This is page numbers 6289 - 6352 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was assembly.

Topics

Question 841-18(3): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan
Oral Questions

Page 6301

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

When we came forward with Building Stronger Families, we were hoping to change from an apprehension-based system to a prevention-based system. Building Stronger Families is still the right way to go, but what we realized and what we heard from the Auditor General is we did not have enough feet on the street to make this a reality, and we were overburdening a number of our people, and, as a result, they were not doing the record-keeping that was necessary to ensure that we were monitoring its success and/or failures. We have increased the number of positions in the last budget by 21.

As I said, a third of those will be focused on training and policy development and making sure the program is right, but the rest are front-line delivery. There is a second ask for future years, Mr. Speaker, that we invest in more positions, with a greater focus on things like family advocates or family support workers. We believe that this is an important step and it's a necessary step to provide those families with the supports they need so that they can keep their children with them, so we are no longer taking children from families. That will be a decision of the next government. I think it is an incredibly important decision, and I hope the next government continues to maintain a focus on child and family services and that that does occur.

Question 841-18(3): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan
Oral Questions

Page 6301

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

That sounds like an interesting initiative. A final concern I have which the Minister has touched on is about the systemic changes needed to prevent children from going into care because of issues such as a lack of food and inadequate housing. The anti-poverty commitments, which the Minister has also represented, include a continuum of service and maybe should include a continuum of support. Can the Minister say what kind of prevention is taking place around this issue of neglect driving children into care?

Question 841-18(3): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan
Oral Questions

Page 6301

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

The premise of Building Stronger Families is finding ways to support families so that children do not have to be apprehended. This could be as simple as providing diapers or food to an individual family who might be in crisis at a particular point. We have done a pilot in Behchoko where we actually covered individuals' rent for a couple of weeks when they were in crisis, because we believe that, if those individuals had been taken out of their homes, it would have also resulted in a direct apprehension. We are looking at spreading these concepts and these ideas out across the Northwest Territories to help families. We have also been able to send families' parents out for treatment and to provide short-term placement for kids with family so that they maintain that family relationship.

There are many more things we could do. Many of them will be one-offs because every situation is different, and we need to be flexible enough to do that. Our social workers are receiving more and more voluntary applications, more people coming in on a voluntary basis. I think this is a good thing because, when they come in on a voluntary basis, we can develop a case plan that works for them and is individualized to their needs and allows those children to stay in those families and in those homes. Our caseload is up, Mr. Speaker, but the number of people going into permanent care is down, and I think that is indicative that the concepts work. We failed at reporting. We failed at some of the things that we were trying to do. We have taken from this committee, from this Auditor General, the lessons that we needed, and we are making improvements today.

Question 841-18(3): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan
Oral Questions

Page 6301

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Oral questions. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Question 841-18(3): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan
Oral Questions

Page 6301

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Minister for the passion that he brings to this issue. Lastly, I want to follow up the statement that I made in the winter about the need for a child and youth advocate. The Minister indicated that his staff could update research on the idea, and I am wondering what progress he can report on this commitment.

Question 841-18(3): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan
Oral Questions

August 21st, 2019

Page 6301

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

As the Member for Yellowknife Centre has already pointed out, we do have a significantly large action plan with 70 items, and our staff have been quite busy. As a result, we have not done that additional research on a child advocate at this point. However, I would like to note that I was a member of the committee that did a review of the implementation of child and family services in the 16th Assembly, and, at that time, I and my colleagues had an opportunity to go and meet with child advocates from other jurisdictions and learn about the roles that they provide. A child advocate tends to be an officer of the Legislature in most of the other jurisdictions. That is not unlike an ombud that we have recently created here in the Northwest Territories. They are usually not singularly focused on child and family services, but instead focus on children's issues that may be through education or justice or other government functions, questions pertaining to the machinery of government offices such as an ombud or Legislature.

