Board Voice oral submission to Select Standing Committee

Board Voice executive director Jody Paterson gave this oral presentation Oct. 9 to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Governance today in Esquimalt. We’ll be putting in a written submission as well that follows the government’s format for those submissions. Get your thoughts in by Oct. 15 to have some influence over Budget 2019!

Presented Oct. 9, 2018 at the Songhees Wellness Centre, Esquimalt

Good afternoon. I’m Jody Paterson, the executive director of the Board Voice Society of BC. We’re a non-profit started in 2010 to bring together the voices of the community boards and senior staff of BC non-profits whose work addresses the social determinants of health.

So much of Budget 2019 is about these determinants. Government has an ambitious and welcome series of plans: to reduce poverty, improve response to mental health and substance use, address wage inequities, increase childcare access and affordability, address the housing crisis. All social determinants of health. We’re excited to work with you as vital and long-standing community partners in this work.

I speak to you today not as members of the Select Standing Committee, but as fellow British Columbians with a history of actively giving your time to improve social health in your communities. I read all of your bios and saw in yours the same thing you’d see in mine, or in any Board Voice member’s bio – long histories of volunteering, of being part of initiatives to improve our communities and strengthen well-being. We are the kind of people who stand up.

The community non-profit sector is essentially the mechanism that channels this volunteerism, community concern and goodwill into a kind of system. Our sector is the passionate engine of that system, which we know from decades of research and evidence is as important as medical health care and education for ensuring British Columbians thrive.

This social-care system knit out of the individual efforts of people stepping up is remarkably good, and breathtakingly efficient in how it can stretch a buck. But it could do so much more if viewed as the vital and essential system that it is.

What will it take to cut child poverty in half over the next five years, and reduce adult poverty by a quarter? How can we take apart the vast and messy stack of factors that create a housing crisis and translate them into community services that exactly fit each factor – and taken together, solve the problem? How can we reimagine childcare in BC so that people flock to the career, there are no shortages of quality spaces, and families can afford it?

Board Voice members, and community non-profits overall, are your feet on the ground. They always have been. All that’s needed is to develop the province-wide plan to plug into, and address the gaps that will be clearly identifiable when we do that. We have most of the parts, but lack the strategy to unite and sustain them to ensure BC achieves its social health goals. Our province needs a strategy for social health that places it above political ideology and on equal footing with our well-planned and sustained health-care and education systems.

Board Voice has three core recommendations for Budget 2019:

  • Waiving of the Employer Health Tax for the community social services sector, or funding it in contracts
  • Wage parity with health care services across unionized and non-unionized social service contracts
  • The creation of a provincial social policy to guide, measure and sustains our social health system

Few essential services are funded as ridiculously and precariously as our social health-care system. Surely nobody anywhere wanted to see Abbotsford Community Services – a Board Voice member – lose its highly effective anti-gang program, but the service was lost nonetheless after the patchwork of funding that maintained the program fell apart when one funding partner stepped away.

Funding vital services in patchwork, uneven fashion undermines everyone’s efforts to strengthen social health.  We need a plan – something specific, realistic, achievable, and responsive to community needs. We need funding that recognizes this work is not a fad, not a flavour. It’s essential. We need a stable workforce earning a living wage.

We are your team in addressing social health. But community non-profits are beset by challenges – from the uncertainties of finding money from nowhere for the Employer Health Tax, to the chronic exhaustion of scouring the planet for funding to sustain programs that are doing exactly the kinds of things that government wants to do much more of.

Community non-profits ARE your poverty-reduction plan. Your childcare solution. Your mental health and addiction strategy. We’re your low-income housing providers, your seniors care team. We can work with you to lift tens of thousands of children out of poverty by 2023, as you’ve pledged, because we KNOW that work. We’re the “support” in those 2,000 supported modular homes government is building.

The social determinants of health are all over Budget 2019 consultation guidelines. But actions to address them must be part of an overarching and strategic plan for social health.

You have legions of committed community non-profits ready and able to carry out this work. Please invite us to the table and we will take on these challenges together. Thank you.