Thursday, June 15, 2017

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day - June 15th

June 15th had been declared World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 

This is a day to get the word out about an important and growing issue and concern in the lives of many older adults, seniors and their families.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is any kind of maltreatment of an older person and includes the following:
  • Emotional, verbal and/or psychological abuse and intimidation - Name calling, yelling, manipulation, or any type of verbal behaviour or treatment which attacks, degrades, or diminishes the emotional, or psychological health, safety, integrity and well being of another person. This can include the use of words to intimidate, or instill fear in the targeted person. This form of abuse also includes alienating and increasing the social isolation and dependence of the target on their abuser. 
  • Financial abuse and/or exploitation - This occurs when someone abuses, improperly uses, or exploits the financial resources, or assets of a senior for their own personal gain. This can include an individual preying upon the kindness and vulnerability of a older person with the goal of gaining control of their financial resources and assets, or living off of, or exploiting a senior. 
  • Physical abuse and intimidation - This includes physical actions such as hitting, pushing, punching, pulling, pinching, biting, shoving, or any other physical contact that is harmful and impacts the physical integrity of the person this is done to. These actions do not have to leave bruises, marks, or cause other physical injuries to be considered abuse. Some abusers may also use physical intimidation and presence to overpower and control their targets as well.
  • Sexual abuse - This includes any unwanted sexual touching, contact with a seniors private body parts without consent, and sexual assault (rape). 
  • Institutional abuse - This type of abuse occurs in institutional settings such as residential care facilities, hospitals, or other settings where seniors live, and are cared for by others. This can include neglect of necessities, such as food, personal care and hygiene, or other resources that the senior is reliant upon the institution and its staff to provide.
What is Elder Neglect?

Neglect is any kind of conduct which denies a person with the necessities of life, such as food, water, shelter, medical care, medications, or anything that is essential for their health, safety and well being.

Who Are the Most Common Types of People who Engage in Elder Abuse?
  • Family members, including spouses, adult children, or others. 
  • Caregivers, family members or professionals working with seniors in institutional care settings. 
  • Relative strangers can also befriend and move forward quickly with an agenda to gain advantage to abuse and exploit seniors, particularly in the area of their financial resources and assets.
What are Some of the Signs and Symptoms that Someone might be Experiencing Elder Abuse

