Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 02, 2015 - 1:05 pm

Nunavut family services minister: we’re working on it

GN spent $9.3 million on out-of-territory residential care last year

THOMAS ROHNER
Child and Family Services Minister Jeanne Ugyuk tabled the Government of Nunavut's latest update on departmental improvements May 26, which flow from an auditor general's 2011 report on the department's performance and procedures. (FILE PHOTO)
Child and Family Services Minister Jeanne Ugyuk tabled the Government of Nunavut's latest update on departmental improvements May 26, which flow from an auditor general's 2011 report on the department's performance and procedures. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut’s Department of Family and Child Services continues to take baby steps towards self-improvement.

The department’s minister, Jeannie Ugyuk, tabled a report in the legislature in Iqaluit May 26 outlining some of those steps, which address many of the same departmental challenges first outlined in a 2011 report from Canada’s Auditor General.

Those steps include addressing gaps in staff training and retention, and in managing internal data.

We’d tell you the name of the report but, at 44 words, it’s too cumbersome to print. The reason it’s that long is that it is a response to a review of a follow-up report.

Confused? Don’t be. Essentially, it’s a way for the Department of Child and Family Services to declare publicly what they’ve done to improve services and procedures, and what’s still left to do.

Here’s a bit of the chronology.

This report is the Government of Nunavut’s response to a legislative standing committee review, tabled in the assembly last October, of a March 2014 report done by Canada’s Auditor General on the department’s performance.

The auditor general’s 2014 report was like a report card on how the department had progressed since the original auditor’s 2011 report.

The department implemented an action plan in April, 2013, the report tabled by Ugyuk says.

And according to the tabled document, that action plan included developing a residential care database and a review committee for placing people in residential care, as well as developing staff positions to support residential care services.

These actions items were implemented by April 2014, the document says.

But in responding to the legislative standing committee’s October 2014 report, the department also revealed that the vast majority of its $10-million budget for child protection services in 2013-14 was spent on out-of-territory care.

Staff spent $9.3-million outside of Nunavut on residential care for children and youth in that fiscal year, while only about $165,000 was spent in the same way within Nunavut.

Although the 2014 report by the Auditor General found improvements had been made on staffing issues, the legislative standing committee directed three of its recommendations towards ongoing problems with staffing.

For example, the committee of MLAs recommended that the department ensure social workers have the mandatory training required by law, and that “appropriate workload standards” be developed by 2015.

“The department has worked on updating and improving its statutory training program,” the government wrote in its response, adding, “the department will immediately establish a detailed learning plan process to ensure that all required competencies are met.”

And in terms of workloads for social workers, the government wrote that it will develop workload standards based, in part, on reviewing best practices in other jurisdictions.

In response to the standing committee’s two recommendations relating to information management, departmental staff promised to implement a client information system, where “headquarters will actively follow up with regions who fail to report according to standards.”

That information system is contingent on funding, though, the report says. 

The department is also working with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to ensure privacy of personal information is adequately protected.

Also set to begin this fiscal year: a review of the Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act, as per the standing committee’s recommendation.

An action plan attached to the tabled document says the department’s priority for 2015-16 will focus on capacity-building, including “continued and expanded community engagement.”

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