Ombudsman’s report shines light on youth, vulnerable

Better services needed for background checks, those with complex needs, report concludes

The report from the Office of the Ombudsman for the 2012-2013 fiscal year was released Tuesday morning. (Photo: Kayte Brewster)

Nova Scotia’s ombudsman released his annual report today, emphasizing the needs of youth and the vulnerable.

The office had found that some background checks on child-care workers had been “inadequate” and that there was no comprehensive system in the country for background checks on individuals working with vulnerable persons.

Bishop said “there’s no uniform strategy” across the country for background checks — and not everyone knows when checks need to be carried out. He noted that while some legislation is in place, more standardization would be beneficial.

Bishop also said there are shortcomings in the ways various departments serve those with  special needs.

People challenged by multiple psychological and physical health problems don’t always have easy access to the services they need, and in some cases gaps in programming offered by the Department of Community Services and Department of Health and Wellness mean necessary services don’t even exist.

The report cited one case in which a patient in need of cognitive and interpersonal therapy could not get the treatment they needed in the province, but there was no funding for them to receive the treatment elsewhere.

Bishop also said available services were too complicated for many of these people to access. He called on the departments to create a “one-stop service delivery system for persons with complex needs.”

N.S. ombudsman Dwight Bishop said his office provides a sort of “quality assurance” to the public. (Photo: Kayte Brewster)

This year, the office made recommendations to the departments of Health and Wellness, Community Services and Justice with this in mind, all of which were accepted.

“You’re never going to solve it [the problems within the system] unless you deal with it,” said Bishop.

Bishop also asked the government to give his office more resources to broaden its oversight of vulnerable people.

The office’s job is to deal with complaints about provincial and municipal programs and offices within Nova Scotia. The office addressed 2,435 matters in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. In addition to receiving complaints, the office is also tasked with resolving them (or in some cases referring them to other bodies) and looks in particular at services for youth and seniors.

“People say, ‘what’s the ombudsman?’ … really, you do a quality assurance,” said Bishop during this morning’s news conference. Bishop said “the bulk” of complaints are handled informally, which he says is the only way they could address so many.

Two of the office’s notable investigations this year were into deaths — one of a prison inmate, the other of a child whose family had been receiving provincial services.  Bishop would not elaborate on the child, stating that he will wait until the investigation is concluded and the official report on the matter is released.

 A copy of the report is available on the office’s website.