These can vary depending on the type of abuse, or neglect, a senior is experiencing. Some general signs to take note of include the following:
  • Changes in the overall health, and well being of the senior. This includes changes to sleep, eating, or toileting behaviours, or the interest and openness of talking to others.
  • Increased anxiety, changes in mood, or fears expressed/fearful behaviour about being around certain people, going to certain places, or being alone. 
  • Increase in low, or sad mood, or expressions of this and feelings of hopelessness in the absence of any known changes, or losses. 
  • The appearance of physical injuries and evasive replies when asked about how these injuries occurred.
  • Broken personal equipment (such as eye glasses, or mobility aids), or property damage in the person's home. 
  • Increasing symptoms from health conditions that used to be under control with medications. This could indicate that medications are not being provided, or not consistently being provided, or taken. 
  • Self-reports from the senior about others' maltreatment, abuse, or neglect. 
  • The sudden appearance of a stranger in the older adults life and the sense they are being "swept off their feet" in a whirlwind romance that moves very quickly, including the person moving into the home of the senior, or that the older adult is financially providing for another person.
  • Changes in a senior's personality, demeanor and how they engage with others. This could include increased conflict, evasiveness, confusion and secrecy with close relatives and friends, especially in the context of a new relationship with a stranger. 
  • Notable decreases in the time the senior spends with, or communicates with family members and close friends alone. 
  • Changes in their communication patterns, which can include monitoring, or the presence of their new partner during communications with others. 
  • Increasing social isolation and alienation from family members and close friends. 
  • Changes occurring in the financial life of the senior, such as making changes to Power of Attorney, Representation Agreements (in the absence of specific reasons for doing so), and/or increasing sums of money being used, or transferred out of bank accounts. 
  • Family members and friends develop non-specific, vague feelings of concern and worry about the senior and how they are really doing, although they may report things are fine.
What are Some of the Factors that Increase the Risk and Vulnerability of Elder Abuse?
  • A history of spousal and family violence. These dynamics and vulnerability to abuse often continue once a person is an older adult.
  • Seniors who are socially isolated and dependent upon family members, caregivers or others to have their needs met. 
  • Seniors who are lonely, have experienced significant losses and who strongly desire companionship are at increased vulnerability. 
  • Older adults who have financial resources and assets. Some individuals are skillful at identifying seniors who have desirable assets and resources and who are vulnerable. These people will form a plan and agenda to court, ingratiate, and/or show interest in the senior with the intent of exploiting and gaining access to the targets assets.
How to Help a Family Member, or Individual Who You Are Concerned About
  • Keep a close connection with, and an eye on, the seniors in your life. Spend time together, keep in contact by phone, email, or any other means to keep the lines of communication open. 
  • Make sure the person knows you care about them and are there to help in any way they need you. A lot of seniors do not want to burden others if they are struggling. Victims of abuse also often feel shame, embarrassment, or humiliation, or have even been threatened if they speak out about what they've been going through.
  • Monitor and keep an even closer eye on the situation if a new person has quickly entered the life of the older adult and the relationship appears to be progressing quite fast, or the senior indicates they have started providing financial, or material support for that new person.
  • Ensure that the senior has completed Advance Care planning documents, including an Enduring Power of Attorney, and Representation Agreements to ensure that someone responsible and reliable is involved in their financial and health care decision-making. Make sure if you are in these official roles that you have access to the seniors passwords for online banking (only use this information if needed) and information about where their important documents and assets are located.
  • Sensitively offer to assist and support your family member with financial management of their bills, assets, or other things, if this is a source of concern for them, or family members. 
Where to Get Help in Elder Abuse Situations

Designated Responders for Elder Abuse, Neglect and Self-neglect complaints
  
Home Health/Community Care 
  • In BC, the Health Authorities have created designated responders who can be contacted within each region. In the community, these responders are generally part of the Home Health/Community Care team. Contact information for Home and Community Care offices can be found here: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/services-and-resources/find-services
Hospitalization 
  • If a senior is in the hospital, the hospital social worker on their unit is the Designated Responder. The older adult, concerned family members, or others, can contact the Social Worker to make a report about possible Elder abuse, neglect, or self-neglect. 
Seniors Abuse & Information Line (SAIL)
  • If you are an older adult who has been abused or mistreated call the Seniors Abuse & Information Line (SAIL) at 604-437-1940 or toll free at 1-866-437-1940, 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., to get a referral to their legal advocate and other programs.
SeniorsFirstBC 
  • This organization provides information, resources, training, and assistance to seniors and their families.  
  • Visit their webpage here: http://seniorsfirstbc.ca/
VictimLink BC
HealthLink BC: Elder Abuse page: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/aa60933spec

Local Police Authorities
  • In cases of serious Elder Abuse, you may want to contact your local police authority to make a report. Some large municipalities may have a special unit that handles Elder Abuse cases. This may be part of a Domestic Violence unit (DVU) and there might be a Victims Services Worker who can provide information, resources and/or support the senior and/or family member in elder abuse cases.   
______________________________________________________________
About the Author: 
 
Tracey Young, BA, MSW, RSW is a Registered Social Worker in B.C. who provides counselling, consulting, Advance Care and personal planning services to individuals and families around the province. Visit her website here for more information about the services she provides: http://catalystbc.ca
 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Know Your Rights: Working with Child Protection Services

This article is geared toward Ontario, but the advice is helpful for any families working with Child Protection authorities anywhere.

Know your rights – 6 things you need to know to protect yourself and your child
  (



While child care workers have a lot of power given to them by the province, and in their eye they’re doing right by the law and your child, they have to do things by the book.

Toronto area lawyer Katherine Hensel says there’s too much at stake to be overwhelmed by it. She says you have to keep your head and focus on what you need to do to get your child back.

