Advocacy News

Social Worker: CLBC Doomed from start

Here’s a very interesting retrospective from a Burnaby social worker on the problems and flaws that have dogged CLBC from its inception. (She is incorrect about exemption from the Freedom if Information Act – CLBC does have to comply.)

A history of Community Living

By Tracey Young, Burnaby Now

November 11, 2011

Dear Editor:

Community Living B.C. was doomed from the very beginning. It was never about greater individual and family control and improved service delivery. People have a short memory about how it was that Community Living B.C. was created. Read more

She argues that the flawed CLBC model was doomed from Day 1 and notes that the current crisis is just the latest, coming on the heels of the decision to return children’s services to MCFD due to widespread concerns about serious gaps in how children under 19 and their families were being supported by CLBC. She also points out that scandal and alleged contracting irregularities dogged CLBC even before it was officially created in 2005.

Many argued that despite the grand vision, hopes and promises, CLBC was always intended by government to serve primarily as a mechanism to deflect political flack while doing the dirty work of cutting/controlling community living spending. That may have worked for a while. But recent media attention, while exposing new CLBC scandals almost daily, has kept the spotlight of accountability squarely on the political bosses in Victoria. Premier Christy Clark could escape accountability for a few months while she was new on the job. Then she bought herself another month by replacing the minister responsible and firing the CEO. But the continuing failure to respond decisively and transparently is quickly turning the CLBC crisis into Christy Clark’s crisis, presenting a political opportunity that opposition parties will no doubt exploit.

The keystone of the CLBC design was to separate the role of “facilitators,” which was supposed to turn social workers into strong advocates for adults instead of funding gatekeepers. But without the power to approve funding, CLBC’s facilitators have become increasingly sidelined. The new “quality service analysts” who now control all funding decisions, and who have no social work training, are increasingly the ones who assess and respond to need.

We’ve heard the most appalling stories from families, agency directors, staff and home share providers, many of whom are too terrified of reprisals from CLBC to “go public.”

  • Home share contractors being paid the equivalent of $3/hour to care for adults with complex needs while CLBC staff and their relatives allegedly moonlight in the same roles at exorbitant rates.
  • Home share “clients” with no contracts in place for almost a year, whose caregivers never hear or see anyone from CLBC — sometimes for years! – unless they call to request a visit or report an issue.
  • Agency executives describe meetings with CLBC officials in which all the agency directors sit staring into their laps, too afraid to speak or even make eye contact, after being traumatized and bullied into submission by brutal CLBC contract “re-negotiations” that have left their organizations surviving by the slimmest of threads.
  • Families warned that if they complain about cuts they could lose the little they have.
  • Families and caregivers who complain about lack of support suddenly finding CLBC investigating them as unfit care providers and/or taking their children away.

No one is suggesting that there are not also many good people doing the right thing or trying to do the best they can. But a system that allows such widespread failures and abuses is either deeply flawed or broken. CLBC cannot work if adults, families and the broader public don’t trust its integrity and that it will act with the best interests of adults with developmental disabilities as the #1 objective.

And CLBC’s mandate does not require it to serve the best interests of adults with developmental disabilities as its #1 objective. Its first responsibility is in fact to implement whatever budget or cuts government orders and to respond to whatever political priorities are set by the government of the day.  The Act that Christy Clark herself introduced in 2004 to create CLBC only requires the agency to “endeavour” to support adults with developmental disabilities while implementing whatever directions and budget it receives from the “shareholder” – i.e. Cabinet.

We’re been asked whether CLBC should be dismantled. After watching hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on a decade of endless restructuring, the last thing I’d suggest is another major restructuring. Especially since a government bent on cutting community living will do it wherever it ends up and the results will be no less brutal than we’ve seen to date.

But is it worth spending $50 million a year from the community living budget on what’s become an elaborate government contract management division? That question has assumed more urgency with recent allegations that CLBC’s contract management has in some cases amounted to little more than a protection racket – with some families, agencies and caregivers bullied, threatened and coerced without mercy while others allegedly get sweetheart deals and/or exemptions from cuts?

What do you think?

UPDATE: Last week, a senior CLBC manager told agency directors that notwithstanding all the media coverage and government assurances, CLBC’s orders are that it’s “business as usual.” That means more cuts to more people currently receiving services this year and further rounds over the next two years to accommodate all the youths turning 19 who have critical health and safety needs. The Minister was also overheard privately stating that there will be no new money for community living, so families, caregivers, staff and agencies will have to get used to supporting more adults with less government funding.

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