Times Colonist

EDITORIALS Growing need for CLBC review

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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.

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