Friday, November 11, 2011

Community Living: Doomed from the Beginning


Dear Editor:

Community Living B.C. was doomed from the very beginning. It was never about greater individual and family control and improved service delivery. People have a short memory about how it was that Community Living B.C. was created.

Doug Walls, Premier Gordon Campbell's relative by marriage, who was under investigation for fraud at the time, was the hand-picked architect for the creation of Community Living B.C. Walls would later go on to be convicted of fraud for cheque kiting. Minister Gordon Hogg from Children and Families stepped down from cabinet and Chris Haynes, the ministry's deputy minister, was fired because Walls had been given untendered ministry contracts (during a time he was being investigated by police) for which he did not produce a thing. The money simply disappeared.

As a former labour representative, I was involved in the devolution of community living services from direct government and transfer of staff to Community Living B.C., the new stand alone authority. There was never any monitoring, transparency or accountability built into the plan, and Community Living B.C. was no longer subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act since it was no longer part of direct government. [Note from editor, apparently they are still governed by FOIPPA].

Social workers with experience and expertise in working with children and adults with developmental disabilities (and their families) were replaced because Community Living B.C. designed a model that no longer provided case management. The work was designed to be quick, in and out, with no caseloads.

It soon became clear to the B.C. government that Community Living B.C. had not competently carried out Community Living B.C. children's services.

Therefore, after months of planning, on Oct. 31, 2009, children's services were transferred back to the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the millions of funding went with the services.

The ministry, to their credit, returned to a caseload model for children with disabilities, although social workers continue to experience grossly inflated case numbers for the most vulnerable and fragile children in B.C.

The work these social workers and community service providers perform every day is admirable and inspirational, and society owes them thanks for it.

Once children's services funding was gone, Community Living B.C. needed to find millions in "efficiencies" and savings.

Funding for services to adults began to be slashed, along with community social service work and jobs. At this point, over 60 group homes have been closed around B.C. In some cases, experienced and dedicated community social services workers have been replaced by people found through advertisements for homes shares on Craigslist.

At this point, it is not enough for a review to be completed of Community Living B.C. A full inquiry and financial audit will lift up the rock of Community Living B.C., and there will be many things that crawl out once the light of day shines down.

Persons with disabilities and their families deserve nothing less than for justice, dignity and human rights to prevail.

Tracey Young, Burnaby

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