Community Living B.C. unveiled a new whistleblower policy Monday to better protect those who report theft, corruption and the mistreatment of adults with developmental disabilities.
The government agency also rolled out a streamlined complaints process and revealed that clients and families will have more opportunity to choose where they get their services.
The changes were announced as government updated its 12-point plan to improve services for adults with developmental disabilities. Premier Christy Clark released the plan last January after Community Living B.C. came under heavy attack for closing group homes and cutting services to clients and families.
Doug Woollard, interim chief executive officer, said CLBC overhauled its whistleblower policy in an effort to encourage people to report wrongdoing.
“We’re trying to enhance the opportunity for anyone who sees or believes that something’s inappropriate [or] somebody’s being harmed to be able to come forward and to be protected,” he said. “The real purpose here is to increase public confidence that we’re managing effectively and we’re open to hearing things which need to be resolved.”
Similarly, Woollard said the agency’s new complaints process will make it easier for clients and families to resolve issues.
“Reporting is simpler,” he said. “So someone can fill out the online form, or they can simply just pick up the phone and talk to somebody in our quality assurance unit.”
Meanwhile, a new procurement policy means that families will be able to choose a service provider that best fits their needs. In the past, CLBC would sometimes select a provider for a family after a formal bidding process.
“What this does is give much more control to the individual and to the family in terms of what’s going to work best for them,” Woollard said.
The changes follow other moves this year in which government announced that young people with developmental disabilities will receive at least $2,800 a year for respite or other service once they turn 19. Government also set up an integrated services support team to help families having trouble with the supports they receive from multiple ministries.
Social Development Minister Moira Stilwell said the new and updated policies mark significant progress over the past year.
“I’m really happy, because I think CLBC is definitely getting back on track and making positive moves to being more accountable and responsive,” she said.
She said government recognizes, however, that more needs to be done.
“This is not a self-satisfaction report,” she said. “But I do think this is a report of concerns that were taken seriously and that things are very different from a year ago in a very positive way.”
Not everyone agrees. NDP critic Nicholas Simons acknowledgd that he receives fewer requests for help since the government stopped forcing people out of group homes and re-assessing their needs. But he said that hardly counts as a major advance.
“The Liberals must think ‘;progress’ means fixing the embarrassing problems they created in the first place,” he said.
Simons said families remain vigilant after being caught off guard by government policy changes in the past.
“After what this government has put individuals and families through in the past year, everyone is hoping that the worst of the current crisis is over,” he said.
The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents about 400 people directly employed by CLBC, said government still has a lot of work to do.
A survey of union members showed that many believe the agency remains a “political football” that suffers from government neglect, said spokesman Doug Kinna.
“It’s chronically under-funded,” he said. “We showed that time and time again.
“Clients still can’t get what they need; but if you’ve got a good advocacy network around you, you can push CLBC into doing something. But if you don’t have that, you get nothing.”