Russ Ford's Blog

Bureaucracy Over Children



This is a blog that the City of Toronto does not want you to read.I had intended to write it in December but I was advised not to until  certain legal actions had been undertaken. I had been threatened by the City that should I write what you are about to read, they would sue me for a minimum of $25,000.

When I received such a notification, my mouth did go dry. That is a lot of money. The more I thought about it however, the more I became outraged by their actions. The City is trying to  use a by-law not for what it was intended to be for, but to stop me from raising a legitimate issue of public policy. 

To my regular readers the topic of discussion will not surprise you.  It  is about Toronto Public  Health's (TPH) attempt at grabbing the speech and language program away from community based organizations like LAMP. It is now also about the city's abuse of its power.

As a quick review,  TPH is changing the way service is delivered. Rather than through the current community based providers, TPH is reducing the number of service providers to five geographically based organizations who would then contract directly with TPH. What will then follow is a rationalization of the program delivery model so that all children receive exactly the same service no matter where in the city they live. Differences between the specific needs of children or their family or their community will be a thing of the past.  It is a  one size fits all approach to providing care to children even though many have special needs like autism 

TPH did not consult with the parents who use the service. They don't want to because if they did they would get no support. Time and time again parents thank the staff at LAMP for how adaptive they have been to their child's specific needs.  That is how person centred care is supposed to work. The program should fit the needs of the child not the child to the needs of the  program

LAMP objected for many reasons with one being cost. If we were not one of the five selected we would have to let our staff go and pay severance which we estimate to be about $90,000. We did not see why we and other charitable organizations should be funding this  misadventure. 

At its July meeting the Toronto Board  of Health  agreed and said this reorganization could only go forward if the provincial government agreed to pay severance costs. 

In December TPH which does at least in theory report to the board,  put out the call for organizations to bid to be one of the five selected sites. I immediately asked TPH management if they had the agreement from the province to fund severance. They said no, but they had "assurances".  In other words they had nothing more than they had in July. 

I complained to the chair of the Board  of Health  who told me it was not uncommon to put out a request for proposals without having funding in place. They could not actually award the contract until they had the money but they could do the proposal call. While I still saw this as a violation of the intent of the board's motion it did meet the standard of the literal motion and I dropped my objection.

My concerns about severance did not escape the watchful eyes of TPH management and an internal memo was written to the members of the board not  only saying they were acting appropriately but stating that LAMP would not be one of the five selected candidates 

So let's be clear. We are now in a tendering process and the body that will determine who wins the tender has stated in writing that one of the current providers of the service does not have a chance of being successful.  This judgement was made before we even submitted a proposal 

TPH said we were too small an organization to be awarded the contract.  With an annual budget of about $12 million,  LAMP is one of the largest community based organizations in the city. If we are too small then so are just about every other community organization

This admission is hardly a surprise. It is a further demonstration of TPH's antipathy towards LAMP and the community sector.  That is what I have always felt but until this memo was leaked, it was only my impression 

I complained to the city's purchasing department which is the body that runs the tendering process and to the chair of the board of health. I said this process was now tainted and the person who wrote the memo should be removed from the selection process.  The purchasing people said they would get back to me which they have not and the chair said there will be a fairness person overseeing the process whatever that means.          

I then read the proposal guidelines. What jumps out is the reduction in the number of staff who actually provide the therapy to children. What the city is increasing is management and administrative staff. They plan to fund the bureaucratic increases by reducing the number of staff who actually provide the care.  In other words more money for bureaucracy less money for care.

How much care that will be lost is unclear  because the city does not exactly operate in a transparent manner. Over time I have seen two sets of figures on the current staffing complement. If you compare those two sets of figures against the numbers in the proposal call, there will either be a reduction of 16 per cent or 32 per cent in speech therapists.  
    
Reduction in service was never a consideration before. I  do not believe the  members of the board of health would have  approved this plan if they knew it would mean such a drastic reduction in service.  When I again contacted the chair about the service cut, he told me he could not talk to me because we are now in the middle of the contract process.

So hide the service cut and then for the first time  dislcose it in the RFP.  But once the RFP is out, no discussion is allowed.  That is quite a system.

The first time that TPH acknowledges the reduction in service outside of the RFP is in a memo to the board that came out after the proposal call. At the very end of the memo it states that providers have been reduced to "increase program flexibility". What incredible double speak. Following that logic why not get rid of all the speech pathologists and then you will have the most flexible program possible. You won't be providing service but whatever you do will be well controlled. 

The speech and language program already has a waiting list and has been starved by the province for money.  TPH had earlier stated that their changes were a good way to reduce the waiting period. What nonsense.  It is just completely unethical in my opinion to fund administration on the backs of children.  If you need more administration go to the provincial government, make your case and hopefully get it.  But don't reduce service to meet your administrative needs. 

I was then informed by the city's Purchasing department, the body that is directing the process that If I continued to try to speak to members of the board I would be considered a lobbyist and fined 

The lobbyist rules are there for good reason. They are there to ensure a fair process. They are there so a bidder can not try to get an advantage by talking up their proposal or talking down another.  That is not what I was doing 

I was not advantaging myself or anyone. I was demanding that this process be stoped so the board  now with full kinowledge of the cuts, could determine if they still support this initiative.

So on the advice of my lawyer I was left with two choices.  Bid on the contract and shut up or inform the city that we are not going to bid and free yourself to speak as any citizen can. 

It was not a hard choice given the earlier memo that clearly said we would not be considered no matter the merits of our proposal.

