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Windsor-Essex feeling the pinch of provincial cuts to social services, legal aid

From social services to legal aid, continued cuts from the provincial government are having an effect in Windsor-Essex.

Windsor Women Working With Immigrant Women (W5) recently ended two of its programs which offered incentives to employers who hired people between 15 and 29 years of age.

The cuts have caused some problems within the organization. The provincial budget came down after the end of W5’s fiscal year, leaving them in limbo as to how much funding it would get and how many workers the organization could keep.

“Some agencies only have the managers sitting in the office. They didn’t know if their work in April would be paid or not. And some agencies such as [W5], we lost our experienced staff,” said interim executive director Olivia Brezeanu

“The job security is very important for everyone.”

Brezeanu added it’s hard to rely on money from the province — and the only thing organizations like W5 can do is to keep “applying for new funding.”

Liz Garant says it’s already difficult enough to qualify for Legal Aid — and the province’s cuts are only going to make it worse. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

It’s not just organizations which have been affected by the province’s cuts — individual workers are feeling the pinch as well.

On Tuesday, injured workers gathered at Charles Clark Square to protest changes which, they say, will make it harder to collect worker’s compensation.

According to a member of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers‘ Groups, it’s more difficult for workers to get the financial assistance they need — especially with a looming cut of 30 per cent to legal aid funding.

“Worker’s compensation … you get denied and then you have to find a lawyer,” said 57-year-old worker Liz Garant who founded the group’s Windsor chapter. “And then some of the time, you go to the Office of the Worker Advisor and they’re backlogged.

“So then you go to legal aid. And if legal aid gets cut, you’re in trouble.”

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky says she’s received calls from people in ‘crisis’ amid the province’s cuts to social assistance and legal aid funding. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky said the cuts are a big hit to many organizations in Windsor-Essex, which may result in a further need for shelter services and food banks.

She adds “a lot of people” have called her who are in crisis with suicidal thoughts or have contemplated giving their children to care so they can get the support they need.

“No parent should ever be put in a position where they feel like they have to hand their child over to Children‘s Aid or to the government … in order for that child to get the health care that they need,” said Gretzky.

In a statement to CBC News, the province’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities said the government remains committed to supporting youth seeking employment through programs like the Youth Job Connection and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program.

The province adds many of the other youth-oriented programs which were discontinued, such as Youth Job Link, were largely “a duplication of services already offered in Employment Ontario through programs.”