth Services has had a deficit for a long time and the ministry decided to close the six community outreach workers. He said even though the program is ending, they are allowing Creighton to keep more than $300,000 in funding in their budget.

“It’s a huge piece for us to allow them to keep the funding,” Mauro said.

“It frees up the money that was associated with that program to do other things. That’s a big step and that’s a big part in helping them with their ongoing financial challenges.”

Mauro added they are also working on another piece but couldn’t go into the details. 


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Tim H. says:
Im enjoying the constant union whining about cutbacks.

They wear it well. The privincial liberals promised the unions the world so they could buy their votes with tax money, now they have done an about face.

When snakes screw snakes it just doesnt bother me too much. Just let them slither around and hope the wolves get em.
6/21/2012 4:14:12 PM
baor says:
I suppose the unions could just jump on a class action lawsuit "bandwagon" against their fellow taxpayers...the other snakes are just as plentiful.
6/21/2012 7:43:44 PM
tbayishome says:
Whether you agree, or disagree with unions is not really this issue. This is really another case of our current government prefering to warehouse criminals as opposed to preventing crime in the first place.
Anyone that is remotely aware of what is going on in this city is aware that youth crime is a major issue. People in this community would be shocked to know how short the sentences are for some of these young people who commit very violent acts.
The fact is, these youth are quickly returned to the community. We have lost one of the few resources in this city that works with these youth to assist in reduction of reoffending behaviors.
This effects our community in a very big way.
6/21/2012 5:43:01 PM
BethA says:
This was not whining about jobs. We do understand fiscal responsibility. This is about continuity of service to a marginalized group of youth...YOUTH. It is not greed and we understand perhaps cuts need to occur. It is about responsive service to youth, a main component of the Youth Justice Act. The money that was yet unpaid by Ministry was unrelated to the rehabilitation component of Community Support Team. The money was due to staffing in custody necessary due to high needs for youth and staff safety. Our staff are paid less than Ministry Direct Run guards. Kids are a community responsibility and deserve care. Businesses are expected to pay bills for specifically contracted services, and so should government. If they want to adjust future service...then why waste money recreating a program elsewhere, just reduce the one in existence.
6/21/2012 6:16:16 PM
outside looking in says:
Maybe the program was removed because it wasn't functioning well or very effective! It sure seems to me that instead of trying to coddle the youth we should be going after the parents of some of these youth. When i read in the papers about a 13 or 14 yr old young offender "already on probation" being picked up again for a similiar crime then there is a problem. When are they or the parents accountable to the rest of the citizens and taxpayers. There are fewer and fewer people working to support the ones that have a free ride on the taxpayer dollar.
6/22/2012 10:47:33 PM
mazda says:
The unions are going to be the new Political Partys. You wait and see, they already have the NDP wrapped around there fingers doing there dirty work without even consulting there members that pay their dues to keep them running.
6/21/2012 8:46:47 PM
dmrocs says:
Union jobs isn't the point of the issue. There are a lot of high risk youth with a multitude of issues that the Communit Support Team work with. Their importance to these youth as supports and mentors cannot be overstated. By simply saying that "its just a union whining" is really simplifying the issue.
6/21/2012 10:37:14 PM
Penelope says:
Really Tim? I don't see this being about the union whining. I see this being about the youth and families in our community who have been connected with this service since 1988. There are youth and families out there who struggling every day they wake up and these people need services such as these to help them manage their lives and get through tough times. These youth and families need to be helped at one point or another and these types of programs are keeping them out of the custody facilities and leading pro-social lives. If we cut these types of programs, we'll be paying even more money to help them out somewhere else; most likely in custody.
So stop about the union whining and think about the families and kids who are loosing a major support services.
6/21/2012 10:47:14 PM
irene says:
Why this story has remotely become a story about a union/union president is beyond me. This headline should read Thunder Bay Resident questioning the closing of one of the very few community based youth services in North. As Penelope has pointed out there are far too many families struggling and too few resources for them. This is a community issue and as a resident of Thunder Bay I am outraged that Thunder Bay is losing this resource.
My question is who is going to look out for these families and the at risk youth this Community Support Team has been servicing? How is it a program that has been around for 24 years is now suddenly deemed unnecessary?
6/22/2012 6:21:49 AM
BethA says:
