Cut to the Federal Youth Justice Budget
On June 27th, the Federal Government announced Continued Support for Youth Justice Services at a funding level of $141.7M annually. For those who work in the youth justice world this was welcomed news until someone compared the current 2012 budget to the proposed 2013. It was reported by the Toronto Star that the Federal Government had actually cut funding by 20% from the existing $177.3M youth justice budget, which translates into $35.6M less next year. Since each province actually delivers the youth justice services, Ontario’s Minister of Children & Youth Services, Dr. Eric Hoskins, indicated in a public response letter that our province’s youth justice budget will endure a cut of $13M.
Ray of Hope’s official position at this moment is one of “wait and see”. As a Community Agency that provides youth justice services for the Province, our entire youth justice funding comes from the Ministry of Children & Youth Services (MCYS). We therefore wholeheartedly support Minister Hoskins’ vow to “fight this cut” and his pursuit for an audience with Federal Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson. However, we can’t help but feel nervous about the impact a potential budget cut of this size will have on the entire youth justice system in Ontario.
As an agency, we have worked through multiple government budget cuts & fiscal restructurings, resulting in the loss of detention/custody beds, entire program discontinuations, and service level reductions. In the best of economic times, the youth justice system, particularly the “non-bricks & mortar” preventative & diversion programs, work extremely hard to use every funding dollar to help teens turn their lives around while keeping the community safe. But in this new age of “austerity budgets”, where the financial bottom line literally dictates the amount & type of care given, we struggle to see the brightest of futures for those youth who will ultimately lose the people & resources needed to keep them out of a life of crime & addictions. Minister Hoskins sums it up well when he writes, “The federal cuts to youth justice are ill-timed and short-sighted. We know that with the right intervention, we can give at-risk youth and youth in conflict with the law every opportunity to turn their lives around. It’s the right thing to do, making Ontario stronger and our communities safer.”