Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Department of Education, Culture and Employment released an evaluation report done by an independent third party on the child and youth counsellor initiative, containing 42 recommendations along with the government's response to those recommendations.
Mr. Speaker, mental health supports for our children and youth are perhaps one of the best possible investments this government can make in our future. Mental health is absolutely fundamental to physical health, prevention of addictions, educational success, development of a healthy workforce and strengthening of self-government. We simply cannot afford to mess this up.
What was transformational about the child and youth counsellor initiative, which began to be rolled out in 2018, was the integration of clinical counsellors into the school environment. So instead of having to get the family to make an appointment and take the kid out of school, the child or youth would have direct access to the counsellor right in the school making preventative and ongoing interventions much more possible.
To quote the evaluation report, having CYC services available in the schools has not only improved access but has also increased the identification of mental health disorders that previously would have gone unnoticed and untreated in children and youth. And I believe this kind of integrated model we should be eventually be extending into lots of areas, bringing counsellors and nurses into the schools, into workplaces, into outreach vans assisting people on the street. But that kind of integration requires some tricky collaboration between several departments and agencies, includin HSS, the education authorities, schools. And there were challenges to the extent that the very first recommendation in the evaluation was to hire an external facilitator to help sort out the disagreements between HSS and ECC.
Before the evaluation was even finished, the government moved ahead with a major overhaul last fall. My main concern is that the departments of ECE and HSS seem to have made changes to this program that have resulted in a loss of service to children and youth before anyone was ready to fill that gap. I am also concerned that the department seemed to have made changes based primarily on adult feedback before they got feedback from children and youth. And from reading the report, it appears that students and parents were almost unanimous in their praise of the CYC program and their counsellors. Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to conclude my statement.
---Unanimous consent granted
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So I understand that there were problems with vacancies and if counsellors rotating through small communities were not able to visit frequently enough, it would make sense to replace these with support people who can be hired locally and the evaluation does in fact provide recommendations on how that can be structured. My concern is that we let go of counsellors who were doing valuable work and instead started spending money on classroom tools, awareness materials, posters, or worse that funding is sitting idle because plans were not yet in place. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.