June 19th, 2024

Province adding $330M for front-line social workers

By Lethbridge Herald on March 6, 2023.

MLA Nathan Neudorf, along with Social Services minister Jeremy Nixon and mayor Blaine Hyggen, take part in a game with residents of Christopher’s Place following an announcement Monday of funding for the province’s social sector. Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – apulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The province has announced a $330 million increase over three years to support front-line social sector workers.

Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services, Jeremy Nixon made the announcement Monday at Christopher’s Place, a residential facility in Lethbridge for adults with developmental disabilities who experience mobility issues. 

Nixon said Monday’s announcement builds on the $26 million the government announced before Christmas, to increase funding for homeless shelters, family violence prevention organizations and disability service providers. 

“That funding has been used to increase wages in these three sectors as well as operational funding for the disability sector, so today I’m happy to announce an additional $330 million through the Budget 2023 to increase funding to those sectors over the next three years,” said Nixon.

He said this is increase in funding is impacting wages for 22,000 Albertans and will allow them to continue to do the incredible work that they do without worrying as much about how they’re going to pay their own bills. 

Nixon said the wage top-up will be retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year. 

“We recognize how difficult it has been to attract and retain staff in these sectors which has made it difficult to care for each,” said Nixon. 

He said a petition from Dale Cena, founder of Alberta Disability Awareness Action, regarding the lack of wage increase in the disability sector caught his attention, as well as that of Premier Danielle Smith. 

“Disability workers have not seen a wage increase since 2014, which is way too long. I don’t think that people who work with most vulnerable should have to worry about how they’re going to put food on their own plate,” said Nixon. 

He said there are nearly 20,000 Albertans working in the disability sector. 

“These beautiful people work alongside some absolutely amazing people, but this is also very complex and difficult work that can be very challenging at times, and I’m just so thankful for disability workers and the work that they do across this province to make sure some of our most vulnerable have a quality of life that is good,” said Nixon. 

He shared with those in attendance that while he worked in homeless shelters for 15 years, he realized homeless shelter staff had an incredibly important role to play in helping people experiencing homelessness. 

“We were responsible for keeping them warm, fed and taken care of. Literally hundreds of individuals every night,” said Nixon. 

He remembered how hard it was working overnight and dealing with very complex challenges in the shelter and sometimes dangerous situations. 

“Our homeless shelter workers put themselves on the line on the daily basis, and deal with crisis that most of us wouldn’t or couldn’t even imagine. It’s not always negative of course, there’s positive sides to the work that people who work in homeless shelters do, and there’s good news stories,” said Nixon. 

He said he is very thankful for all the individuals that continue to work with people experiencing homelessness in our community. 

Former Chief of the Blood Tribe and current vice-chair of the Blood Tribe Department of Health, Charles Weaslehead said he was very pleased to hear the announcement, as taking over the shelter operations has been challenging. 

“We’ve been in operation for about three months now, and I tell you it’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride for me and for everybody else… Our indigenous and non-indigenous staff at the shelter go through a tremendous amount of 24/7 of operation. It’s not an easy task day in and day out. I’m just simply amazed at the work that they do up to this point. They go through a tremendous amount of stress,” said Weaslehead. 

He said homelessness has no discrimination, and when working with over 200 homeless people in Lethbridge, they encounter a diversity of challenges. 

“Today’s announcement to provide additional support and salary increase for our shelter operators and our frontline staff comes in a time that is very much needed,” said Weaslehead. 

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