I love that Bill M sees $300K to pay for services already rendered as to be a thankful price to lose this services. is NOT that simple. does he answer...what's next for these youth. And with the government going and negotiating with Kairos to 'enhance' their program to now include a couple 'clinical' team members...for less wasting money. Severences to terminate employees and then hire a couple ..many less people for what will be much less service...undermines what all of our previous generations fought to stop. This wastes money in fact and FAILS to take into consideration the marginalized youth this CST program serves. This is our community and we want youth in courts to have best practice opportunities for responsive rehabilitation and to become productive citizens lower youth crime. Don't waste our money stopping and starting things and then ask us to thank you.
6/22/2012 7:37:06 AM
Ona K says:
I'm not surprised the local union president is making a big deal about this because it's about losing her own job.
As Bill M. said, the agency gets to keep 300,000+ and he's trying to get them some more money - talk about political interference !!
With all the new money for youth mental health that we're getting, these kids will have a lot MORE services available to them
6/22/2012 12:08:31 PM
Penelope says:
I am not sure where to start Ona K. The union president is making a big deal about this because she was voted in by her union to make a big deal about issues that wrong her people. Period. I am not going to banter anymore on that point.
This is not about Bill M. This is about youth and families that are loosing a service that they have been able to reap the benefits from for the last quarter century. The program works. It helps keep kids out of the custody facilities. It helps families stay on track. It helps communities provide safer environments by decriminalizing youth who are struggling with mental health issues. It meets to goals of YCJA-Keep youth out of them before they get there!
I can't wait to see all of these new "More" services you speak of. We need them. But we don't need to slash successful existing ones though to get that done. If all this money is coming through, bring it on and add to the successes the agency is already experiencing.
6/22/2012 10:12:20 PM
marie80 says:
I've been following the budget cuts that have occured not only in all of ontario but thunder bay alone. Whether people want to whine about unions or not, the fact is that there are a lot of people affected by theses cuts. There are very irrational decisions made by those who have no idea what services are actually utilized. It's disgusting to think that these ministries feel as if our kids, youth, adults and elderly are not affected by this. Eventually services will reopen where costs may be cheaper but the connections and relationships these clients have with these employers have been severed. Here's a question for you. How many people walk by young teenagers on the street and are intimidated, there may be no reason to feel that way but most of us do it. I'm guilty of it!
It's unfortunate that these youth and thier families won't be receiving these services and supports. SHAME ON THEM... and shame on Thunder Bay if we don't stand up for our future.
6/22/2012 3:02:44 PM
eddylives says:
Just another typical government snafu...
Take an existing system and trash it to spend money on another.
Or is this just the begining of the "super jails"?
6/22/2012 4:04:55 PM
BethA says:
Just for clarification purposes..ona....for the record, i will continue employement, although i am sorry to see people still respond with assumptions of character.I am also sorry to see others lose their jobs, and so will become unemployed. These youth struggle every day to manage life, and not always with success. I can't complain about my life. But i will not be unconsious to issues and will simultaneously be happy to praise others as was done in this article, to recognize the efforts. This issue was not about a union president and an MPP, it remains about Ministry making responsible decisions about service to youth. Cuts happen, closures and reopenings in this situation are unnecessary.
This is the only city in which this decision is being made. Ask yourself why and seek answers. Be informed.
6/22/2012 7:01:58 PM
brooky says:
Clearly the governmet is armed and ready to privatice everything to boot the unions out and get more for their dollar. The only strength in govt unions is their numbers. The jobs are only clerical which anybody can do with a few weeks of training. I'm a union member too, but at least I have some skills that cant be replaced in a couple of weeks.
6/22/2012 11:46:15 PM
Ona K says:
BethA - you make it sound as if you are the only program in town that provides services to this client group - You are NOT. They will continue to get the services they need from people who are just as dedicated. You and your agency are political animals and misleading the general public But you do not have a monopoly on providing valuable service to youth at risk and in conflict with the law!
6/23/2012 8:34:59 PM
jubjub says:
From the Ontario budget: "Since the creation of a dedicated youth justice system and the proclamation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2003, custodial sentences for youth in conflict with the law have declined significantly. Youth have been diverted to community-based alternatives for less serious offences, prompting a reduction in demand for youth justice custody. In 2003, 1,017 young people were in secure custody. By 2011, there were only 370 youth in custody."

It's ironic how the Government touts low custody rates, yet turns around and cuts services that are tailored to keeping youth out of custody. Next they will brag about the reduced numbers in community programs - they just reduced that number by at least 50.
6/25/2012 9:02:36 AM
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