Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This Really Should Be No One's British Columbia



Update at bottom of post

Last week we mentioned an excellent bit of investigative digging from Lindsay Kines of the Victoria Times-Colonist.

Essentially, Mr. Kines reported that developmentally disabled adults are being forced out of their group homes with very short notice and little or no consultation with their families.

Based on numerous reports I have read, many of these folks can and do thrive under the constant care, attention, and nurturing they receive in these homes as opposed to, say, the large institutional warehouses they used be placed in or the 'shared living arrangements' they are now being forced into.

So, given all this, Mr. Kines tried to find out what was driving the group home closures.

First off, he found out that the companies that run the homes are being 'asked' to sign new contracts at a lower rate of compensation.

These 'requests' are coming from Community Living British Columbia, the provincial government agency that oversees the care of adults with disabilities.

And, when the companies 'refuse' to cut costs, what happens?

Well, it would appear that CLBC swoops in, closes the homes involved, and uproots the residents pretty much immediately.

In a specific example cited by Mr. Kines, one of the soon to be uprooted is a 46 year old disabled man who has very successfully lived in the same home for 15 years.

And as early as August 31st (ie. in less than two weeks) this fellow will no longer have that home to live in.

And his elderly parents, Connie and Ken Greenway, as you might expect, are devastated:

..."We are absolutely shocked at how fast this has taken place [within a matter of a few weeks] and at no time were we consulted before the decision was made," the Greenways wrote in an email to Premier Christy Clark, who ran for the B.C. Liberal leadership promising to put "families first." The residents do not have a choice," the Greenways said. "Darrin's service providers' contracts are terminated, forcing residents to move. This is against Darrin's wishes and our wishes as his family."...


In the comments to the post I originally wrote noting Mr. Kines's story, a regular reader and contributor, 'lynx', who I know has experience with the system, stopped by to say:

"... This government and CLBC is moving so swiftly on so many fronts it has left parents, caregivers and support workers reeling.

This is the dismantling of the structure that supported developmentally disabled adults.

It is such a heartless and ruthless move. No consultation. No compassion..."

Now, based on the way my mind works, I immediately wanted to know the 'why' of CLBC's need to act with utmost speed and total lack of consultation.

Was it purely operational, or was it something more sinister, like, say an effort to make sure that they did not take a PR hit?

'lynx' was good enough to respond further with this:

"...There is a move afoot (actually for some time now) to distance government responsibility and accountability from the lives of people with developmental disabilities. It is being set up in a way that responsibility will be re-directed away from government and unto the caregiver alone.

Most people don't know that much of the foster system has been re-created into a 'service provider' and 'client' model. That's how dehumanized this new business model of care has become. Funding and support worker job cuts have resulted in those in care losing treasured services once provided to them. At the same time increasingly more responsibility is being down-loaded onto the shoulders of caregivers, who are being 'positioned' to have to account for any failure of the system. 

That's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, Ross. What is quite evident is that CLBC seems in a bigger hurry than usual to initiate and wrap these changes up as soon as possible. Few details are being provided to either parents or caregivers..."

And then Mr. Willcocks weighed in.


In a follow-up to Mr. Kines' story, Paul Willcocks recently put up a devastating post that, in my opinion, demonstrates that CLBC is no longer working in the best interests of the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens.

First, Mr. Willcocks noted the evasiveness of the people running the CLBC and the obfuscatory lies* being spouted by the Campbell-Clark government Minister responsible, Mr. Harry Bloy.

Then Mr. Willcocks got right to the heart of the matter:

"...The closures aren't isolated. Community Living B.C. closed more than 40 group homes last year, forcing the residents to move and - often - reducing the support they received.

And the closures are not driven by revelations of waste, or innovations in support.

This is about cutting costs. The government has chosen not to put these families first.

According to CLBC, the amount of funding per client has fallen every year since it was created by the Liberals six years ago, under Christy Clark's watch as children's minister.

In 2006-07, the first full year of operation, funding provided an average $51,154 per client. This year, funding will be $45,306. And by 2013, according to the government projections, it will be cut to $41,225 per client.

If you factor in inflation, by 2013 the funding available for each client will be 30 per cent less than it was in 2006..."

Did you get that?

By digging out the hard rock numbers, Mr. Willcocks' actually demonstrated that 'lynx' was, indeed, correct.

Because this is clearly systematic, and it has clearly been going on for a long time.

Worse, and for this, as a British Columbian, I feel nothing but shame, it also means that the most vulnerable amongst us have already done their part and, despite this, are still being forced to do more to cut my government's costs.

But here's the real thing.

These folks are not just the high cost of a ferry ride...

Or a freeway interchange...

Or a government website...

Or a media consultancy contract...

Or the fancy lighting in a convention center ballroom...