Here are six points to keep in mind if you’re dealing with the system.

1. Get the documents from the society, they have to serve you, they have to provide you with an explanation in writing that’s also going to be filed with the court about why they are apprehending your child. Look at those documents. Consider them. And get a lawyer right away.

2. Make sure you find out when the court date is. You have to go to that court date. And if you don’t, it may be characterized as you don’t care enough or you’re not organized enough to make it to court.

3. Get on legal aid funding, a certificate or whatever province or territory you’re in. Make sure that you’re in a position to find and retain a lawyer, before the first court date. That is going to take a fair amount of work.

4. Look at the risks they say you pose. That your life and your home pose to your children. Be honest with yourself and sort out what you agree with and what you don’t agree with. Take immediate steps to address, or to begin to address the risks that you agree with and what you don’t agree with. Start to build evidence, to contradict what the society says.

5. Don’t sign any agreements, unless you completely agree that you cannot safely care for your child in the present, because it may be difficult to go back from that. Don’t sign any voluntary agreements without the advice of lawyer.

6. Engage with your First Nation or community, for whatever resources and support and advocacy that they can provide to you.

news@aptn.ca

Monday, June 27, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Province to blame for homeless crisis

Province to blame for homeless crisis
Young, T. (June 23, 2016). Vancouver Courier, A11.

 
The Marquis de Sade would no doubt be enamoured of the cruel, inhumane, and harmful behaviour of the BC Liberal government in driving the biggest homelessness crisis in British Columbia since the Great Depression. 
 
Make no mistake about it, the public policies of the BC government have set the stage for this human, and societal tragedy. 
 
Since 2007 the shelter rate for basic income assistance has been capped at $375, with $235 for support. If you are homeless, you may, or may not be provided with the support portion. This policy is totally random and inconsistent in how it is applied. 
 
As a social worker, I have worked with the most marginalized, vulnerable, and poor people in the province. Time and time again these high-risk/high-need people have been completely shut out of accessing basic income assistance due to the cicular hoops they have to jump through. 
 
Applications to income assistance through the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation are now only available online. If you struggle with literacy, ESL, mental health, or other issues, how can you be expected to complete something like this online? If you do not have an address, where does MSDSI send the stack of papers you have to complete to possibly qualify?  
 
Many people who are homeless have lost everything they own. If you have no birth certificate, you cannot obtain identification. With no ID, you have no ability to access bank records for the past 60 days, part of the application process. If you have no ID, or access to bank records, you cannot access income assistance, medical, or prescription coverage. If you are "lucky" maybe you will receive a short-term "hardship" allowance, which has to be re-applied for on a month-to-month basis. Again, its completely random whether individuals will be granted hardship. 
 
Another example of the injustice and inhumanity of the BC government's policies is the trumpeting in the increase of disability assistance, only to claw back this "increase" by forcing disabled people to sacrifice their access to affordable transportation in the form of a disability bus pass. I wonder how many of us would be able to survive on $906.42 per month, the cruel amount disabled people in B.C. are expected to shelter, feed, and care for themselves with? 
 
This government-sponsored, and institutionalized, impoverishment, when combined with the current real estate disease inflating house prices, and a dearth of affordable housing is spreading throughout the province this epidemic of homelessness is increasing. Its going to get much worse too as the B.C. government clearly has no intention of doing anything substantial to improve the situation. While the BC government plays its flute Rome is burning and increasing numbers of us face chronic situations of housing insecurity, where the rug can be pulled out from under us at any time.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Women and the NDP: Gender inequality institutionalized within the party

