Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services
Written Submission Template
This template is provided as a guide to individuals and organizations making a submission to the annual budget consultation. Please adapt as needed for your submission.
|Organization (if applicable):||Board Voice Society of BC|
Brief Summary or Rationale
Thank you for the chance to consult. Board Voice Society of BC was founded in 2010 to represent the volunteer community boards and senior staff of non-profits whose work addresses the social determinants of health. We are a clear and effective voice for volunteer community-based boards supporting high-quality social services and strong, vibrant communities, and champion the value of this often-overlooked sector.
We have presented an oral submission as well, and are presenting this written submission to address the issues specifically identified in the Budget 2019 guidelines for submissions. The key point that we are stressing in both submissions is that social health is a critical factor in the future of British Columbia as a vibrant, economically diverse and inclusive province, but we are lacking the overarching plan, clearly stated outcomes, basic policies and wage equality that would transform a patchwork but powerful network of hundreds of non-profit community social services organizations that do this work into a well-sustained, well-measured and effective social health system.
- Commit to working with the non-profit community social services sector and other stakeholders in the development of a social policy planning framework that will incorporate the work of BC’s planned Poverty Reduction Strategy and mental health and addictions strategy, identify and build on existing social-policy initiatives happening in BC, and ultimately lead to a strategy for social health and wellbeing that is non-partisan, sustainable, and provides a platform for “plugging in” and guiding the efforts of community non-profits working in this area.
- Waive or fund the Employer Health Tax costs for the community non-profit sector, which has no way to cover the significant additional costs of EHT beyond fundraising among private donors. Cutting vital social services to find money for the EHT is not an option, as our member organizations are contracted to provide these services and can’t reduce them without breaching the terms of contracts.
- Address wage inequities that continue to exist between jobs in the community social services sector and those same jobs in the health sector, and inequities between unionized and non-unionized workers in the sector doing the same jobs. These inequities cause a chronic skills shortage and high turnover in the community social services sector.
Main Body of Submission
Virtually every item identified as important in the government’s own Budget 2019 guidelines for submissions relates to the social determinants of health. These determinants are backed up by decades of research and evidence. We know that the true driver of any population’s health is not health care, but factors such as social supports, community engagement, meaningful work, a healthy environment and a sense of belonging.
Our members deliver services that address the social determinants of health. But this vital work continues to be planned, funded and reported on in a haphazard, patchwork fashion.
We are not identifying effective strategies. We are not measuring outcomes at the provincial or even regional level. We are repeating the same mistakes, and ending up helpless in the face of crises such as opioid overdose deaths, the aging out of children in government care, strategies to combat isolation and loneliness among seniors and other populations, youth suicide, housing shortages and so much more. Public spending remains concentrated at the “crisis” end rather than on prevention and mitigation, despite decades of talking about how we need to do better.
Here are some examples of what could be changed if our three recommendations were addressed, in the areas that government identified wanting to hear about for Budget 2019:
Affordable housing – and affordability overall – topped the list as the most important of 10 priorities Board Voice identified in the 15 communities where we did consultations in 2017. It is critical to have housing that is affordable and available when needed, but it’s also essential to ensure that housing is accessible – that it is designed for the needs of the people who live in it.
Board Voice members are not only among those who build and manage affordable, accessible housing in BC, we are the providers of diverse supports that lead people to that housing and then support them to stay in it. We are on the front lines of the effort to end homelessness, and are key stakeholders in helping the government address the many complexities that underlie our crisis in housing.
A sustained and strategic community non-profit sector united under a provincial plan with clear outcomes for housing could do so much more.
Childcare built on a foundation of caring non-profit services and small owner-operated businesses ensures that BC’s most precious asset – our children – receive quality care that most replicates family life, provided by skilled and trained Early Childhood Educators and other dedicated staff motivated by a passion to help children in the all-important early years. Those years before age five lay the foundation for a healthy, happy and productive adulthood.
It’s clear that the current government is working to increase access to quality childcare, and is taking measures to train more Early Childhood Educators for growing demand. But the skilled and valued workers in this sector must be remunerated sufficiently for their vital skill set. Even if there were enough spaces for every child in BC who needs quality childcare, there are currently not enough workers to staff those spaces, largely because of a long history of economic undervaluing of these important people.
Government rightly notes that “everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a stable and successful life.” Indeed, that is the foundation for a healthy, productive British Columbia long into the future. Board Voice members address poverty through a variety of community-based services that are aligned with the social determinants of health and increase community wellbeing across income sectors. Our members have been engaged in some cases for decades in the work of poverty reduction.