If a child advocate were to be created, it would likely be an office of the Legislature. We are all part of that, but it just is not a Health and Social Services pursuit. I would also note that the mandate of child advocates, if you look at what's happening in other jurisdictions and granted this information might be a little dated because it's based on the review we did in the 16th Assembly, but a lot of those services are done by positions we have already created here in the Northwest Territories, like a children's lawyer, the territorial director, the ombud that we have recently created, so some of these positions can do some that work. However, I am also optimistic that, as we get more involved in Building Stronger Families and with a better focus on prevention, some of the reasons that people want a child advocate ombud today might not be as strong if we are more successful with the work that we intend to do. We already know that an ombud is very expensive, and I think that money may be better spent on front-line delivery of services to families. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 841-18(3): Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan
Oral Questions

Page 6302

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Oral questions. Member for Deh Cho.

Question 842-18(3): Eligibility for Home Improvement Funding
Oral Questions

Page 6302

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. As I stated in my Member's statement, some residents of the K'atlodeeche First Nation want to repair their homes but do not have home insurance and so were denied assistance. My question is to the Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. What kind of education or information does the NWT Housing Corporation offer for home-ownership clients, to encourage the need for home insurance? Mahsi.

Question 842-18(3): Eligibility for Home Improvement Funding
Oral Questions

Page 6302

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Question 842-18(3): Eligibility for Home Improvement Funding
Oral Questions

Page 6302

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As part of our education courses for home-ownership clients, we do provide information on the importance and need for home insurance. As all Members know and residents know, that is a big investment for any family, and we want to make sure that they are provided the services and are able to have that insurance should something happen to them. We are working with our financial partners, though, Mr. Speaker, to look at areas such as financial literacy and also increasing the accessibility on insurance coverage for our residents and exploring options around discounts on the cost of insurance plans. I would also want to let the Member know that this past weekend we did sit down with the district office managers and board chairs and members to address this issue, and they brought it up, and I did let the board chairs know that all MLAs within this government have been bringing up housing issues, and this is one of them that we are looking at addressing.

Question 842-18(3): Eligibility for Home Improvement Funding
Oral Questions

Page 6302

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

The second question is: does the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation deny public housing applicants who do not qualify for tenants' insurance?

Question 842-18(3): Eligibility for Home Improvement Funding
Oral Questions

Page 6302

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Before anything, we always try to provide the best services for our residents and tenants that reply for housing throughout the Northwest Territories. We give all of our residents every opportunity to stay in their homes. We do not deny public housing applications to those who can't afford insurance. We strongly recommend that public housing tenants do get insurance, though, and we work with our partners to try to address that.

It is also mentioned in the lease agreements that tenants are advised to obtain some type of insurance moving forward, not only for the housing complex, but for their own assets that they have. We continue to work with our tenants to provide the education that is needed moving forward.

Question 842-18(3): Eligibility for Home Improvement Funding
Oral Questions

Page 6302

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Has the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation done any analysis to determine what its annual losses might be if it provided these programs to low-income clients without the need for homeowners' insurance? In other words, is the valley of investment so high that it is worth denying low-income clients who need home ownership assistance just because they don't have insurance?

Question 842-18(3): Eligibility for Home Improvement Funding
Oral Questions

Page 6302

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

The majority of our programming for homeowners do not require home ownership insurance. Also, many of our low-income homeowners will not be denied our programming if they do not have insurance. As I said earlier, we want to make sure that our residents and people of the Northwest Territories have an opportunity to have a roof over their heads. However, we really do want to see homeowners having up-to-date insurance on their homes, as many of us do.

We do have two programs, CARE Major and CARE Mobility, where we do require homeowners insurance, and it goes back to the Member's question earlier. We need to get that education out, and we need to make sure that our managers and our board members give that information to residents of the Northwest Territories. This is due to the fact that these programs provide a considerable amount of financial assistance, up to $100,000.

I will make a commitment here, that we will start working on getting that information out. As I said, last weekend was the first time that we did meet with the board chairs, the first time ever, and also with our district managers. It is ground-breaking. I mentioned, and our staff mentioned, that we do need to get that information out to our residents, so that they know what kind of programs they can access.

Question 842-18(3): Eligibility for Home Improvement Funding
Oral Questions

Page 6303

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Member for Deh Cho.