Women and the NDP

Young, T. (June 10, 2016). National Post. Retrieved from: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/letters/letters-trudeaus-hornets-nest
Cheri DiNovo, an Ontario NDP MPP, has raised an important issue about internal policies, processes and governance in the New Democratic Party. How did the NDP get so far from its roots of social democracy, it has created a party where only the most privileged can throw their hats into the ring for the leadership of the party?
Tommy Douglas would be disgusted to learn only those who can pay the required $30,000 fee can run to head the party that arose out of his populist movement — and think this is as shameful as progressive voters like me.
This kind of policy entrenches and institutionalizes structural inequality in a party that should be fighting against this for all. It is a well-known fact female candidates are at a financial disadvantage when compared to male candidates. It is also more difficult for them to raise the kind of election funds men do, which has led to a disappointing lack of gender equality in politics in Canada. This kind of unfair and inequitable policy doesn’t help as it embeds sexism and gender inequality and discrimination in the only socially democratic party in Canada.
Tracey Young, Vancouver.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Advocacy: Access Denied: Shut Out of BC's Welfare System

BC government slashed access to welfare while claiming to enhance services, complaint filed today alleges
Dramatically reduced office hours, complicated website and under-resourced call centres create insurmountable barriers, complaint alleges

ACCESS DENIED: SHUT OUT OF BC’SWELFARE SYSTEM Complaint to the Ombudsperson of British Columbia regarding service delivery at the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation 

Filed by the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC) to the Ombudsperson of British Columbia

on behalf of Together Against Poverty Society (Victoria) Atira Women’s Resource Society (Vancouver) First United Church (Vancouver) The Kettle Society (Vancouver) Disability Alliance BC Abbotsford Community Services (Abbotsford) The Advocacy Centre (Nelson) Upper Skeena Counselling and Legal Assistance Society (Hazelton) Dze L K'ant Friendship Centre (Smithers) 

(May 12, 2015)
VANCOUVER (Coast Salish Territories) – In a 40 page complaint filed this morning, nine social service agencies from across the province have asked the Ombudsperson of BC to launch a systemic investigation into service reductions at the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation that shut out many eligible people from accessing income assistance. The complaint, filed by the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC), a law office in Vancouver, alleges that the government has created insurmountable barriers that deprive people of critical income support to which they are legally entitled.
The alleged barriers include office closures and significant reductions in office hours, making it difficult for people to speak to Ministry staff in person, channelling calls to under-resourced centralized call centres that serve the whole province and have lengthy wait times, and the creation of a complicated, 90-screen online application process that many vulnerable people have difficulty navigating.   The complaint also points out that most income assistance recipients do not have phones or internet access, and many are not computer literate, so the Ministry’s changes do not make sense for the users of its services.
“The government claims that it has expanded access to income assistance services, when it has done just the opposite,” said Lobat Sadrehashemi, staff lawyer at the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BCPIAC). “Requiring people to use a difficult online form and a backlogged call centre while slashing in-person services has made accessing help a nightmare for many vulnerable people. When you put all these changes together, the result is that people are shut out of services that they have a legal right to access.”
The complaint was necessary, the groups said, because the government has failed to respond to numerous direct complaints about the barriers to accessing services.
“We have tried to get the government’s attention, but they haven’t taken our concerns seriously,” said Stephen Portman, of Together Against Poverty Society. “If people can’t access these basic supports, we know that they will end up on the street. That’s why we have no choice but to ask for an independent investigation of the Ministry’s practices. How can the government fix the problem when it claims that it has actually made things better?”
The complaint alleges that since all calls to the Ministry have been centralized in provincial call centres, it has become impossible for many people to contact the Ministry for help. According to the government, average wait times on the phone have increased to more than half an hour.
Amber Prince, an advocate at Atira Women’s Resource Society said: “Many women with whom I work have to wait at least 45 minutes just to talk to somebody. And then many of them are told there is a time limit for their call, and if the call goes over, they are disconnected and have to call back all over again, this time with a different Ministry staff person. Nobody should have to accept this kind of treatment by their government.”
In 2005, BCPIAC filed an Ombudsperson complaint about a range of Ministry practices that limited access to welfare services. After a thorough investigation, the Ombudsperson found that the government had created unfair barriers to access and made 25 recommendations to improve “fairness and accountability” in income assistance. While a recent update from the Ombudsperson reports that the Ministry has made some progress on those recommendations, BCPIAC’s new complaint alleges that the government’s ”technological enhancements” have created new, unfair obstacles.
-30-

BC Social Welfare System: BC man says three-month wait for disability payments too long

 Social service agencies tell ombudsperson that welfare system rules are unfair
 

BC's Social Welfare System: Woman with MS caught in disability limbo

Woman with MS caught in disability limbo
Lexi Bainas / The Citizen                                    


A Valley woman with multiple sclerosis is concerned that she's having to jump through extra hoops to get assistance from the Duncan office of the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.

