On Friday, Nov. 18, the government agency that provides services to people with developmental disabilities finally admitted what most people already knew: It pushed too hard to move people out of group homes against their will.
We regret the stress that we caused in their lives and were doing what we can to make that a better situation for them, Community Living B.C. said.
The problems at the agency are far from over. But it was a memorable moment, because for more than a year, CLBC and successive social development ministers had been denying the obvious, and getting away with it.
As far back as June 2010, families of the developmentally disabled in different parts of the province were telling strikingly similar stories of how loved ones were forced to move from longtime homes in what appeared to be a cost-cutting move. Yet when I asked CLBC or the government for an explanation, they denied it was happening at all.
We dont do forced moves, became the mantra of the agency and government ministers.
Fortunately, the families were tenacious. The stories from Victoria, Maple Ridge and Powell River were soon bolstered by similar reports out of Langley and Richmond and elsewhere.
Eventually, the government was unable to ignore the evidence or mounting pressure. Top officials were removed, a series of internal reviews was ordered, and CLBC was forced to admit that families had been telling the truth all along.
Read the original story published Nov. 19
Agency admits to pressure tactics; Community Living says it pushed too hard to move people out of homes; B.C. doesn't offer more money
After more than a year of criticism, the B.C. government agency that provides services to people with developmental disabilities admitted Friday that it pushed too hard to move people out of group homes.
In releasing a report on recent changes at the agency, Community Living B.C. expressed regret for the harm it caused and promised that, except in certain circumstances, nobody will be moved against their will in the future.
"For the most part, people will not be moving unless they agree," Doug Woollard, interim chief executive officer, told reporters.
"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."
Woollard's comments follow recent reversals by CLBC in which it cancelled plans to close homes and move residents. Woollard said he has 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.
The move to close group homes was part of an effort by Community Living B.C. to deal with a limited budget. Its plan was to shift people into less-expensive living arrangements such as home-shares and use the savings to help 2,800 people on its waiting lists.
The report notes that those pressures remain, with demands for service outstripping CLBC's budget.
But Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux promised no new money Friday and offered few examples of how the agency will better serve people beyond improving communications.
The B.C. Association for Community Living, which advocates for families and people with developmental disabilities, expressed disappointment in the report and Cadieux's response.
The association wants an independent review of Community Living B.C. and an immediate $70-million budget hike.
"This is a businessas-usual report," said executive director Faith Bodnar. "There's nothing here that says how they're going to change the culture within CLBC."
Community Living B.C. has closed 65 group homes since April 2010. In most cases, if a family or client resisted a move from a group home, CLBC went no further, the report says.
"However, in some cases, CLBC pushed too hard when families indicated that they were opposed to a move," the report says. "Occasionally, there has been strenuous opposition from families who felt cost savings were put ahead of their son's or daughter's interests."
The Times Colonist began reporting on the closures in June 2010 after families complained that their children or siblings were being forced to move against their will. CLBC officials and Cadieux's predecessors repeatedly denied the forced moves at the time. On Friday, the agency admitted that it should have paid closer attention to families.
"While media attention has been extensive in the last two months, CLBC is aware that the concerns of some parents and stakeholders were being expressed earlier," the report says. "More should have been done earlier by CLBC to address some of the concerns."
NDP critic Nicholas Simons slammed the report for admitting the obvious but offering nothing in the way of solutions. "The minister says they admit what everybody in British Columbia already knows they should admit," he said. "We see nothing concrete in terms of how they're going to fix it besides listening to people better.
"This is not a communications issue, this is an issue about services that are lacking and families that are in crisis."