With the safety of vulnerable children at stake, dozens of recommendations have been made to beef up New Brunswick's child protection system. The review of protection services follows a case of child neglect that shocked our region.

One year ago, a court in Saint John heard about five young children living in wretched conditions with little food or medical care.    This, despite the fact that social workers had opened a child protection file on the family.

“I believe you pay now or you pay later,” said consultant George Savoury of Nova Scotia, who was hired to review New Brunswick's child protection system.

His recommendations include making child safety the top priority for everyone in the system.

He says the province needs a new Child Protection Act to replace 40-year-old laws.

He wants a child abuse register for N.B., similar to that in Nova Scotia and he says social workers should be made essential positions, like police officers and nurses.

In total, 107 recommendations were submitted to government.

“I can assure you and Mr. Savoury and the public that these recommendations are not going to sit on the shelf,” said Dorothy Shephard, New Brunswick’s Social Development Minister. “This is a report that I am accepting. This is a report that I am owning.”

New Brunswick has witnessed a litany of horrific child abuse cases, this case could have had a much more tragic outcome.   The plight of the children was only discovered when sherrif's deputies arrived at their home to evict their parents.

“It is so upsetting that a number of these recommendations have been made before, ten years ago in fact with respect to the need for resources for the social workers and support staff for social workers and they haven't been acted on,” said Green Party Leader David Coon.

The report also calls for new caseload standards for social workers, with a maximum of 17 active cases per worker, though fewer depending on the complexity of the cases.

A minimum of one visit per month to families on file,

And the government must expedite filling of job vacancies, and provide more administrative support for social workers.

“What I like is the support, the additional support that is going to be given to social workers to do the job,” said Claude Savoy, the president of the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers.

New Brunswick's child and youth advocate has also been investigating the Saint John Case.  Norm Bose is expected to release his report next week.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.