VIDEO: CAS Rally protests funding cuts http://youtu.be/zwC4TrcNQ5k
By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Area children aid society workers rallied outside a closed Hamilton Children’s’ Aid Society office Oct. 11 to demand the provincial government restore the millions of dollars in funding cuts that are crippling their operations.
“The work is not going away,” said Samantha Florento, a law clerk at the Hamilton CAS who took part in the early morning protest. “Restore the funding. This is not the answer.”
The Hamilton CAS is closing five days between now and next March to save about $400,000 so that it can meet its 2013 budget, a requirement now imposed by the provincial government. In the Liberal’s new funding formula, introduced this year, children’s aid societies across the province will be providing money based on population growth rather than need. For Hamilton’s CAS, which has more at-risk families and children, it has meant a lost of $4.7 million in funding over four years.
As over 150 people from area children aid society workers cheered, some with signs that said ‘Stop the Shutdown’, and ‘Put the Aid back in Children’s Aid,’ Florento said the continuing cuts will impact the way the society provides its needed services.
“There is no where else to cut,” she said.
Executive Director of the Hamilton CAS, Dominic Verticchio announced last May that 70 people would be eliminated from CAS, leaving the organization with 250 people in an effort to meet its $50 million budget.
Verticchio said recently CAS has managed to find about $2 million through layoffs and program cuts. But he doesn’t know how the agency, which is already bare bones, will find the other $2 million. In 2014, the agency will see $1 million lost, followed by another $1 million in 2015. In 2016 the agency will still have absorb $700,000 in cuts.
Verticchio said the child protection program wasn’t touched, and it has extended its medical clinic to the end of the year. Its dental clinic reopened with a local service provider.
Florento said the CAS would have seen more people cut if the shutdowns didn’t occur. In her department four people were let go. Two half-day shutdowns will happen in December, while the CAS will be closed one day each in January and March to coincide with the local school boards’ professional development days.
The CAS has about 620 children under its care.
The Hamilton Catholic Aid Society is facing a two per cent reduction in its $26-million budget this year. It is not planning on shutting down to save money. It has about 360 children under its care.
Hamilton’s child poverty rate is nearly 21 per cent, and about 6,000 children use food banks each month.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a recent interview with Hamilton Community News, CAS officials were involved in changing the formula. Even they said the funding needed to be changed
“This is not equitable and it was very uneven,” she said. “We had to make sure the way we fund CAS is rational.”
The provincial Canadian Union of Public Employees is planning to ratchet up the pressure on the provincial government in the face of these cuts, says president, Fred Hahn.
“This will be the first of many actions,” he said. “The real tragedy with this funding formula is not what is happening today but it is the way it will impact in an ongoing way in the future.”
They are demanding the Liberals change how it funds the societies and restore the $50 million in money to the societies. He took a few shots at the Liberals after the recent revelations that the government spent $1.1 billion to relocate the gas plants, and allowing Pan Am executives to collect $7 million in bonuses, money that could have easily helped the societies.
“We have a problem with the priorities of the provincial government,” he told a cheering crowd.
He said by closing its doors, the Hamilton children aid society services are unavailable to needy families and children.
“These are real experiences for families,” he said. “These agencies can not turn away children. You’ve to provide the supports to them.”