Advocacy News

Overcoming the fear factor – Contractor goes public

A common question in the CLBC crisis is why CLBC contractors and agencies that directly support adults have been so reluctant to publicly voice the concerns they share with us privately.

Many contractors and agency directors claim it’s a matter of survival. They tell us CLBC makes it very clear that if they don’t cooperate in reducing services, or if they complain publicly about risks to their clients, their contracts can be cancelled and handed to someone else with less regard for quality of care.

The allegations are disturbing. But it’s been challenging to document how systemic this is and what risks it poses to adults if no one will put complaints on the record.

Premier Christy Clark just released an action plan based on 3 internal reviews, none of which sought to explore these concerns, despite persistent complaints over 18 months. The silence among service providers also emboldened government to go on the offensive against families. One report dismissed advocates as over-zealous parents with a strong culture of entitlement who were blocking CLBC’s efforts to improve quality of life and independence for their loved ones!

But CLBC contractors may be finally overcoming the fear factor. Victoria agency director Sarah Balazs, who runs group homes and supported living for high-needs adults, decided enough was enough. She started sharing her complaints with reporters after months of being ignored by CLBC, the Premier and Minister Cadieux. Predictably, CLBC and Ministry staff finally responded as soon as Sarah started copying her complaints to the media. A site visit is planned for tomorrow and we will be closely tracking and reporting on what comes next.

Sarah’s complaints support many specific issues that families have raised and that were largely ignored in the recent reports and the Premier’s 12-point plan. These include: insufficient funding to support youths turning 19, eroding quality of care due to budget pressures, threats against those who complain, no advocacy voice for adults without families, fundamental flaws in the CLBC model and rationing tools like the Guide to Support Allocation, crisis management focus that inflates costs, and growing health and safety risks.

The overall message is by now familiar to all: The government apparatus responsible for supporting adults with developmental disabilities is still overly focussed on cutting spending, without regard to impacts on health, safety and wellbeing of adults who have nowhere else to turn.

Below are copies of Sarah’s correspondence, as shared with MOMS:

  • January 19, 2012 letter to families, pointing out that the agency director is funding a deficit from her own pocket because CLBC has not increased funding levels for the agency’s basic costs like food and transportation since 1994!!
  • Email chain (Oct. 2011 to Jan. 2012), as the agency sought to bring concerns first to CLBC, the minister and Premier, then to news reporters, and eventually to MOMS, after getting no response from any of the above.
  • August 2003 letter to Doug Woollard re cost reductions demanded by the Interim Authority (CLBC’s predecessor). This illustrates how long agencies have been fighting and dealing with budget cuts that put their clients at risk. This is just the latest of many rounds that have severely eroded safety, health and quality of life.

MOMS applauds Sarah’s courage in standing up to the bullies and demanding better for the adults whom she and her staff support.  We offer her our full support in her efforts to secure a fair deal and continue to encourage others to do the same.

Dawn & Cyndi, MOMS

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