Thunder Bay

Ontario Works in Thunder Bay in danger of losing front-line staff

The Ontario Works program needs another $141,000 from the provincial government or it may have to cut front-line staff, said Lucy Kloosterhuis, the chair of the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB).

Program has received reduced allocation since 2018

The Ontario Works program may lose some front-line staff positions if the program does not receive $141,000 from the provincial government, says Lucy Kloosterhuis, the chair of the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board. (Supplied)

The Ontario Works program needs another $141,000 from the provincial government or it may have to cut front-line staff, said Lucy Kloosterhuis, the chair of the Thunder Bay District Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB).

"We're not asking for a million [dollars], but we are in trouble," she said. 

The problem goes back to 2018 when the board didn't spend its full allocation because they were short-staffed due to retirements and employees on sick leave.

The board expected to receive full funding from the government in 2019, but instead received only the amount it had spent the previous year, said Kloosterhuis.

The allocation has been frozen at that reduced amount ever since, she said.

In preparation for the 2021 budget, the social services board has made as many cost-savings as it can, said Kloosterhuis, but noted they may have to ask the municipality for more money or consider decreasing the number of people working directly with clients.

"For Ontario Works, what our aim and objective is, is to get the client back out in the workforce, get them back to school, so that they are no longer on the streets," she said. "The aim is to get people away from a drug or alcohol addiction and to do that you want to give a person a purpose in life.

"The front-line workers are the ones that work really closely with all the clients and we don't want to lose those people," she said.

Kloosterhuis said she spoke with the Minister of Children and Community Services about the shortfall during this week's Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference.

Ministry officials listened but did not provide any guarantees the money would be coming, she said.

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