Youth group home workers threatened, abused, says union

Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees' Union (NSGEU) is raising serious concerns about the safety of both workers and residents at a youth centre in Sydney, N.S.
The co-ed facility houses eight youths between the ages of 12 and 18, and is a responsibility of the Department of Community Services.

“Staff are reporting horrific working and living conditions at this facility,” said Jessome, “They regularly report being threatened, abused and assaulted by clients."

The union says drugs are prevalent (including crystal meth) at the home, with residents returning under the influence of unknown substances and no protocols in place for proper monitoring.

Staff say they are directed not to call the police too often and not to use words like “violence” when preparing reports 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 and a behaviour management system does not exist, so negative behaviours go undisciplined.

The union has also says residents are not searched when they return to the facility and staff receive inadequate training.

"Staff 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," said Jessome.

According to the Canadian Press, Geoff MacLellan, the acting minister of the Department of Community Services, said the government has dispatched a team to the centre to investigate the allegations and talk to police.

"These allegations are very serious and concerning for us," he said. "We want to take a very close look and understand what's happening there. Health and safety are the main priorities."