So the letter was sent to the city indicating that LAMP is not participating in the tendering process and that is why I am now free to publish this blog 

This is not the gas plants but it is still about the complete lack of transparency and accountability from the public sector.  We will soon be spending money on severance to dismantle a highly successful service so TPH can gain full control over it.  It is a power grab, plain and simple. It is also extremely poor stewardship of public money. The severance costs LAMP  and other organizations will have to pay, no matter the source of the money,  is a flagrant waste of tax dollars. If the province can come up with severance money why can't it come up with money to provide more care to the children? 

LAMP is out of options. No one at either the city or the province will speak to us. I believe the province will likely give the severance money by reallocating year end surplus from another program. In that way it will be hard to trace. No one will know how much money has really been wasted 

And of course the city could still decide to take legal action against me for writing this blog. My lawyer says they won't win but that does not stop them from trying.  We shall see

It is now up to you. Here is a list of the members of the board of health who are city councillors. Call them. Tell them to put a stop to the contract process and have the issue, with full disclosure brought back to the board for a decision. Call your MPP as well and ask that the severance not be flowed from the province.  If you live in LAMP's area that is Doug Holyday and his number is 416 325-5551

Councillors on the Board of Health

Raymond Cho 416 392-4076
Sarah Doucette 416 392 4072
John Filion 416 392 0210
Joe Mihevc  (chair) 416 3920208
Gord Perks 416 392 7919
Kristyn Wong-Tam 416 392 7903

Comments

Add Your Voice to the Online Petition

If you haven't already, please sign the petition and send your message directly to the Board of Health! Let's make them stop this plan! Spread the word!

http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/board-of-health-city-of-toronto-pl...

Bureaucracy over Children

Once again I am appalled by the shortsightedness of the "powers that be" regarding the reduction of speech and language programs. By reducing the number of professionals who work directly with the children is creating a lifelong disadvantage for these children. It will affect their ability to learn once they start school - many of them may be reluctant to participate in the classroom and may be bullied. These problems will create a greater gap between them and their peers to widen as they move through the school system. Struggling through school will affect their emotional and mental well being.

Children who do not get there crucial support in their early years may also have a difficult time finding employment that pays a living wage. They may not get the opportunity to contribute their talents and abilities to our communities - which will be a loss to the community.

I don't think this is what any parent wants for their children.

In the long run this boneheaded move will undoubtably cost more in the future than is saved in the short run. I keep hoping that the decision makers will see that a little money spent now will save a lot in the future. I guess I am pretty naive to think that they will exercise common sense when making their decisions.

Speech & language

The increase of the bureaucracy

Who to call?

Hi Russ, First off, you guys do great work at LAMP.

In terms of this matter, like him or not, Rob Ford might be someone worth reaching out to. Based on his platform and what he has always stood for in the past he would likely side with you. At the end of the day, he is still the Mayor and a very loud voice with the city and media in particular. This is also the sort of issue that might be of interest to him as it would be a positive story in the media if he can help.

Either way, I think this sucks and you should reach out to anyone and everyone who might be able to help and he should be included.

Bureaucracy Over Children

Unbelievable. I am astounded by the potential changes and their lack of transparency. LAMP is a crucial community service and needs all the wonderful staff that actually help the children. We need to take a stand and stop the contract process before we lose these services.

Bureaucracy Over Children

Russ:

I didn't realize that Mike Harris was now running TPH!! I think this issue would be of great interest to the Toronto Star. Go get 'em!!

Bureaucracy Over Children

I don't think angry even begins to cover how I feel about the information you have provided. "Surely this must be fiction" is what continues to go through my head and sadly I know it is not.
Thank you so much for taking this stance, taking action and providing the succinct information I need and anyone else who wants to join in this effort needs, to push back. What is taking place is a direct abuse of power at the expense of children. Specifically children, who without the unique and individualized service the current system provides will have a much lower opportunity to enjoy the most basic human rights for equity in education, employment and the social determinants of health.
Shame on Toronto Public Health for not only initiating this change in service delivery, but for not having appropriate public consultation, and for using strong-arm tactics against non-profit, charitable community organizations to flex their power to the letter of the law.

Bureaucracy Over Children

Russ, your blog not only angered but also saddened me with the realization that once again the marching morons are in control of services for children and youth. My anger is due to threatening the hard fought-for services, proven effective services being destroyed by "bean counters" without thought of the results to those whose futures will be affected because of unmet needs. My sorrow is due to remembering the years of poor or non-existing programs for school children in need. I remember as a staff member of the Etobicoke Board of Education Student Services having to trying to support students and their parents requesting early school leave, counselling acting out or withdrawn students who could not access necessary programs and dealing with frustrated teaching staff due to lack of availability of programs. The system in those days could only provide a small amount services to these children and as a result many were left out.
However with people like Fraser Mustard and others it seemed that things had begun to change and recognition and funding was being used to meet the recognized needs.
Now once again, it appears that the clock is being turned back and welcome to the '60s. No that is not correct as in the '60s things were beginning to happen and that apparently is not the case in 2014.
The Toronto Star had an article regarding Amalgamation and the increased costs rather than the savings. Again when I was working in the City of Etobicoke it seems that we had our municipal representatives and staff who were accessible, interested in the needs of children and youth and prepared to be supportive and do what was right when called upon.
Things certainly look different with situations like this. Threats because you dared to be the messenger? How bizarre!
Russ, you and the staff, board and members and supporters of LAMP are to be congratulated for continuing your work in speaking out for the needs of the Lakeshore.
As you are aware, I do not live nor work in Etobicoke having finally retired. I was raised in the Lakeshore and my caring for that community and for the needs of children and youth are not determined by boundaries. Please do not give up bringing forward the needs for services as you have been doing. Sooner or later, I am sure that once again the needs of children and youth will be back at the top of the agenda regardless of the thinking of those whose rational is as strange as believing that less professional staff and more administrative staff will bring about healthier children.
Really???

thank you for the having the

thank you for the having the courage to inform our community on the ongoing degradation of child services in this city.

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