Suzanne Cusson has been dealing with MS for decades but had been managing on her own, even operating her own business, until a few years back, when she found herself forced to apply for benefits in 2012.
Unexpected roadbl o cks appeared, she said.

"I owned a 2010 travel trailer and they said I had to get rid of everything before they'd even consider me for benefits," she said.

She sold her trailer and finally started regular assistance in November 2012 but was not allowed to go onto disability benefits.

Everything had been going smoothly until December 2014, a time that should have been happy for her.
"I gave birth on Dec. 5, 2014. But on Dec. 30 I received a letter stating I needed to bring in all my work information, my T4s, my income information, my bank account dating back six months. So I got as much as I could together. To make a long story short, I was denied benefits in January, and I've been fighting this. I have MS, I can't go to work. I have a newborn. What am I supposed to do?" she asked.

"I was on assistance. But they closed my file in March. I never believed they would cut me off, because I have MS and I have a newborn. But, they cut me off so I asked for a reconsideration."

She finally got an application package in the mail and then had to wait three weeks to see an advocate but finally she got someone to take a second look.

"They finally took my reconsideration request, they looked at it and, on May 14, they said I should never have been deemed ineligible and that my case needed to be re-opened.

"I went over there this morning and [the acting supervisor] said no, that because I re-applied I had to wait for the intake worker to call me. I should never have been deemed ineligible to start with. My file should have been re-opened and I should have been issued cheques for March, April and May."

Cusson said she was concerned because the acting supervisor "was the original guy who told me 'no' to disability because I owned too much. I don't own anything now. It seems personal with him. I don't understand why. I had to beg, borrow and almost steal to get money to pay my bills. But now he's saying he doesn't have to go with what the reconsideration branch says. I have to go with an application process again. That will take six to eight weeks," she said.

The reconsideration branch were trying to short circuit an overly long process but their
effort failed, she said.

"He could have helped me right now. They could have reopened my file, given me my assistance for March, April and May today. I don't think he should be the one who overrides the reconsideration branch, what his peer did. How could he say no?" Now, Cusson is unsure what the future holds.

"If I have start again, I will. But what do I do about the months I had to borrow money? I'm already behind."
Right now, the only money she has coming in is from her child tax credit, she said.

Cusson has two older children. She receives $75 each in child support for them and then there's her child tax benefit.

"My oldest daughter is 18. My child tax benefit is $640 so I've been living on $790 for the past three months."

The rent of a trailer, Hydro costs and other expenses come to more than that every month, she said.
"If I was a drug-dealing prostitute with a drug or alcohol problem, they'd be helping me but because I was a business owner they don't understand it," Cusson said.

"They don't know that because I have MS it takes me 10 times longer to do a simple thing. I was diagnosed when I was 21 years old but they never told me what to expect. The fact that I'm still walking is incredible," she said.

According to the Ministry of Social Development's communications department, "due to privacy considerations, information on specific cases cannot be provided."

However, the ministry's policy's also states that an individual must continue to meet the eligibility requirements in order to remain on income assistance and, "periodically, the ministry will conduct random checks, asking people to submit documents such as bank statements or information on assets."

If an individual is dissatisfied with an eligibility decision they can request reconsideration.

The policy says, "This is conducted by a ministry employee who was not involved in the original decision."
Reconsideration is "a new and final ministry decision on eligibility" but anyone not satisfied with the results of a reconsideration, "may request an appeal by submitting a Notice of Appeal form to the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal within seven business days of the receipt of the reconsideration decision," the policy says.


