They help people experiencing the worst times in their lives; but now, thanks to a lack of government funding, staff at Victims Services of Leeds and Grenville find themselves facing a crisis. The situation had Leeds-Grenville MPP, Steve Clark, using a Member’s Statement at Queen’s Park last week to call for urgent action from Ontario’s Attorney General.
“Speaker, the role of Victims Services isn’t limited to the few hours after an incident. They’re mandated to provide ongoing support,” he said. “This includes developing safety plans for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking.”
However, under the province’s funding formula, the agency is only funded for initial contact with victims, while the outdated formula is based on 849 new victims annually.
MPP Clark said that statistics show how dramatically shortchanged Victims Services is, as staff assisted 1,175 new victims last year and are on pace to reach 2,000 in 2017/18.
“You can imagine how this is affecting staff. The stress of doing the impossible day after day has them overwhelmed,” he said, adding, “I fear they’re at the breaking point.”
The situation shouldn’t be a surprise to the Attorney General, as it was raised by the Victim Services of Leeds and Grenville board chair in a November, 2016 letter.
Warning about the impact chronic under-funding was having on the agency, the letter states: “We have been creative and resourceful and are well supported by our communities, however there is a tremendous concern shared by our board in regards to the impact this is having on our staff’s mental health and our ability to continue service delivery in a rural environment.”
Instead of acting on the serious issues raised, Steve said the government shamefully waited eight months to respond and deferred any review of funding for another year.
“The Attorney General asks Victims Services to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community, and the agency’s staff does remarkable work in extremely difficult situations,” he stressed. “I find it absolutely unacceptable for this government to put them under even more pressure by refusing to provide the funding necessary for them to do their jobs.”