Community leaders hosted a statewide video conference Saturday to discuss the impact of the ongoing cuts and consolidations to Missouri’s social services.
Community leaders and employees of the Missouri Department of Social Services came together on Saturday to discuss how system wide cuts and other changes have negatively impacted clients well as the workers who serve them. The hearings took place on MU’s campus and connected to St. Louis, Kansas City, Kirksville and Springfield through video.
Reverend Sarah Hamilton served as chairperson to the hearing, which was organized by Missouri Jobs with Justice, the Missouri State Workers Union and Missouri Interfaith Impact. In her opening statement, she talked about the how simultaneously there’s been an increased need for services and as well as a lessening in commitment from the state.
"In just two years there has been a 16 percent cut in the number of family support division staff. In response to these cuts the dept has attempted to realize greater efficiencies by shifting resources and experimenting with new processes," she said. "Unfortunately these experiences have had devastating impacts on families across the state. ”
Community leaders, caseworkers and clients then shared how this affected each of them. Lacy Proctor works for the state as a family support eligibility specialist and is a member of the union. She said she’s seen a decrease in state workers over the past three years—people retiring out of the system who aren’t being replaced, and hiring freezes. Due to consolidations in July, she was moved from an office in Audrain County to one in Boone County. In the Audrain office she said Sthere were 6 caseworkers for about 750 cases. And that was before the consolidation.
Since the move she says she feels a loss of purpose. One of the reasons is because she’s lost a lot of face-to-face time with her clients who are now unable to make it into the office. She says it’s stressful because they know they aren’t meeting the needs of their clients.
“It’s discouraging to know that you’re not going to be able to help everyone that day. Everyone that comes in your doors requesting the services from the state of Missouri that they so desperately need and you can’t meet that need and it feels like you’re distinguishing between who needs it more and there’s no such thing," said Proctor. "Everybody needs it. And they needed it yesterday. ”
In a written statement, Spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Social Services Seth Bundy said:
“Nationwide, there has been an increase in the number of families seeking federal social services programs; meanwhile, there have been fewer resources available to states to administer these services. In Missouri, we’ve tackled this challenge by reorganizing behind-the-scenes operations in order to serve more families without reducing the number of offices or having to layoff caseworkers. Moving forward, we will continue to be careful stewards of every taxpayer dollars to ensure that our limited resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible. ”
The organizers hope the hearing will highlight the vital need for these social services across the state.