Or a bolt of cloth on top of a stadium that will sit idle 300 days per year...


What am I really saying here?


Regardless their individual points of view, political affiliations, or ideological leanings, every single British Columbian who now knows and understands what is really going on with CLBC thanks to the work of people like Mess'rs Kines and Willcocks also knows that it must stop.

Because there are other places we can cut.

And some people in this province, including people like me, can afford to pay more if it is required to stop the slashing and burning of real programs like this that matter.

Because we have to make sure that we help our fellow citizens, especially those fellow citizens that have already done their part to bear the brunt of government cost-cutting, who need our help most.


Mr Willcocks prefers to call Mr. Bloy's utterances on the matter 'flat-out false statements'....Given that those statements are demonstrably false, I choose to call them, again in my opinion, what they really and truly are.
Update: Mr. Willcocks, in the comments, clarifies his choice of words thusly: "I choose my words with care, but there seems something beyond callousness or indifference, something close to evil, in treating people this way...."



paul said...

The government, on our behalf, has decided these people aren't worth the cost of helping them live full lives.
It's perhaps most strikingly evident in the cases of people with disabilities and their families who had been supported - quite effectively - by the children's ministry and the school system.
When they turn 19, they are handed off to CLBC and supports are slashed. Parents who have watched their teens - some with massive physical problems and disabilities - actually be happy, see that slip away, because it costs too much to give their children a shot at making the most of their lives.
I choose my words with care, but there seems something beyond callousness or indifference, something close to evil, in treating people this way.
Paul Willcocks

RossK said...

Thanks Paul.

I know and appreciate that you choose your words with care.

I am just outraged, pure and simple.


RossK said...

...And I'll update to make your point clear.


BC Mary said...

Thank you all ... RossK, lynx, Lindsay Kines, Paul Willcocks,

for making this situation clear. Whereas before this, we heard next-to-nothing.


Anonymous said...

Of the 40 homes that were closed: What % were unionized? How does that compare with the overall home unionization rate? Is the Greenway's son (at a Western Human Resources house) in a unionized home? Is CLBC using 'cutbacks' to try to break the unions?

Demonizing CLBC is not really fair without asking them for comment - which neither Paul Willcocks, nor yourself seem to have done.

RossK said...


Mr Kines did seek out the head of CLBC Mr. Mowles.

Here is what he was told:

"...Rick Mowles, the chief executive officer of CLBC, was in meetings and unavailable, his office said..."

Therefore, Mr. Kines then sought out the Director of CLBC in the Fraser Region.

This is what he reported:

"...In an interview Thursday, Carla Thiesen, CLBC director for the Fraser region, admitted that CLBC wanted the company that runs the Langley home, Western Human Resources, to do it for less money. "But there was no impact to the individuals," she said.."

If you would like to actually listen to the evasions of Ms. Thiessen, Mr. Kines provides the audio of the interview, here.

You got anything else?


Anonymous said...

"You got anything else?" Yes.

The Thiesen/Kines interview was great. Thank you!
Did you too get the feeling that Thiesen had a PAB flack in the room with her during their chat?

I found the Review of the CLBC Service Delivery Model [.pdf] from October 2008. One aspect that strikes me from a brief look through it is that CLBC has developed tools for assessing needs and matching funding to those assessed needs - those tools are beyond my Googley ability - Thiesen seemed to be relying strongly on those processes (as any CYA $125k+/year manager would) in the Kines interview.

Does anybody know how to access the CLBC toolchain?

Anonymous said...

Thiesen also talked about RFPs for the three individuals losing their long term residence - are those RFPs online?

RossK said...

Thanks very much Anon-Above.

Apologies for the bark - I thought you were going another way with your comment.

Regarding the union busting angle...It's possible, but as I said in my post, in this specific case I, personally, don't care. I just want this to stop even if it means they go the Safeway route and just grandfather the existing houses.


(and don't get me wrong, I'm happy to rail against the union-busting issue on all other issues and points, including 'new' homes, I just want the trashing of the long, long term homes of these folks to stop immediately - I mean in the second example cited by Mr. Kines a lady has lived in her home for twenty years...My god, are we that heartless?)


Anonymous said...

Am i right? After reading this article and all the comments, i gather that you folks say it is okay for anyone to charge government any cost they want to for a contract? Even if other facilities of the same calibre that are offering the same services are charging less? And that CLBC making sure that our taxpayer dollars are being spend wisely is a bad thing? You seem to be bashing CLBC and not this western resources place that is overcharging taxpayers for their services.

RossK said...

Anon Above #2--

OK - I guess you wanna have a go....

What I am saying is that they have not been overcharging, apparently, for 20 years.

So what is the issue now?


What is the issue right now?


