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Premier pledges $40 million for Community Living B.C.

Jan 20 2012

Premier Christy Clark pledged to invest an additional $40 million in services for people with developmental disabilities.

Clark made the announcement Thursday in releasing reviews of Community Living B.C. ordered last fall in the face of criticism from families and advocates.

Clark said her government heard the concerns “loudly and clearly” and she promised a cross-ministry effort to ensure that the disabled receive proper care.

“So we’re adding an additional $40 million to provide services to the more than 13,000 people for whom these services are absolutely vital,” she said. The money will go to CLBC, the Ministry of Social Development and a contingency fund for caseload increases.

Clark promised:

• Families will play a greater role in planning for their loved ones

• Better planning for special needs children making the transition to adulthood

• Greater focus on employment and training services

• A permanent appeal body for people unhappy with their services

• An expanded role for Children’s Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to follow youth as they make the transition from the Ministry of Children and Family Development to CLBC.

Community Living B.C. has been under fire for more than a year over its treatment of people with developmental disabilities and their families.

The agency was trying to cope with limited money from government by closing group homes, moving people into less-expensive living arrangements and using the savings to help more than 2,800 people waiting for services.

Families and advocates, however, fought back, arguing that people were being uprooted from long-time residences and moved against their will.

At the same time, other families reported that special-needs children were losing their services as soon as they turned 19, and responsibility for their care shifted to CLBC from the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Clark’s government tried to stem the backlash last summer by giving CLBC an $8.9-million budget lift.

But advocates and the NDP said the money would do little to alleviate the crisis. They demanded a $70-million injection of cash and an independent review of the agency.

As pressure mounted, Clark demoted Social Development Minister Harry Bloy, and the CLBC board replaced chief executive officer Rick Mowles with vice-president Doug Woollard.

Woollard issued an interim update on changes at the agency last November and admitted for the first time that the agency had pushed too hard to move people out of group homes.

He promised that, except in certain circumstances, nobody would be moved against their will in the future.

“That is a shift from where CLBC was in the past, and we acknowledge that we caused significant stress and difficulty for some families who felt that they were pressured and that they didn’t really have any options,” he said.

His remarks followed a number of reversals by CLBC in which it cancelled plans to close homes and move residents. Woollard said he had spoken to families and apologized for the agency’s tactics.

“We regret the stress that we caused in their lives, and we’re doing what we can to make that a better situation for them,” he said.

lkines@timescolonist.com