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.