• Working Conditions of Front-Line Poverty-Reduction Staff at Non-profit Agencies

      Morningstar, Sarah
      Over the past three to four decades in Ontario, neoliberalization and new public management have restructured the non-profit social services (NPSS) sector by reducing core funding and introducing a competitive proposal system with increased managerial accountability. These changes have generated immense workplace pressures for frontline staff. Frontline staff in the NPSS have seen an increase in standardization accompanied by the degradation of their skills. Through in-depth interviews with five frontline staff at two similar non-profit agencies serving people experiencing poverty in the Niagara Region, this paper explores the question: How do frontline staff in the non-profit social services sector describe their working conditions? And how resonant are the narratives of compassion fatigue and burnout. In contrast to the narrative of "compassion fatigue" that often describes the experiences of professional frontline workers, I found that burnout among frontline poverty-reduction staff stems primarily from encountering structural barriers, such as a lack of affordable housing, that limit what they can do to help their service users. Furthermore, I found a general lack of organizational supports for frontline staff as workers, including supports to prevent or lessen burnout. This research brings to light new perspectives regarding poverty-reduction work and ultimately points to needed supports for frontline staff that may improve their work lives, well-being and poverty-reduction effectiveness.