Recommendations for Budget 2023
- Recommendation 1 – Establish federal funding to support before- and after-school care for children age six and up.
- Recommendation 2 – Create and fund an inclusive workforce strategy for the human and community services sector, including dedicated mental health supports.
- Recommendation 3 – Continue to support the modernization of the non-profit and charitable sector by implementing and further funding the Community Services Recovery Fund, and investing in data collection for the child and youth sector.
As Canada’s largest child- and youth-serving organization, BGC Canada (formerly Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada) provides vital programs and services to over 200,000 young people in more than 750 communities across Canada. For more than 120 years, our Clubs have been there for vulnerable children, youth, and families. If a young person needs it, our Clubs provide it – from homework help to homeless shelters, a quick snack after school or their only meal of the day, a high-five or a one-on-one mental health check-in. Through our life-changing programs, community-based services, and relationships with peers and caring adults, BGC Canada helps kids and teens develop the skills they need to succeed.
The past few years haven’t been easy for youth, their families, and Clubs alike. Over the course of the pandemic, our Clubs were able to produce 75,000 hours of virtual programming to reach youth at home. In the past year, they have opened their doors to refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. More recently, Clubs on either end of the country have worked to support their local communities impacted by wildfires and hurricanes, often while rebuilding their own spaces. All of this has come against a backdrop of increasing labour shortages, inflation, and economic instability that make the work that Clubs do all the more important.
At BGC, we know that opportunity changes everything. Children and youth who attend BGC Clubs have fewer interactions with the justice system, improved mental and physical health, and struggle less with academics. These supports are critical in helping children and youth recover from the impacts of COVID-19, and in tackling future challenges. Our recommendations for Budget 2023 highlight the need not only to support youth, but also the staff and organizations who support them. Together, we can help children and youth achieve their dreams and grow up to be healthy, successful, and active participants in society.
Establish federal funding to support before-and after-school care for children age six and up.
BGC Canada applauded the historic investments made by federal and provincial governments to establish a national, $10/day childcare system. We also welcomed the investments made in Budget 2022 to expand nonprofit early learning childcare infrastructure. As recipients of this funding, our Clubs have seen firsthand the impact that early and sustained investment in children and youth can make.
Clubs provide high-quality child care for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, but families’ needs don’t stop when a child enters kindergarten. Many parents need support for school-aged children after the dismissal bell has rung. In rural communities, and for parents in shift work or the gig economy, before school programs are just as important. BGC Clubs have also seen increased demand for flexible before- and after- school programs from parents who started working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and who may only need a few hours per day or days per week of care to fit their families’ schedules.
In addition to the economic benefits of keeping parents in the workforce, before- and after-school programs are also key to supporting child development. Programs like those run by BGC Clubs improve rates of physical activity for youth, and improve academic outcomes – making up the significant learning loss created by the pandemic.1
BGC Canada recommends direct and sustained federal investment in before- and after-school care for children and youth nationwide. We further recommend leveraging the data and expertise collected by the Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Child Care to identify existing need and prioritize communities for investment.
Create and fund an inclusive workforce strategy for the human and community services sector, including dedicated mental health supports.
Clubs are located in communities where they are often needed most. Throughout Canada, BGC Clubs rely on the skills of more than six thousand highly qualified, trained staff, as well as volunteers, to create real opportunities for children and youth to thrive. Through a combination of both licensed child care and licensed recreation, our Clubs are an integral child care and after-school provider in many communities.
Like all other employers in the community services sector, BGC Clubs face an extreme labour shortage coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada’s aging workforce, and new staffing pressures from the implementation of the national childcare agreements have left many Clubs struggling to find and retain qualified staff. Clubs have additionally reported increased needs from children, youth and families, particularly around mental health supports following periods of social isolation. As a result of higher workloads, labour shortages, and low pay compared to other sectors, staff report higher rates of absenteeism, personal mental health challenges, and burnout, ultimately leading many to leave the sector. Action is needed to grow the workforce, and retain existing qualified staff.
BGC Canada echoes recommendations made by United Way Centraide Canada2, Imagine Canada, the YMCA, and others to create and fund a comprehensive workforce strategy for the human and community services sector. We recommend that the strategy include dedicated supports for child and youth workers, including education and training supports, inclusion in the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP), and dedicated immigration streams. We also recommend immediate investments in mental health supports and the Canada Summer Jobs Program as first steps to relieve staffing pressures.