© Cowichan Valley Citizen - See more at: http://www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com/news/cowichan-valley-woman-with-ms-caught-in-disability-limbo-1.1948101#sthash.An45LUx4.dpuf
A Valley woman with multiple sclerosis is concerned that she's having to jump through extra hoops to get assistance from the Duncan office of the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation.
Suzanne Cusson has been dealing with MS for decades but had been managing on her own, even operating her own business, until a few years back, when she found herself forced to apply for benefits in 2012.
Unexpected roadbl o cks appeared, she said.
"I owned a 2010 travel trailer and they said I had to get rid of everything before they'd even consider me for benefits," she said.
She sold her trailer and finally started regular assistance in November 2012 but was not allowed to go onto disability benefits.
Everything had been going smoothly until December 2014, a time that should have been happy for her.
"I gave birth on Dec. 5, 2014. But on Dec. 30 I received a letter stating I needed to bring in all my work information, my T4s, my income information, my bank account dating back six months. So I got as much as I could together. To make a long story short, I was denied benefits in January, and I've been fighting this. I have MS, I can't go to work. I have a newborn. What am I supposed to do?" she asked.
"I was on assistance. But they closed my file in March. I never believed they would cut me off, because I have MS and I have a newborn. But, they cut me off so I asked for a reconsideration."
She finally got an application package in the mail and then had to wait three weeks to see an advocate but finally she got someone to take a second look.
"They finally took my reconsideration request, they looked at it and, on May 14, they said I should never have been deemed ineligible and that my case needed to be re-opened.
"I went over there this morning and [the acting supervisor] said no, that because I re-applied I had to wait for the intake worker to call me. I should never have been deemed ineligible to start with. My file should have been re-opened and I should have been issued cheques for March, April and May."
Cusson said she was concerned because the acting supervisor "was the original guy who told me 'no' to disability because I owned too much. I don't own anything now. It seems personal with him. I don't understand why. I had to beg, borrow and almost steal to get money to pay my bills. But now he's saying he doesn't have to go with what the reconsideration branch says. I have to go with an application process again. That will take six to eight weeks," she said.
The reconsideration branch were trying to short circuit an overly long process but their
effort failed, she said.
"He could have helped me right now. They could have reopened my file, given me my assistance for March, April and May today. I don't think he should be the one who overrides the reconsideration branch, what his peer did. How could he say no?" Now, Cusson is unsure what the future holds.
"If I have start again, I will. But what do I do about the months I had to borrow money? I'm already behind."
Right now, the only money she has coming in is from her child tax credit, she said.
Cusson has two older children. She receives $75 each in child support for them and then there's her child tax benefit.
"My oldest daughter is 18. My child tax benefit is $640 so I've been living on $790 for the past three months."
The rent of a trailer, Hydro costs and other expenses come to more than that every month, she said.
"If I was a drug-dealing prostitute with a drug or alcohol problem, they'd be helping me but because I was a business owner they don't understand it," Cusson said.
"They don't know that because I have MS it takes me 10 times longer to do a simple thing. I was diagnosed when I was 21 years old but they never told me what to expect. The fact that I'm still walking is incredible," she said.
According to the Ministry of Social Development's communications department, "due to privacy considerations, information on specific cases cannot be provided."
However, the ministry's policy's also states that an individual must continue to meet the eligibility requirements in order to remain on income assistance and, "periodically, the ministry will conduct random checks, asking people to submit documents such as bank statements or information on assets."
If an individual is dissatisfied with an eligibility decision they can request reconsideration.
The policy says, "This is conducted by a ministry employee who was not involved in the original decision."
Reconsideration is "a new and final ministry decision on eligibility" but anyone not satisfied with the results of a reconsideration, "may request an appeal by submitting a Notice of Appeal form to the Employment and Assistance Appeal Tribunal within seven business days of the receipt of the reconsideration decision," the policy says.

© Cowichan Valley Citizen - See more at: http://www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com/news/cowichan-valley-woman-with-ms-caught-in-disability-limbo-1.1948101#sthash.An45LUx4.dpuf