During the deliberation of the 2017-2018 Main Estimates (aka the O&M budget) for the Department of Health and Social Services, I had the following exchange with the Minister and his witnesses.
MR. SIMPSON:Thank you, Mr. Chair. These questions are in relation to family violence. Over the last 10 years the proportion of re-admission to shelters has increased by 25 per cent, mostly in the past five years. In addition, the number of children found to be revictimized has been trending upwards for the past two years. Despite this, there have been few, and now only negligible, increases in the support to family violence shelters, which are the first point of contact for many of these individuals. In addition to being a safe place, the shelters serve as transitional housing. Because of their access to those in need, they are uniquely positioned to provide a myriad of services that can help reverse this trend, this upward trend.
On page 172, there is a line item for $3.63 million. There is another line item labelled family violence on page 173, and there is an increase in the HSS Authority funding of $120,000 that I believe is earmarked for family violence shelters. The first question I have is: is the total of these amounts, about $4.145 million, the total amount allocated to family violence initiatives or is it just the $3.63 million found on page 172? Thank you, Mr. Chair.
HON. GLEN ABERNETHY: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, the amount on 172 of $3,630,000 is the money that is going towards all the initiatives focused around family violence in the Northwest Territories. The number on 173 of $395 is how much will flow to some of the different organizations across the Northwest Territories to support family violence. It is all in the $3,630,000. One is a grant. This section has gone up by $120,000, which is some additional contributions we are providing to three of the shelters based on some forced growth.
More importantly than the small increase, I made a commitment to the shelters last year that there has been a lot of talk about having a solid, set formula on how we fund shelters. It has been a little vague to date. I made a commitment that, once we had the single authority in place, that we would be able to work together to develop a formula in partnership with those family violence shelter organizations. I made a commitment that we would move on that basically a year after we had gone live with the shelter. I made a commitment that, starting in August, we will start to have those conversations with them on how to develop a formula to properly and adequately fund those shelters moving forward. Thank you.
MR. SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chair. That answers questions three, four, and six. Last June you also said that $2.5 million flows to the shelters. That was in response to an oral question that I posed. The department’s business plan indicates that there are two initiatives related to family violence, supporting family violence shelters with funding, training, and capacity, and the What Will It Take social marketing campaign. If the $2.5 million goes to shelters, is the other $1.1 million spent exclusively on this marketing campaign? Thank you, Mr. Chair.
HON. GLEN ABERNETHY: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, there is a wide range of different marketing campaigns and other initiatives that we are using those additional dollars for. I will go to the deputy for the list and the detail. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
MS. DELANCEY: Thank you, Mr. Chair. About $3 million is rolled to the family violence shelters through the authorities. Another $395,000 is rolled directly to the family violence shelters as per page 173. Then there are a number of smaller projects. About $325,000 is used to support, for example, we fund FOXY to do the social marketing campaign. We fund the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority for the Children who Witness Abuse program. We have funded the Deh Cho region for a pilot project on improving safety for victims of violence in a region where there is not a shelter. We give some funding to the Status of Women Council, some funding to the Tlicho Community Services Agency, and some funding to the YWCA. There are a number of smaller projects that are included in that overall budget, as well. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
MR. SIMPSON: Thank you for that answer. You said about $3 million to the family shelters through the authorities, plus another $395,000 directly. That is about $3.4 million, and in the response to my question it was $2.5 million. So has funding to family violence shelters increased by $900,000 in this budget? Thank you, Mr. Chair.
HON. GLEN ABERNETHY: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, I’m going to have to get some additional detail from the Member. Did we provide that number of $2.5 million? Because that’s not what we have in front of us.
MR. SIMPSON: The number $2.5 million is in Tabled Document 130-18(2). It’s a response to an oral question.
HON. GLEN ABERNETHY: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, we will commit to getting a reconciliation of the numbers for the Member to explain where we are, but ultimately in this section we have increased by $120,000, which is the only significant change to this budget line from previous years; but we will look at the response to oral questions and reconcile the numbers. I apologize for any confusion.
MR. SIMPSON: Thank you for that answer. Yes, there is $26 million; it doesn’t really tell you what it is. So it’s always troubling to me when I look at this and we’re supposed to be voting on a $26 million line item that says Health and Social Service Authority Funding for Community Social Programs and I really don’t know what that means. So I was just trying to get some clarity. I guess I’ll probably make this my final point. The family violence shelters are basically receiving money so that they can continue to operate, but there are issues with the facilities often. I’m not sure if this is a capital budget question or if this is something that you guys would do in O and M as a contribution, but if the familyviolence shelter just needs a new building, they have no money to store away and save up for that, how is that accounted for and how does the department deal with that? Thank you, Mr. Chair.
HON. GLEN ABERNETHY: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I’ll use Hay River as an example. I have had an opportunity to visit the Hay River Family Violence Shelter and talk to the staff and understand their concerns. The Department of Health and Social Services and the Housing Corporations are in discussions with them to explore all opportunities for them to find a new location. I can’t tell you what that’s going to look like across the Northwest Territories because it would be different pretty much in every location depending on what assets are available, what assets aren’t available, but we do know that we need to work with them and we are working with them to explore options. Right now, we don’t have a solution for you, but we are working with them.
MR. SIMPSON: Thank you to the Minister. No further questions. Thank you, Mr. Chair.