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More Community Services job cuts in rural Nova Scotia

Eleven workers receive layoff notices in Guysborough and Barrington, says union

by Robert Devet

Guysborough and Barrington are just about as rural as it gets. Dwindling populations and decreasing caseloads are causing Community Services to reduce staff in the areas. But these decisions should not just be based on numbers, a community worker argues. Rural Nova Scotia needs more resources, and layoffs are the wrong way to go. Photo Guysborough Harbour, by BardenCJ / Wikipedia
Guysborough and Barrington are just about as rural as it gets. Dwindling populations and decreasing caseloads are causing Community Services to reduce staff in the areas. But these decisions should not just be based on numbers, a community worker argues. Rural Nova Scotia needs more resources, and layoffs are the wrong way to go. Photo Guysborough Harbour, by BardenCJ / Wikipedia

(KJIPUKTUK), HALIFAX - This week the department of Community Services handed out layoff notices to six workers in Guysborough, and five in the community of Barrington Passage, in Shelburne County.

Three of the affected workers in Barrington have been offered equivalent positions in Yarmouth and Liverpool.

Offices in these two sparsely populated communities will stay open, but with fewer staff.  Mostly child welfare workers are believed to be affected. 

It looks like Community Services  staff reductions in rural Nova Scotia are becoming a bit of a trend.

Last September Community Services closed down its office in rural Sheet Harbour. Two good jobs were lost to the community and local poverty advocates expressed concerns that people on low income would suffer the consequences.

Once again local community workers raise concerns about economic impact to rural communities and what it will mean for people living in poverty.

Community Services says it is a matter of dwindling populations and common sense.

We need to be more cost-effective in order to maintain quality services, departmental spokesperson Lori Errington writes in an email to the Halifax Media Co-op.

“Fewer people need help and caseloads are decreasing in these communities. We need to place staff and resources where there is demand,” Errington states.

But it's more than simply a numbers game, Lucille Harper believes. There may be fewer people now, but that does not mean that there are fewer needs.

Harper is the executive director of the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre, a feminist, community based women’s organization. Guysborough County is part of the area the centre serves.

Population-based decisions often risk running counter to the idea that access to services should be equitable across all of Nova Scotia, Harper believes.

This is so because rural communities face many additional barriers. Barriers that are becoming increasingly steep, she argues.

The population is shrinking rapidly, Guysborough now has a very low population density, she says. All the while infrastructure is being dismantled on an ongoing basis with schools, gas stations, and post offices closing down.

As we pull our services and infrastructure, it becomes more difficult to attract badly needed young people to our small communities, she says. And who knows whether the six laid off employees and their families will be able to stay in Guysborough?

Low population density and long distances make outreach difficult and expensive for organizations that try to make a difference.

But for low income local residents to access these services is even more problematic.

“We work with a lot of people from the Guysborough area who are living in poverty,” says Harper. “And increasingly it is an older population, a population with various disabilities making it more difficult to get around and access services. So of course we are very concerned about anything that pulls away services from the rural communities.”

“Most people don't do business using the internet, people's internet access is increasingly challenged for all kinds of reasons,” she says. “You're not even covered for phone costs when you are on Income Assistance.”

Also, some of the obstacles local residents face are historic and require major efforts to address, says Harper, pointing to the large African-Nova Scotian community in Guysborough County that has faced discrimination ever since they arrived here in the 1780s.

Housing is another such issue that will require more resources, Harper says. Most of the housing is old, meaning that they are very expensive to heat.

For all these reasons pulling back on some of the supports that need to be there and pulling people out of communities is really questionable, Harper concludes.

Sterling Belliveau, the NDP MLA who's riding includes the Barrington municipality, is also concerned.

“These three jobs in rural Nova Scotia, in a constituency like mine, are very important,” he tells the Halifax Media Co-op.

The relocation of BArrington workers to Yarmouth and Shelburne offices presents a tremendous burden to people living in poverty in his constituency, Belliveau believes. The drive from Barrington Passage to Liverpool takes about 80 minutes, Yarmouth is 50 minutes away. And many clients can't afford a car.

For Harper it is a matter of getting priorities right.

“If our priorities are people, and we are judging progress in our province by the progress of our most vulnerable residents, than these kinds of decisions make you wonder whether we are not increasing their vulnerability,” Harper says.

 

See also:

Joan Jessome on job cuts in rural Nova Scotia - "It's only the beginning"

Community Services closes Sheet Harbour Office

Community Services embarks on mystery welfare reform project

 

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter  @DevetRobert

 


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Topics: Poverty
760 words

Comments

Very Dissapointing!

It is very sad to hear that this is happening. As someone who spent the majority of my childhood in Guysborough County, I can say that Guysborough is one place where the service is serouisily needed. A big mistake will be made by closeing the Guysborough office.

 

Kendall Worth

Laying people off

Not closing the Guysborough office, Kendall, but they are laying people off. I agree that it's a big mistake.

Yes Robert you are right!

Thanks for cleaflying Robert. Still less staff working at the office means the office will have less ablity to serve the clients.

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