The appearance this has deep roots of no qualified personal just patronage appointees.

January 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Nearly half of workers in department that manages foster care lack confidence in leaders

BY DARCY HENTON, CALGARY HERALD JANUARY 29, 2014 6:02 AM
Nearly half of workers in department that manages foster care lack confidence in leaders

Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle says the results of a survey showing nearly half the staff in Alberta Human Services don’t have confidence in their bosses indicates the department “is badly in need of a shakeup.”

Photograph by: Shaughn Butts

EDMONTON — While experts gather at a two-day roundtable to discuss ways to improve child death reviews and lift the veil of secrecy from the child welfare system, a survey of government employees who care for children suggests there are major concerns about the leadership in the department.

The 2012 corporate employee survey — part of an annual governmentwide study — indicated nearly half the staff in Alberta Human Services didn’t have confidence in their bosses.

Only 51 per cent of nearly 3,700 employees surveyed in the department expressed confidence in the senior leadership and 48 per cent felt their bosses demonstrated an interest in their well-being.

Only 46 per cent felt their bosses provided clear direction and 38 per cent believed their bosses made timely decisions.

Human Services spokeswoman Zoe Cooper said the department is already acting on the survey results to address the issues raised.

“Managers were generally provided with tools and supports to help them in communicating with their staff more clearly,” she said.

Cooper said supervisors are being trained through a series of forums that will also include sessions on bullying and harassment.

“The real focus between 2012 and now has been on reaching those supervisors and managers and helping them better connect with the staff that they work with on a day-to-day basis, and ensuring there is a positive workplace culture that is developed that supports all employees to do their best,” she added.

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees President Guy Smith said the survey results show the government needs to improve staff working conditions, rather than focusing solely on changes to the death review system and the publication ban.

“If that’s the only focus of this roundtable, then they are missing the point,” he said.

“Children who are dying in care is a very serious issue . . . but I think the whole department and the way services are being provided needs to be looked at seriously — maybe through an independent review so you look at everything.”

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman, who attended the roundtable prompted by a Calgary Herald-Edmonton Journal investigation into deaths of children in care, said that’s why his party still believes the government must call a wide-ranging public inquiry into the deaths.

“The ministry and the front-line staff need not only moral support, but they need financial support . . . and more support staff.”

Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle said the survey results suggest the department “is badly in need of a shakeup.”

“Front-line staff fear for their jobs, have no whistleblower protection and lack the resources and leadership they need,” she said.

NDP critic Rachel Notley, who also attended the roundtable at the University of Alberta, said the results aren’t surprising considering front-line workers who will be affected by the changes weren’t part of the panel drafting them.

“Nobody was there to talk about the way the front-line worker would contribute to, or be affected by a robust fatality investigation system,” she said. “We just completely forgot to include the people who are actually tasked on the front line with doing this job. . . . That’s how you end up getting the kind of measurements you see in this survey.”

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