Regional personal support worker shortage at serious level

ESPANOLA—The Manitoulin Sudbury District Services Board (DSB) has been meeting with their counterparts at the City of Sudbury’s Community Development Department to address concerns over the need for additional personal support workers (PSWs) and early childhood educators (ECEs) and have agreed to create a recruitment and retention initiative. The issue of attracting and keeping PSWs has also bedeviled Manitoulin Centennial Manor, which wrestled with the issue at a number of recent board meetings.

DSB board members learned at the November 22 meeting that, in the past five years, Cambrian College in Espanola had 25 PSW graduates. Cambrian College is the only educational institution in the DSB district to offer the course. Both College Boréal and Cambrian College offer the ECE education diploma, as well as unique professional learning for those already working in the sector, noted DSB Director of Integrated Social Services Donna Stewart. “However, people from the district have to travel to Sudbury for this program.”

With a tight supply of PSWs and ECEs, the DSB has had challenges in maintaining the required number of trained personnel. “The school boards snap them up,” noted Ms. Stewart. “Their pay scale is much higher.”

“The City of Sudbury and the DSB are in the process of setting up meetings with representatives of Cambrian and College Boréal to explore more about local strategies in these two fields of employment,” said Ms. Stewart. “Further partnerships may be formed with both institutions to increase recruitment for skills training. Local partners that have been working in both geographical areas will also be consulted for best practices to be implemented.”

In the meantime, the Ministry of Community and Social Services DSB is aware of the issue and the DSB and ministry have found a temporary workaround to backstop the issue until a more permanent solution can be found.

Meanwhile, the DSB has received a confirmation memo that the child care allocations have been amended, meaning that the Manitoulin-Sudbury Child Care allocation has been increased to $6,424,465 from the previous $6,065,607. This increase is mainly due to the addition of a prorated two-year expansion of funding, as well as slight increases in general purpose funding and a fee stabilization support.

The for-profit maximum percentage threshold has been removed from the transfer payment agreements with the province and will not apply to 2018. This will provide greater flexibility for program managers so that may “direct child care funding to licensed providers that are best positioned to meet local needs and priorities,” noted DSB Children’s Program Supervisor Lori Clark. “The DSB can continue to have discretion about the providers with which they enter into purchase of service agreements.” But as of this time, there are no for-profit agencies currently in the DSB district.

As for the Manor, the concept of paying for the tuition of those taking PSW courses in return for a guarantee by the student that they would stay on at the Manor for a set time was floated. The Manor board apparently intends to discuss the concept further when the new board is constituted with new members following the October elections.