Social Advocacy Highlights 2006-2007
The following are highlights of OASW’s social advocacy initiatives from June 2006 to May 2007, The priority areas established by the Association’s Board of Directors were human rights, children and youth, and primary health care reform. Underpinnings to these priorities are the implications of the social determinants of health, particularly the impact of poverty on vulnerable and marginalized populations.
Please note that any documents referred to in this report are available upon request.
I. POVERTY ISSUES
OASW Provincial AGM Keynote Address on Affordable Housing
Michael Shapcott gave the keynote address at OASW’s Annual General Meeting in June 2006 in Toronto. It was entitled, “Affordable Housing: A Requirement, a Right and a Responsibility”, and a synopsis of his speech appeared in the September 2006 issue of the OASW Newsmagazine.
Letter to the Editor re: National Council on Welfare Annual Report
In August 2006, OASW sent letters to 37 major Ontario newspapers calling upon the federal and provincial governments to take immediate action to overhaul the outdated Employment Insurance system, to reform social assistance to support the most vulnerable (including low-income parents and persons with disabilities), and to raise the minimum wage to make it a true living wage.
OASW Endorsement of Anti-Poverty Campaign Initiatives
In September 2006, as a long-standing provincial partner of Campaign 2000, OASW endorsed both the Hands Off! Campaign to end the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) clawback as well as “Action Against Poverty” Week. For more information about these and various initiatives, visit www.campaign2000.ca .
Letter to the Editor on Poverty Published by the Toronto Star
In September 2006, the Toronto Star published OASW’s letter regarding social and economic inequities. We encouraged Ontarians to send a message to all three political parties prior to the upcoming election – that in this land of plenty, people should not be living in poverty.
Letter to the Editor on MPP Pay Published by the Ottawa Citizen
In December 2006, the Ottawa Citizen published OASW’s letter regarding a 25 per cent MPP pay increase. We strongly encouraged MPPs to vote against this pay raise and make a firm commitment to increasing financial supports to the most vulnerable members of our communities.
OASW Participation in Pre-Budget Consultation
In January 2007, OASW participated in the government’s Pre-Budget Consultation session and recommended that the 2007 Ontario Budget should focus on the escalating levels of poverty. We recommended a progressive strategy and political will to effectively address such issues as income supports (e.g., employment insurance), affordable housing and day care. This led to the Minister of Finance’s roundtable discussion with social workers from various sectors in May 2007, which was organized by OASW and hosted by the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.
OASW Meeting with Deb Matthews, MPP
In January 2007, OASW representatives met with Deb Matthews, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Community and Social Services, to discuss poverty which has been an ongoing concern and priority area for the Association. In response to how OASW can play a role, she encouraged social workers to visit their local MPP as well as to provide a face to poverty using case examples and/or possibly bringing a client to the meeting.
OASW Special E-Bulletin on $10 Minimum Wage
In February 2007, as a long-standing Provincial Partner of Campaign 2000, OASW sent to all members a Special E-Bulletin: “How You Can Help with $10 Minimum Wage”. The Association recommended writing to Premier McGuinty and copying key Ministers, sending messages to their MPPs, circulating petitions to increase the minimum wage and writing letters to their local newspapers; samples were provided. In the same E-Bulletin, we used the opportunity to provide an update from the Code Blue Campaign on how OASW members can take action with the new Child Care Report Card.
OASW Participation in ISARC Forums
In November 2006 and April 2007, OASW attended forums at Queen’s Park sponsored by the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC). This served as an opportunity to learn and exchange ideas with like-minded, broad-based partners regarding the issue of income supports and adequate housing for Ontarians. Speakers such as Dennis Raphael, author of the Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives (2004), and Laurel Rothman, National Co-ordinator of Campaign 2000 (and an OASW Social Work Leader for NSWW 2007) were featured. In addition, it was announced during the last proceedings to an audience of about 150 people, some of whom were MPPs, that OASW was a leader on poverty.
II. HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES
OASW Response to Bill 107
In October 2006, OASW wrote to Premier Dalton McGuinty and Attorney General Michael Bryant to fully support the continuation of public hearings in regard to Bill 107, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006, the development of appropriate amendments and the passage of the amended bill into law. We were pleased that the government introduced legislation that, if passed, will reform Ontario’s 40-year-old human rights system.
In April 2007, the Association participated in an Ontario Human Rights Commission information session on the enhanced complaints process which is part of a pilot project.
Letter to the Editor on Same-Sex Marriage
In December 2006, both the National Post and the Windsor Star published OASW’s letter, commending Federal Parliamentarians for once again decisively enshrining the right of gays and lesbians to marry. OASW stated that this is an issue of human rights and a victory for all Canadians.
III. CHILDREN & YOUTH ISSUES
OASW Children & Youth Advisory Task Group
An Advisory Task Group was launched in the summer of 2006 to advise OASW on a range of issues that include child welfare, children’s mental health, physical and developmental disabilities, pediatric medicine, the youth justice system and school social work.
Ministry of Education’s Safe Schools Action Team Report Echoing OASW’s Concerns
In June 2006, the Ministry of Education’s Safe Schools Action Team released their report which echoed and supported the School Social Work Committee’s oral and written submissions. The area of prevention is clearly emphasized, including the need for a positive school climate, programs which support social learning and preventative strategies for students, and strategies of prevention and intervention that involve school, home and community. There is more of an emphasis on understanding, supporting and intervening, and less on punishment. In addition, school social workers are referred to in this document as “play[ing] an important role in supporting students”.
Response to Bill 52, Act to Amend Education Act
In August 2006, OASW submitted a response to Bill 52 strongly urging government to withdraw Bill 52, and to instead focus on prevention and intervention for attendance difficulties rather than penalizing students by withholding their driver’s licenses. Subsequently, School Social Work Committee members participated in focus groups to provide direct feedback to the Ministry of Education about the potential concerns regarding this proposed legislation.
