By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The Hamilton Children’s Aid Society has managed to find about $2 million in cost savings this year after the provincial government slashed its funding.
But Executive Director Dominic Verticchio says he doesn’t know how the agency will find another $2 million in savings over the next two years.
“The concern is the following year,” Verticchio told members of the Board of Health at their Sept. 16 meeting.
“(The funding) simply does not address the needs.”
The Ontario government is eliminating $4.7 million from the CAS’s budget over the next four years under a new formula established by the Liberals. This year the CAS had $2 million cut from its $48 million budget. Next year, another $1 million will be gone, followed by another $1 million in 2015. In 2016, the CAS will lose $700,000.
Verticchio said the funding cuts forced the CAS to lay off 70 people out of its 375 staff in May. Those part-time and full-time workers were gone at the end of June. He said since the CAS’s operational budget is 90 per cent salaries and benefits, layoffs had to happen to meet its financial bottom line.
“We had to cut staff,” he said.
The CAS has about 620 children under its care.
Verticchio said staff in the child protection program was not touched. But the CAS lost experienced workers from the foster support and parental support programs, administration and legal areas.
He said the CAS has extended the closure of its medical clinic to Dec. 31, 2013, and has submitted a number of proposals for funding to the government in an attempt to open it up next year.
But Verticchio said the CAS’s dental clinic has re-opened with a local service provider, which is offering a full range of dental services.
The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton had its 2013-2014 funding allocation cut by two per cent to $26 million. It employs 189 employees and has 360 children under its care.
Cuts to provincial CASs were prompted by a 2011 report from the Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare. It was created by the province to develop and promote ideas on sustainable funding of child welfare. It recommended a revamped funding model.
The former funding model was based on historical projections. Now, half of the funding to CASs is based on a three-year average of service volumes, while the rest of the funding is related to socioeconomic factors such as low-income families, and lone-parent households within the municipality.
Hamilton has provided temporarily a full-time nurse to CAS, which Verticchio said has been “invaluable” in assisting children. Councillors have also urged the province to restore the funding cuts to the Hamilton CASs.
The CAS has also increased its referrals to other community agencies, he said.
Verticchio said the CAS will be able to maintain the same level of services in the 2014-2015 year, even with another $1 million cut. But it’s the next year – 2015-2016 – that will prove difficult, he said.
“There is simply not another $1 million to be found,” he said.