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Community Living advocates are calling on the premier to use her “Families First” approach for those supporting adults with developmental disabilities.

Respite, day programs and other community living supports have been eroded or cut in recent years, leaving families and adults struggling. Many remain on lengthy waitlists or face significantly reduced choices when they finally access services.

The B.C. Community Living Action Group (BC CLAG) of which CUPE BC is a member, issued a comprehensive consensus report today on the community living crisis entitled “Reaching Out, Weighing In.” The report calls for:

  1. Increases in provincial funding to meet the support needs of adults with developmental disabilities and their families, and allocate funding equitably and strategically.
  2. Creation of an independent advocate with a broad legislated mandate to improve supports and outcomes for adults with developmental disabilities by providing oversight, monitoring and public reporting.
  3. Including individuals and families in decision making by listening, by offering meaningful choices and by respecting their diverse and changing needs.
  4. Consulting and collaborating with service agencies, front-line workers, disability advocates and other stakeholders with key knowledge and expertise.
  5. Introducing provincial legislation setting out the inclusion rights and support entitlements of adults with developmental disabilities.

BC CLAG member Anita Dadson, of BC FamilyNet, called on Premier Christy Clark “to come through on promises to Put Families First by making that commitment for community living.” Dadson pointed to the “erosion of services over the years that keeps our biggest fear the one we have for the future of our loved ones.”

Dawn Steele of Moms on the Move described B.C.’s community living system as “crumbling”. Steele called for the province to heed the report findings for an urgent increase in funding and the need for an independent provincial advocate. “Underfunding denies the rights of families and can push families right over the edge,” Steele explained.

James Cavaluzzo, of the BCGEU, described the deteriorating working conditions for community living workers and  called for “change that is not economically driven by bureaucrats in isolation.”

The report was sparked by growing alarm over a “service redesign” launched by Community Living BC in 2010, with a stated goal of reducing costs by $22 million. More than 30 group homes were closed across the province between April 2010 and January 2011. BC CLAG estimates that at that pace, one in three B.C. group homes serving adults with developmental disabilities will have closed by 2016.

Despite government assurances that no one is being forcibly moved, the report notes numerous complaints documenting such occurrences. “Forcing people from their homes, denying them choices and cutting them off from families, friends and communities, against their wishes and the pleas of their families, violates every commitment the BC government made when it established CLBC,” said Steele.

B.C.’s community living support system is chronically underfunded. By 2013, demand for adult services will have risen by 60 per cent in a decade. Over roughly the same period, the provincial government budget has remained static in real terms.