$40M not enough for Community Living

The trust of families who relied on Community Living B.C. has been shaken, the minister in charge admitted as three separate reports released Thursday called for changes for services for adults with developmental disabilities.

The government poured another $40 million into the Crown agency's budget Thursday, an amount that doesn't come close to the $65 million advocates have said is needed at minimum.

One of the reviews, an audit conducted by officials within the Ministry of Finance, found parents of adults with disabilities were overwhelmed by a confusing new web of criteria and red tape that they had to navigate to gain services for their children once they turned 18.

Furthermore, the audit found the list used by the agency to keep track of those getting services and those that needed them was virtually useless because it wasn't regularly updated and many people were put on it in anticipation of needing services.

"The current state of the request for service list makes it impossible for Community Living British Columbia to identify the unmet demand for its services or estimate the amount of funding required to fulfil all the service requests," the report said.

Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux has been meeting with families for months after the concerns about the agency's practices prompted widespread worry, including public, critical statements from two government backbenchers.

The agency provides services to about 13,000 people and Cadieux said Thursday one of the main themes from those she spoke to seemed to be confusion over access to services.

Premier Christy Clark said $18 million will go towards operating funds for CLBC, $10 million will be spent on day programs and employment programs for those with disabilities and $12 million for caseload increases will go toward a comprehensive plan to improve the services.

The money is in addition to the extra $10 million the government added to the social development ministry's budget in September.

In addition to the extra funding, the government said it will work to streamline and integrate services, give families a bigger role in planning care for loved ones, and provide an appeal process

Clark said the agency will move away from a one-size-fits-all model for the individual.

"That was one of the profound flaws in the way CLBC was operating," she told reporters.

"They didn't, as an organization, fully understand what the needs of the population they were serving were going to be. That's one of the things that absolutely must be fixed."

Meantime, Faith Bodnar, executive director of the BC Association for Community Living, a non-profit group dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities, said the $40 million isn't enough but is a start.

"Are we satisfied with $40 million? No. Are we appreciative of it? Yes," said Bodnar. "But we think we've identified $35 million a year just to keep up with the new people coming into service."

NDP leader Adrian Dix said the CLBC overhaul doesn't go far enough. He also called for an external review of the agency instead of relying on information collected internally by government bureaucrats.

"It's the same set of deputy ministers, some of the names have changed but (they're) the same positions who are doing the review of their own policies," he said.

Cadieux said she's confident the changes will improve the lives of families and individuals using the services.

"Above and beyond everything that I've heard, though, the message that really came through was that their trust in CLBC had been shaken."

Cadieux said the top-to-bottom reviews of services concluded that CLBC's original vision of helping those with developmental disabilities is still valuable.

"In some cases CLBC did indeed lose sight of its core values, which created stress and anxiety for families. That was something we heard loud and clear and we're deeply concerned by," she said.

Clark said it took some time for the problem to grow, and it will take some time to fix.

"The plan we're releasing today is not a knee-jerk solution, it's not a political solution, it's a policy solution and an important one."

(News 1130)

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