Published Letter to the Editor on the Provincial Auditor General’s Report re: Children’s Aid Societies
In December 2006, both the Windsor Star and the Toronto Star published OASW’s letter about how issues raised in the Auditor General’s report should not overshadow the important and effective work that child welfare agencies carry out each year.
OASW Newsmagazine on "Innovation with Children, Youth and Families"
The February 2007 issue was inspired by the theme of National Social Work Week (NSWW). Articles covered such topics as innovations in Ontario’s children mental health centres; new intervention strategies with Asian youth gang members and their families; the role of advocacy in self-help groups for children with developmental disabilities; initiatives for youth leaving care; and an Aboriginal youth initiative resulting in the production of a video.
NSWW Theme 2007 – “Social Workers: Making a Difference in the Lives of Children and Families”
This theme for NSWW (March 5-11, 2007) was selected by OASW to focus attention on the significant role social workers play in the provision of services to children and to the entire family. With a provincial election in October 2007, NSWW afforded an important opportunity for social workers to highlight the struggles faced by many children and families in this province.
School Social Work Newsletter, Winter 2007
Articles featured such topics as a review of the Safe Schools Action Team’s June 2006 report Safe Schools Policy and Practice: An Agenda for Action; therapeutic storytelling as a creative social work intervention; youth suicide prevention; an article in French on addressing anxiety in students; and highlights of OASW’s social advocacy initiatives in the fall of 2006. This newsletter is regularly distributed to school social workers throughout Ontario and, additionally, to school social work contacts in 12 different countries.
School Social Work Symposium 2007
The 20th Annual OASW School Social Work Symposium is being planned for November 23, 2007 and will be hosted by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. Dr. Kenneth V. Hardy will speak on “Shhh ... Schools, Silence and the Subtleties of Diversity: Bridging the Differences” at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga.
OASW Representation on Ministry of Education Advisory Council
A member of the School Social Work Committee continues to represent OASW on the Ministry of Education’s Advisory Council on Special Education. This Advisory Council has provided input to the Minister of Education on matters concerning special education policy and programs since 1977.
IV. HEALTH & AGING ISSUES
Student Advocacy to Preserve and Strengthen Medicare: New Health Professionals Network
Since September 2004, OASW, represented by its Provincial Student Director, has been affiliated with the New Health Professionals Network (NHPN), which is committed to preserving and strengthening Canada’s single-tier, publicly funded health care system. In June 2006, OASW participated in the 2nd Annual Tommy Douglas Celebration of Medicare Awards and Summit in Ottawa, and had the opportunity to meet several senior federal politicians. An article on this significant event was featured in the September 2006 issue of the OASW Newsmagazine. For further information about NHPN, visit the website at www.FutureFaceofMedicare.ca .
Health Needs of Aboriginal Communities
In June 2006, by way of writing letters to federal and provincial politicians and alerting the media, OASW joined others in raising an alarm that 19 of the 49 Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s First Nations communities were under a boil-water advisory. To avert another tragedy similar to Kashechewan, the Association urged the federal and provincial governments to tackle the short- and long-term problems undermining the health and well-being of First Nations communities. Furthermore, OASW called upon the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to act upon the findings of the Ontario Health Quality Council regarding the inequitable access to health care experienced by aboriginals, immigrants and low-income families as compared to most other residents in Ontario.
OASW Newsmagazine on “Transformation of Health Care”
The September 2006 issue of the OASW Newsmagazine featured as its theme “Transformation of Health Care”. Articles included home- and community-based health care; discharge planning; mental health reform; Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs); opportunities for social work and rehabilitation researchers; Family Health Teams (FHTs); Community Health Centres (CHCs); long-term care; health needs of Aboriginal communities; sustainability of Ontario’s health care system; complex continuing care and rehabilitation; and health care privatization.
OHA Social Work Session on Discharge Planning
In November 2006, OASW made its annual presentation at the Ontario Hospital Association Convention (OHA). “Creating A Discharge Planning Model That Works!” was presented by Vice-President of Membership Services, Karen Nelson, and her colleague, Carol Murphy, at The Ottawa Hospital (TOH). Their presentation focused on how a hospital (TOH) has developed an effective, multi-disciplinary model for discharge planning which is led by social work and is patient/family-centred, timely and supportive. This Social Work Session was well attended and received very positive feedback. An article on this topic was featured in the September 2006 issue of the OASW Newsmagazine.
OASW Response to Bill 140, Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2006
In December 2006, the Committee on Issues of Aging prepared Briefing Notes and responded to follow-up questions for the OASW Branches in relation to Bill 140. The Committee’s written submission in January 2007 addressed various components of Bill 140 related to: the right to care; standards and regulations; staffing and skill levels; the complaints process; income level and available care; profitable enterprise; provincial standards; funding assessment tools; and needs assessment of new residents.
Elder Abuse Handbook: Updating
The Committee on Issues of Aging has worked tirelessly on updating OASW’s Elder Abuse: A Practical Handbook for Service Providers (1992); this has been a major, labour-intensive project. In preparing the revised version, the Committee has identified the following components to be incorporated: updates on research, legislation, and resources; inclusion of multicultural and marginalized populations; a “least intrusive” and client-centred focus; a psychosocial and strengths perspective, reflecting social work values and principles; an assumption of capability of independence; and strong links to the CASW Code of Ethics (2005) and to the Committee’s Policy Statement on Adult Protection Legislation (2005). The plan is to produce an accessible, portable and user-friendly format.
Gillian McCloskey, MSW, RSW, is Associate Executive Director of OASW and Editor of the “OASW Newsmagazine”.