While we've all been away, enjoying our summer, our vacations and life has been moving a little bit slower, the Province has been busy continuing to slash and cut away at the services that our most vulnerable citizens and their families depend on. The very quality of life of many has been downgraded and changed with little recognition, or notice by most of us.
As an advocate, blogger and media spokesperson, I've had my share of contact from family members and individuals working in the community living and social service sectors about the difficulties and challenges they've had trying to ensure developmentally disabled loved ones receive even marginal services and supports. Many have felt powerless and heartbroken as they've struggled through the many changes of the sector over the last decade. Many have had to fight so hard for the rights of their loved ones to receive what they need, whether that is appropriate group home care, support services in the community or even their basic human rights and safety while in the care of some community service sector homes.
One thing many have learned is that there is very little in the way of oversight, accountability or leadership overseeing and monitoring the decisions made in the community living sector. Many have slammed up against walls when real and serious issues of abuse and neglect have occurred. The ability to manage the maltreatment of those they care about has been the impetus to many to become strong and loud advocates in the pursuit of justice and human rights for those who cannot voice their own issues, or advocate for themselves. The commitment and care of these family members, advocates and those working in the field has humbled and inspired me and I've felt truly honoured that people shared their stories, struggles and sometimes, their rare successes with me over the years.
I am deeply concerned and disappointed that the BC government is allowing the monster of their creation, the ill-fated and profoundly mismanaged Community Living BC, to cut the supports and resources of the developmentally disabled in BC. Individuals with disabilities and their families do not need to jump through more hoops, do not need to spend more time on bureaucratic nonsense. We should be making things easier and making access to services and supports, including various residential and housing options more seamless, effective and client-centred.
The real story behind all of this is not well known. Now that Community Living Children's Services and their buckets of money have been transferred back to the MCFD mothership, CLBC is faced with empty cupboards where there used to be slush funds to apply to whatever the Powers that Be, decided were the spending priorities. All with no oversight, or monitoring of the decisions of managing vast public funds.
After years of working in the social service field and public sector, I've concluded that BC requires a dedicated, independent provincial Advocate for Vulnerable People who will oversee, monitor and report on the issues facing vulnerable people in the province. This includes the Community Living sector, people with mental illness and senior citizens.
Until there is an independent advocate and spokesperson for vulnerable people in BC, the gutting of the systems of care tasked with the provision of services will continue unabated. The results will be that some of our most fragile and marginalized people will continue to be victimized and mistreated by the very government and systems that should be setting the highest standards of practice and care and demonstrating leadership in optimizing the quality of life for those who require our support and assistance most. When the actions of government and society toward our most vulnerable citizens are assessed and judged, we can see we have much work ahead to raise the bar in BC for those who need us to make them the focus and priority of a caring and just society.
Disabled being uprooted, care reduced B.C. government agency accused of duping public about group homes
Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist June 25, 2010
The B.C. government is misleading the public about its move to cut costs by closing group homes for the developmentally disabled, say families and caregivers.
The relatives accuse Community Living B.C. of pressuring local agencies to shutter facilities that are staffed 24 hours a day, and push people into less-expensive living arrangements, such as home-sharing with a caregiver.
The families say they are given little notice or chance to appeal the decisions. Instead, local companies and non-profit associations are telling them the closures are necessary because Community Living B.C. has slashed their budgets.
The Times Colonist interviewed people with relatives at group homes in Victoria, Powell River and Maple Ridge who all say Community Living B.C. is duping the public.
"A lot of the comments that they've made, to me, are just outright lies," said Julie Achadinha of Victoria.
Achadinha said she doesn't blame the Victoria company that runs the group home, believing it is simply following government orders. "They're basically having to do this kind of thing because CLBC is pressuring them by saying they don't have the money to fund one-on-one services and all of that," she said.
Here's how it works: staff score a developmental disabled individual's needs on a scale of one to five - with one being the lowest level of need and five being the highest. Those who score between one to three qualify for anywhere from one to 21 hours per week of supported living assistance.
Like those with greater needs, those individuals could also quality to share a home with a support worker. But special approval from one of Community Living British Columbia's four regional operations directors is required for a developmentally disabled individual to qualify to live in a group home - where support is provided by a team that works in 24-hour shifts at the residence.
An accompanying document advises staff the policy is "not available to the public" but can be "shared" with the families of those with developmental disabilities, as well as service providers.
The disclosure of this policy comes two months after the Times Colonist's Lindsay Kines reported accusations that Community Living British Columbia is "pressuring local agencies" to close group homes and and "push people into less-expensive living arrangements, such as home-sharing with a caregiver." The authority has denied those accusations.
In an email to Public Eye, Community Living British Columbia external relations advisor Kate Chandler confirmed the policy is being used to "evaluate new services" and "if a need is identified to change existing services for some individuals."
For example, "staff may review services due to health and safety concerns in existing cases, and/or if the individual or family has made a request for new or additional service. In some cases, people's needs have changed over time and their services need to be adjusted to meet their current needs."
As for why Community Living British Columbia is using a draft policy to make these decision, the spokesperson stated the authority is trying to get "feedback from staff, families and service providers, which will be used to develop our finalized documents."
Ms. Chandler didn't directly respond when asked why the authority is keeping that policy from the public.
The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned documents.
Article 3 - General principles
The principles of the present Convention shall be:
- Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons;
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;
- Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;
- Equality of opportunity;
- Equality between men and women;
- Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
Article 19 - Living independently and being included in the community
States Parties to the present Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:
a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;
b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;
c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.