Mental Health Supports
Youth and the dedicated workers supporting them are struggling – and the pandemic has only exacerbated this. A Statistics Canada report shows youth are the least likely among all age groups to report good mental health – and saw the most significant drop in self-reported mental health since the pandemic3. Only 42% of youth now report their mental health as excellent or very good4. Women, 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, racialized individuals, Indigenous individuals, and (im)migrants have also experienced compounding impacts on their mental health56. ECEs and child and youth workers are disproportionately made up of these populations and are vital to the success of the economy.
37% of Canadians also report a deterioration of their mental health since the onset of the pandemic7, with frontline workers more likely than others to experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Yet only one-third of employees have access to programs to prevent burnout, and only one-third feel comfortable addressing mental health concerns in the workplace8. In 2021, the province of Ontario took steps to fill this gap, investing $12.4 million in mental health supports solely for frontline health care workers.9
Recognizing the growing mental health and burnout crisis in the child and youth sector10, BGC Canada recommends prioritizing the creation of dedicated, community based mental health supports for children, youth, and the frontline staff that support them including mental health promotion, early intervention, and prevention programs.
We also recommend investment in funding to organisations for Mental Health First Aid Training to ensure staff have the skills needed to best support children and youth in their programs. Supporting the mental health of child and youth sector workers in particular will not only address retention, but will also better equip staff to support children and youth who are themselves facing mental health challenges. An investment of approximately $2.5 million would provide training for all current BGC staff.
Canada Summer Jobs Program
The Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program aims to provide flexible and holistic services to support young Canadians to develop employable skills and gain paid work experience to successfully transition into the labour market. It also enables Clubs and other community organisations to recruit young Canadians into our sectors, often starting lifelong careers. More than one thousand of BGC Canada’s workers across the country are supported by the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program every year, making it a key recruitment tool for child and youth workers.
Recognizing that young Canadians, those with disabilities in particular, increasingly study, graduate, and need employment throughout the year, BGC Canada has long advocated that the CSJ program run year-round. Expanding the program beyond the summer months would provide opportunities to youth when they need them most. Enabling part-time work through the program would add increased flexibility for both employers and youth, and would better meet the needs of child and youth serving organisations struggling with labour shortages.
We recommend allowing part-time, year-round CSJ positions, with a proportionate increase in funding to the overall program. In line with the Federal Government Expert Panel on Youth Employment’s report, we also recommend establishing a trusted employer mechanism and multi-year funding, to enable employers to better plan for and meaningfully engage young employees.
Continue to support the modernization of the non-profit and charitable sector by implementing and further funding the Community Services Recovery Fund, and investing in data collection for the child and youth sector.
BGC Canada welcomed the announcement of the $400 million Community Services Recovery Fund (CSRF) in Budget 2021. The CSRF has the potential to make a meaningful difference in the recovery, modernization and resiliency of community and human service charities, both in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the face of rising challenges. Sectoral modernization will also play a key role in helping non-profits and charities manage ongoing and extensive labour shortages.
Together with five of Canada’s national service federations, we are calling for further $400 million round of CSRF funding, with appropriate timelines for spending in community, to meet the full need identified in the initial rounds of consultations. Whether it is changing a fundraising practice, implementing a new HR or IT system, or shifting program service delivery models, a minimum of 12 and ideally 36 months is required to sufficiently design, develop and embed the work in a community agency or through a partnership. These timelines should apply to current and future rounds of funding.
BGC Canada also echoes the call from the National Alliance for Children and Youth (NACY) for investment in data collection specific to the child and youth sector. The child and youth sector, unlike other sectors, lacks comprehensive, national-level data about its organizations, programs, and reach. An investment of $10 million over four years could create a national survey and database of child and youth programs, as well as a benchmark of the sector’s capacity. This data will be crucial in identifying gaps and opportunities to strengthen the sector.
By investing in before and after school care; creating a workforce strategy for the community and human services sector; providing mental health supports to front line workers; and implementing and further funding the Community Services Recovery Fund the federal government can play a critical role in supporting resilient children, youth, families and organisations across the country.
- https://www.feministrecovery.ca/the-plan and www.oxfam.ca/news/71-per-cent-of-canadian-women-feeling-moreanxious-depressed-isolated-overworked-or-ill-because-of-increasedunpaid-care-work-caused-by-covid-19-oxfam-survey/