Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


November 16, 2011

Impact of employment program restructuring on vulnerable persons.

S. Simpson: My question is for the Minister of Social Development. New employment programs in British Columbia have taken about $340 million of transfer money from the federal government. That money has been taken, and a radically restructured set of training programs have been put in place. As a result, about 400 different programs and services that were available have been consolidated now into 72 contracts across the province.

There's been a significant challenge in this restructuring, particularly concerning services for complex populations, including women, the disabled, youth, immigrant communities and populations with issues such as addictions and mental health. There is growing concern within the community that these initiatives, which are called the tier 3 and 4 initiatives, will not have their needs met.

Today we hear that PEERS, a key organization working to offer sex trade workers transition into other opportunities, including employment training, will be closing their doors largely because this program design does not meet the needs of their constituency.

Could the minister tell us how she intends for these employment programs to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens, like those served by PEERS?

...

S. Simpson: The challenge with the employment programs…. They're going to work fine for people who are fairly job ready. They are not looking like they're going to work well for people with complex needs or unique needs.

I quote Tracy Porteous from the Ending Violence Association: "Women who are escaping violence now can get help to rebuild their lives through a job-bridging program. With these changes, they'd have to go to a generic centre, which many may not do because of perceived safety issues."

There are those complexities there. There are similar complexities for sex trade workers, for other workers. Without access to core funding for those organizations, these invaluable services, like ones provided by PEERS, will be lost. They will be lost for a segment of our population which needs real attention.

How does the minister think that providing this cookie-cutter approach to employment services will meet the needs of these vulnerable and unique populations?

 

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