EDITORIALS Growing need for CLBC review
The provincial government’s stubborn refusal to accept the need for an independent review of Community Living B.C. is unfair to the agency, those depending on it for services, and their families. Advocates and families have raised serious concerns about inadequate services. The government has acknowledged they are real, firing the minister responsible and the Crown corporation’s CEO. It has ordered an internal review and announced measures it says will help families deal with CLBC.
But the government’s credibility on this file has been compromised. The former minister, CLBC board and managers, for example, all insisted that people were not being forced from long-time group homes against their will. That was false.
CLBC refused for months to provide basic information on wait lists, before revealing that 751 people were currently getting no services and waiting for help and support. Another 2,089 people receiving some services from the corporation had identified needs, but weren’t getting the required services — about one in six clients.
And it is still unclear how long people are waiting and whether the situation is growing worse.
CLBC says clients whose health or safety are at risk receive priority. But surely this province can offer people with developmental disabilities — mental handicaps, often accompanied by other physical, emotional and mental problems — not just safety, but a chance at a full life.
CLBC’S focus has been on reducing the cost per client to stay with the budget set by the government. Per-client funding has fallen every year since the organization was created in 2005, with more reductions planned for the next two years. The corporation faces a budget cut next year as well, despite the wait lists and an expect growth of about five per cent in the number of people needing services.
There is, of course, nothing wrong in seeking more cost-efficient ways of achieving the desired goals. CLBC has justified closing almost 10 per cent of group homes in favour of less costly home-share arrangements, for example, by arguing that the less formal arrangements serve many clients better.
But as the Times Colonist’s Lindsay Kines reported last week, there is reason to doubt those assurances. A review of a company providing homeshare arrangements on the Lower Mainland found significant problems, including a lack of training, poor oversight and failures to provide homeshare operators with needed information on health or behavioural problems. There were potentially dangerous incidents as a result, and a series of “crisis situations.”
The review, done by a consultant for CLBC, found that it was impossible to determine if basic checks had been done to screen prospective homeshare providers for suitability or competence. The company, which provides services to 55 disabled adults, was stretched and unable to properly monitor the homeshares. Its manager noted that the rapid shift away from group homes had created pressures across the province.
Advocates, including the B.C. Association for Community Living, have called for an independent review of CLBC, with the report to be made public. The worrying homeshare report confirms, once again, that such a review is badly needed.