NSGEU President Joan Jessome is raising serious concerns about the safety of both workers and residents at the Comhla Cruinn Youth Centre (pronounced Khon-la Kraine).
The co-ed facility, which is located in Sydney, opened in 2005, houses approximately eight youth between the ages of 12 and 18, and is a responsibility of the Department of Community Services. About half of the residents are being housed on a temporary basis, while the remaining half are considered permanent with no home to return to.
“Staff are reporting horrific working and living conditions at this facility,” said Jessome, “They regularly report being threatened, abused and assaulted by clients. They are also very concerned that the clients are engaging in unsafe sexual activity, which may not be consensual, are being assaulted at the facility, and are using drugs.”
In addition, the union has learned that:
- None of the residents are searched when they return to the facility;
- The centre is plagued with drugs and residents returning who are obviously under the influence of unknown substances including crystal meth, and there are no protocols in place for proper monitoring;
- There are sex acts occurring among residents, and when reported to management, staff members are directed to simply observe. However, they are not permitted to supply condoms;
- Residents are free to go and return as they please and are often out all hours of the night (this is in despite of some of them being under court imposed curfews);
- Staff are directed not to call the police too often, however, the police report more than 500 calls to the facility each year;
- Staff are directed not to use words like “violence” when preparing reports, so as to avoid attention in the event of Freedom of Information requests;
- There are no “timeout rooms” to safely house residents who may be acting out;
- There is no Behaviour Management System in place, so no consequences for negative behaviours;
- There are no requirements to attend school or do chores;
- There is inadequate training for staff: they receive two days Nonviolent Crisis Training but no refresher.
The facility was originally intended to house residents who are evaluated as a “level 1 or 2” – meaning they are considered to be low-level risks and are in need of residential support or outreach programs. However, due to government budget cuts, the facility is receiving residents who are more “level 3 or 4” – meaning they either refuse or are unable to consent to treatment, and would normally end up at a secure centre for youth, such as Wood Street Centre.
Jessome is calling on government to immediately bring in security to ensure the safety of workers and residents, and undertake a full, comprehensive review of the facility. The union will be going through the proper Occupational Health & Safety channels to file formal complaints.
“We have an obligation to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both our own members and these youth. It’s only a matter of time before we have a tragedy on our hands at Comhla Cruinn.”
The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents over 30,000 women and men who provide quality public services Nova Scotian’s count on every day.
For more information, please contact:
Holly Fraughton, NSGEU Communications Officer