Pressure grows for disability support

A B.C. Liberal MLA has joined opposition calls for an overhaul of services to developmentally disabled people.

Premier Christy Clark and Social Development MInister Stephanie Cadieux are under fire over growing caseloads and turmoil at Community Living B.C.

VICTORIA – A B.C. Liberal MLA has joined opposition calls for an overhaul of services to developmentally disabled people, as the provincial agency responsible struggles with a growing and aging caseload.

NDP MLAs called in the legislature Monday for an outside review of Community Living B.C., the agency responsible for developmentally disabled people once they are adults. B.C. Liberal MLA Randy Hawes rejected the NDP motion as “too simplistic,” but said his constituents need more help than they are getting.

“There are people who have looked after their kids forever, and they’re aging out,” Hawes told reporters after an emotional debate in the legislature. “They’re 80 years old with 50- and 60-year-old children who need to have some service, and we never knew they existed.”

The board of directors of Community Living B.C. fired CEO Rick Mowles on Friday, after a series of controversies including the announced closure of a work program for developmentally disabled people at a recycling facility in Maple Ridge. CLBC has been phasing out some group homes as facilities and residents have aged, moving to home-share arrangements with contracted caregivers.

During legislature debate, Hawes described one family whose developmentally disabled son grew to more than six feet tall and became violent as he reached his 20s. He was put in a home-share but that lasted only two weeks.

“It was a fight, a real hard fight, to find a space for him,” Hawes said. “Definitely, he has to be in a group home.”

Surrey-Panorama MLA Stephanie Cadieux was appointed social development minister in September, replacing Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Harry Bloy in the ministry responsible for CLBC. Cadieux said Monday she supports the CLBC board’s decision to make changes, and she does not agree with the NDP’s demand for an outside review of the agency’s operation.

“That’s my job as minister, to dig in and see what’s going on,” Cadieux said. “I’m doing that.”

In question period, NDP MLAs continued to hammer the government over the closure of 65 group homes and the growing wait list for CLBC services. Developmentally disabled children receive support from the Ministry of Children and Families until they turn 19, and then must apply to CLBC.

Hawes described one constituent, a man in his 70s with a developmentally disabled son in his 50s. His wife now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and the man told Hawes his three days of respite care are no longer enough.