Social workers say caseloads critical

Social workers in Alberta are accusing the provincial government of putting children in danger because there are not enough workers to handle the large number of caseloads.

Members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees staged information pickets here and in Calgary on Tuesday. They say lack of proper pay, understaffing and the high caseloads are creating a dangerous combination.

"It puts children at risk," says Maureen Braun, chair of the Edmonton union local. "I see situations of families waiting longer for services,"

"So, their situation deteriorates because we are not able to get in there and offer the kind of services that we should be offering to them."

Paul Altrogge, who works with local children and families, says he and other social workers in Alberta are among the lowest paid in Canada. He says that makes it difficult to attract new staff. He also says it's fortunate that no child has been harmed because of the staff shortage.

"We're so far behind in all the administrative work that all we can deal with are crisis situations," says Altrogge. "The situation is critical as far as the number of cases per child-care worker.

"The situation could potentially erupt into something dangerous."

Social workers say a recent government salary review does not go far enough in addressing pay inequities across staff levels. They are demanding the government return to the negotiating table.

But while Braun she says she's not certain what the next step might be if the government refuses, she's not ruling out the possibility of an illegal strike.