Thursday, October 08, 2009

Foster Care Council Presents at Federal Finance Committee

October 08, 2009 - (Ottawa) The Foster Care Council of Canada's made a presentation to the Federal House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to make a presentation to their committee in Ottawa on October 08, 2009.

[listen here]

Dunn will addressed the issue of Federal Social Transfer Payments being sent to the provinces without any conditions or monitoring imposed on their use or effectiveness in child protection services.

The issue of conditions being imposed on the use of federal Social Transfer Payments was raised in Chapter 1 of the 2008 Federal Auditor General's Report. The "Main Points" section of the report states the following;

"Our study examined the three main mechanisms used by the federal government to transfer funds to the provinces and territories. We also looked at the nature and extent of conditions attached to these transfers."

"The nature and extent of conditions attached to federal transfers to the provinces and territories varies significantly. While some transfers have specific conditions that recipients must meet, others are unconditional and there is no requirement for a province or territory to report to the federal government on the use of the transferred funds. It is not always clear to parliamentarians which transfers have conditions attached and what the nature and extent of those conditions are."

"Some transfers involve conditions that, for example, obligate recipients to provide the federal government with information on how they spent the transferred funds and to what effect. The federal government must demonstrate that it is monitoring provincial and territorial compliance with these conditions and that it is taking action in cases of non-compliance. Where transfers have limited or no conditions, the provinces and territories have the flexibility to spend the funds according to their own priorities, with no legal obligation to account to the federal government for the spending."

View the Report
You can view the report here to learn more about the issue of conditions being placed on federal Social Transfer Payments in preparation for your presentation to the Committee by visiting the following link

Transcript from Dunn's presentation:

The Chair:

Thank you very much, Mr. Turk.

We'll now go to the Foster Care Council of Canada, please.

Mr. John Dunn (Executive Director, Foster Care Council of Canada):

Hello. I'm John Dunn from the Foster Care Council of Canada.

I would like to introduce the council first. We're a non-profit organization made up of former foster kids who advocate for transparency and accountability in child welfare.

We understand that child welfare, specifically child protection other than native concerns, is a provincial matter. With regard to the social transfer payments that come from the federal government to the provinces, we have one recommendation: that members of Parliament consider looking at placing conditions on social transfer payments. I understand the provinces fought long and hard not to have those placed. The reason I'd make that recommendation and the reason I'm here is in response to the Auditor General's December 2008 report. Chapter 1 studies social transfer payments and informs parliamentarians of the way they're done, the mechanisms used, and the lack or presence of conditions placed on the payments.

Because we are a new organization, I can only focus on Ontario at this time. But if we placed the principles of what I'm saying on all the provinces--and we'll be making presentations in the future with regard to more national issues--one of the issues with child welfare funding is that when the money goes from the federal government to the province, it goes into a consolidated revenue account, and then there is no more accountability as to where that money came from. Nobody is monitoring it at the provincial level.

I know the understanding from the federal government is that the provincial governments have their own auditors and they monitor the expenditure of these funds. In Ontario alone, approximately $1 billion to $3 billion in funding goes toward child protection. That's just one province. There's a lot of money there.

When we bring concerns to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services about illegal spending by child welfare agencies, which are private, autonomous organizations, each governed by a board of directors that answers to the local community...when citizens try to go to these agencies and apply for a regular membership, which would be equivalent to a shareholder in a profit corporation, they often have their memberships rejected. That's the only means for people to monitor the expenditure of the money. When we applied to the agency for membership, they rejected the membership without explanation. We're the only people who can watch that spending and we're being blocked. When we go to the Auditor General, the province that complains about illegal spending says it can only answer to committees of the legislature. It can't answer to citizens, so it can only get recommendations from the committee. We then go to the committees and the MPPs, and they often refer us back to the ministry responsible for child welfare, which again redirects us to the private agencies. It's a never-ending cycle of lack of accountability for the expenditure of those funds.

This being our first year presenting at the federal level, and not having a lot of research and funds to go national, we wanted to bring this up and let the federal government realize there is a need for conditions to be placed on social transfer payments. We hope to keep that issue alive until next year.

Thank you for your time.

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