But when we talk about “everyone,” we need a strategy – a thoughtful, informed plan that places social health on the same level as physical health and quality education. In the absence of such a plan, we simply can’t prioritize and sustain vital community-based services throughout BC that address poverty and other key factors for social health.
We need wages in the sector that recognize the value of the work. We need a provincial plan and strategy for sustaining a network of hardworking community non-profits that provide vital services on what is too often year-to-year funding. Our province would never build a road or a bridge in the complete absence of a plan – why do we continue to try to achieve social wellness in BC without the long-term, thoughtful and adequately funded approach we use to achieve other vital overarching goals for the province?
Our members are strong supporters of the government’s efforts to create a strategy for poverty reduction. But the role of community non-profits in that work can’t be overstated. We are your tools for addressing poverty. Government can provide income assistance cheques, but virtually everything else about reducing poverty comes down to the kind of attention to individual needs that our sector does so well, and with skill and experience. Help us to be so much better at that work by bringing us to the table to work with government on a cohesive, inclusive and sustainable strategy for services that support social wellbeing and health.
Delivery of more services that British Columbians can count on
We note that your consultation document mentions the importance of quality health care and education in this section, but the only reference to quality social care is about mental health and addiction. Our members are pleased at the efforts going on to strengthen BC’s supports to people facing mental health and substance use challenges, but there is so much more than that being provided by our sector.
Our members are arguably the experts in delivering services that British Columbians count on, as virtually every one of our organizations began when a person identified a social need in their community and took the initiative to address it. We work directly in community, governed by people elected from and by the community, to deliver a vast array of services that change people’s lives for the better.
Childcare. Child development for children with developmental and cognitive disabilities. Affordable housing. Youth services that connect young people to healthy communities and support them through their challenges. Employment training for people who face systemic barriers. Programs to prevent at-risk young people from getting involved in criminal activities. Services to help new immigrants settle into a new culture and contribute. Supports to women fleeing domestic violence.
These are but a few on a very long list. Community non-profits deliver essential services that British Columbians count on. We could do that work with even more effectiveness and reach if our sector was recognized for the vital work that it has always been providing, and if our efforts were sustained under a long-term vision that identified social outcomes and provided sustainable funding to achieve them.
A strong, sustainable economy
We are pleased that the Community Social Sector Employers’ Association is undertaking a review for the purpose of improving wage comparability with the health sector, and that there will be annual reviews. The community non-profit sector is a significant employer of tens of thousands of British Columbians, regardless of whether those words “non-profit” might make some believe that the work we do is not related to a strong, sustainable economy.
Far from it. The services of Board Voice member organizations address the social determinants of health – work that is not only are vital for the existing workforce needing to maintain social health in order to be productive, but essential for tomorrow’s workforce as well. When a child receives the child development services they require in the early years, when they start school well-fed and healthy and ready to learn, live in decent, affordable housing, benefit from access to affordable, quality childcare, get the supports they need during the teen years, are helped to overcome mental health issues, substance use disorders, get the training and supports they need to be successful in employment – THAT is how you build a strong, sustainable economy.
There can be no strong, sustainable economy without competent, engaged and supported citizens. The services of Board Voice members are significant factors in that effort. But for our sector to do this work, our own workers need fair wages.
Consider this: Educating a child from age five and on is rightly seen important enough to remunerate the people who do that work at an average $65,000 a year. But educating that same child from birth to age five – a period when the majority of development takes place and the foundation for a health or challenged adulthood is being laid – is remunerated at an amount that is half that much.
Yes, one could argue that there are different educational requirements, and different debt burdens for funding that education. But a fully trained Early Childhood Educator in BC will still pay more than $16,000 for tuition and textbooks, only to join the workforce at a wage level that won’t cover the cost of living in many parts of BC.
Plug in the national occupation classification for a community social service worker into the government’s own Welcome BC Cost of Living Calculator, and you’ll see that a single-income worker living in a medium-sized town such as Duncan and supporting two children ends up in the hole by almost $870 every single month. That adds up to $10,431 annually. If we use the calculator to estimate cost of living for an Early Childhood Educator with one child in a small two-bedroom condo in Kamloops, we see that such a person would end up in the hole $405 a month.
If we are to have a strong, sustainable economy, we must ensure that the people who do that work are paid a living wage.
Organization Background (if applicable)
Board Voice is funded solely through the annual fees paid by our member organizations. We do not receive any funding from government or from foundations or other grantors. Please visit our website at www.boardvoice.ca to learn more about us.