Anonymous said...

um, no Ross, I dont want to have a go. Just wanted to point out something. How do you know they are not overcharging? CLBC has not been around for 20 years.. i think they have only been in place for 5? I don't normally comment on blogs but I did with yours because I had just read this article on a service provider in NY who makes millions so the issue in BC does not seem to be unique. here is the article:

Anonymous said...

@10:17 AM "CLBC has not been around for 20 years..i think they have only been in place for 5?"

CLBC has been around since July 1, 2005. The work was formerly done by past iterations of MCFD; which has been around for years - do you remember when Zalm was the minister?

There has been much behind the scenes discussion in BC about the role of for profit service providers versus not for profit agencies. It goes without saying that when two competing companies have identical cost structures the profit has to come from somewhere.

In the Thiesen/Kines interview Thiesen said the contract was worth more than $500,000 (to support 3 people) and CLBC was looking to chop about $60,000 from it.

Western Human Resources seems to be a for profit company - could a not for profit society have made the requested cuts (not needing to provide ownership with a return on investment) and still maintained the service? We'll never know because CLBC never tried to find out.

Very generally speaking, and all things being impossibly equal, not for profit agencies can and do provide more services with the same amount of funding.

RossK said...

Wow - the minutae....The 20 years refers to the length of time one of the residents has been in the home itself.

My point is purely this....They have been operating for some time.....It's not like, suddenly, there is some egregious overcharge based on what we have been told, including Ms. Thiesen. Furthermore she would not specifically state why this sudden request for a deep cut had arisen. Finally, recall that this is not an isolated case. Forty such group homes have been closed recently. Finally, can anyone possibly justify the last minute informing of the actual families?

If you all want to muddy the waters further, feel free.

I want those folks to stay in their homes.

How about this....Ms. Clark, according to 'her' Twitter feed, wants ideas....If CLBC can do it cheaper, how about they buy the homes and they/we can run them them/ourselves.


RossK said...

And to really make the point about what is really going on, I reprint a comment from Dawn Steele that she left in the thread to Mr. Willcocks' post that I link to in the original post:

"....When Christy Clark (as Minister for Children & Families) introduced the legislation that created CLBC some 7 years ago, she talked about "shared responsibility" with families. The reality has been the exact opposite of what she promised -- CLBC has been used as a convenient "arms length" vehicle to politically insulate her and her elected colleagues from the impacts of a wholesale shift in the burden of care and support onto families, who provide and fund more than 90% of the lifelong supports provided to adults with developmental disabilities.

For every conversation that focusses on Rick Mowles' salary or questions Doug Woollard's motives, the BC Premier and Cabinet ministers, who set those salaries and give the CLBC execs a budget number to cut, are able to duck accountability for their failure to govern responsibly.

Ms Clark also promised that the new CLBC would offer more choices and improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities. Instead we have seen choices reduced to the lowest/ cheapest/ riskiest options only; we're seeing people callously driven from their homes; and safety compromised. Nowhere does human dignity, compassion or quality of life factor in any longer in a harsh CLBC mandate that is totally and completely about cutting costs and saving dollars - with no regard to the horrific individual human impacts.

Christy Clark may have been out of government while most of this deterioration was happening over the last seven years. But she has been Premier for six months now, during which time she has personally received hundreds of personal letters from families, along with dozens of media stories, documenting the horrendous impacts.

Alarmed by the serious safety risks, community living partners came together in an unprecedented coalition last year. After months of research and community consultation, they presented the Premier and her minister with a report and carefully thought-out recommendations to stem the crisis back in April.

Months have passed with no response. Premier Clark's silence and failure to act in the face of the obvious speaks volumes about her sincerity. So too does the silence and failure of her fellow ruling MLAs, who have the power to dictate caucus priorities to support the Premier. I hope BC voters in general take note of this when Ms Clark and her caucus colleagues start to trot out the rosy promises and feigned compassion in an effort to win the next election.

Premier Christy Clark has the power and the fiscal mandate to solve this with the stroke of a pen. Any premier who actually cares about the wellbeing of families, and about society's responsibility to support vulnerable British Columbians when they are clearly unable to fend on their own, would have taken decisive action months ago.


lynx said...

A heartfelt thank you, Ross, Paul, Lindsay, and Dawn for keeping the candle lit......

"Moms on the Move", BC families supporting people with special needs:

Anonymous said...

Please keep in mind that "minutae" includes being accountable and charged for each and every adult diaper the resident uses. Minutae counts.

Anonymous said...

I think the whole families first slogan means first to get the boot.

Don't you know the whole world is on the anti-government services bandwagon? It is going to save us all from financial armageddon.

Anonymous said...

The minister of social development is lying, Rick Mowles is lying and anyone else working for clbc is lying when they say that group home residents have a choice to stay in their home or move. They ARE being forced to move!!!!