B.C.’s child watchdog will get broad new powers to advocate for young adults with developmental disabilities under legislation introduced this week.
The bill allows the government to bring in regulations that permit the province’s representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, to assist young people until they reach age 24.
Premier Christy Clark promised the expanded powers a year ago as part of a 12-point plan to fix problems at Community Living B.C., and improve services for adults with developmental disabilities.
“I’m certainly pleased that the amendments have been introduced,” Turpel-Lafond said in an interview.
“I think if the bill passes that it will let me reorganize and strengthen our ability to advocate on behalf of 19- to 24-year-olds — especially [those] with developmental disabilities.”
Under current rules, Turpel-Lafond loses the ability to help young people once they turn 19. This has created problems for her office in the past, particularly when it tried to help youth with developmental disabilities when the responsibility for their care shifted from the Children’s Ministry to Community Living B.C.
In some cases, young people had their services cut or eliminated once they became an adult.
The situation put pressure on Turpel-Lafond’s advocacy staff to get supports in place for clients before they turned 19.
Turpel-Lafond said her office would likely need six more staff to advocate on behalf of the 600 to 800 young people with developmental disabilities who are receiving government services and make the transition to adulthood every year.
“We’ll be charting some new territory if it passes, but it’s overdue,” she said. “I’m pleased that it’s there, and I look forward to working out the logistics so that it’s meaningful.”
Social Development Minister Moira Stilwell, whose office oversees services to adults with developmental disabilities, said the government is committed to expanding Turpel-Lafond’s powers.
“We are supporters of her work,” Stilwell said. “We expect this to go forward and we’re happy about it.
“The group who need assistance in transition is an important group and we want to support them.”
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