Social development minister hears from locals

Stephanie Cadieux rolls out the government's latest plan to help people with developmental disabilities.

Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux says a new 12-point plan to address concerns with the provincial agency that provides services for adults with developmental disabilities in B.C., will take time to implement.

The plan, announced by Cadieux and and Premier Christie Clark two weeks ago is meant to address issues with Community Living B.C., raised by families and advocates of the people CLBC serves.

But Cadieux, who was scheduled to hold conference calls with local individuals and representatives of area organizations to gather feedback about the plan, said despite the long-term aspect of the work that needs to be done, she expects a lot to be completed in the first year.

“It’s not going to be fast,” said Cadieux. “And that’s because we know the challenges are deep.”

In addition to collecting better information about the people who require services and the services they need, another challenge is having government ministries that provide services for people with developmental disabilities in B.C. work together in a better way.

The government came up with the plan and the extra money after two separate reports showed CLBC was not as effective as it should be. One was done by a deputy minister’s working group and the other by a Ministry of Finance internal audit team. The reports were done after problems at CLBC went public and the CEO was reportedly fired.

Both the reports said changes are needed both at CLBC and in  government operations.

The province’s plan, and an accompanying addition of $40 million to address issues identified at CLBC and in government ministries, is designed to improve services for the estimated 13,000 individuals in communities across the province who are aided by the beleaguered agency.

Cadieux said the new money will be divided between CLBC and her ministry, with $18 million going the agency, $10 to fund the plan and $12 million to address the work various government ministries, including her ministry, need to do.

While satisfied CLBC has turned the corner and is now on the right track, with an interim CEO and a board that Cadieux feels is addressing its past shortcomings, the minister said it was clear from the reports and concerns raised by end-users, that the agency was not as effective as it could have been in the past.  In part, she said, that was due to a lack of relevant and up-to-date information about its clients and their specific needs.

So, the first step in the new plan will be to put in place a tracking system to gather the required information about the clients CLBC serves.

“It sounds simple but it’s not because all these individuals have individual needs,” said Cadieux.

The minister said like many, she was surprised to learn the agency did not have the proper information it required.

Initial reaction to the government’s move from elsewhere in the province has been described as cautious optimism, with Faith Bodnar, executive director of the B.C. Association For Community Living, an advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities, calling the plan groundwork for significant change.

One of those changes will be to have government ministries involved with the care of CLBC clients work together in a better and more effective way.

CLBC’s interim CEO, Doug Wollard, also hailed the plan and the new money saying in the past the focus had been on finding fiscal savings so additional people could be served. With the new money, more people can be helped.

Winning back the trust of the public is paramount for the agency and Cadieux noted the board held its first “truly” open board meeting recently in Abbotsford.

Cadieux was scheduled to come to Kelowna to meet with people here but injured her hand on the weekend had to stay in the lower Mainland and talk to people by phone. She is confined to a wheelchair and her hand injury meant she could not operate her chair.

But she said she plans to come here in the near future as part of an ongoing bid to hear directly from people about their concerns and gather ideas for making the system better.

“I want to people to know they are being heard,” she said.

Anyone who has ideas, concerns or complaints about how the government deals with issues concerning people with developmental disabilities is encouraged to call her ministry, said Cadieux.

Kelowna Capital News