CLBC gets $40M boost as review urges 'cultural change'
The provincial government has pledged an additional $40 million to Community Living BC after months of criticism about cuts to services for people with developmental disabilities.
On Thursday, Premier Christy Clark unveiled the government's plan to deal with issues at the troubled body in response to a deputy ministers' review.
"British Columbians with developmental disabilities and their families can have confidence that their government has listened," Clark said in a written statement.
"Our plan will ensure that these individuals and families have the support that they need from their government to lead full, rich lives."
The deputy ministers who conducted the review found that there is a need for a "cultural change" at CLBC and in the provincial government, according to their report.
The report says that CLBC needs to operate with more of an acknowledgment that its budget will continue to be limited -- in effect, "to do more with less."
"Continuing the debate simply about whether there is sufficient funding at CLBC will mask the real issue but, even more concerning, it has the potential to prevent the change required to move to a system oriented more to individualized funding, supports for employment, and supports for informal and community systems of care," the report reads.
The report includes several recommendations for revamping the Crown agency, including a shift to "individualized" funding that would focus on the specific needs of clients, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. It also suggests a stronger focus on job training and creating a new appeals process to let families express concerns about their services.
Clark says that the government will begin implementing all of the recommendations immediately. The new funds include $18 million in operating funds, $10 million for day and employment programs and $12 million in caseload increases.
Advocate Kimberley Yanko, whose son is developmentally disabled, says it's hard to tell what impact the changes will have.
"Forty-million, it's a lot of money, but it depends on how it's allocated," she told reporters.
"My concern right now is the waiting list."
Yanko says that more than 2,000 British Columbians are currently waiting for service from CLBC, and advocates have estimated the cost to serve them at about $65 million.
Families across the province have repeatedly spoken out about cuts to CLBC programs and group home closures, and the organization has taken flak because of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses paid out to top managers. Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux ordered an end to the incentives program last year, calling it "inappropriate" for an organization that is supposed to serve people.
Opposition NDP leader Adrian Dix says the changes proposed by the government serve as vindication for critics who have been hounding the government about problems at CLBC for years.
"I'm pleased that this government, after all of this effort, after all of the suffering of families acknowledged that I think was obvious to a lot of us a long time ago, and that some action was required," he told reporters.
However, he added that a fully independent review is needed to truly address all of the troubles at CLBC.
Conflicts of interest at CLBC
Another concern that has haunted the agency is an allegation of conflict of interest involving managers who are awarded home-share and care contracts.
That issue was addressed in an internal audit, the results of which were also released Thursday.
The audit found that a total of 13 CLBC employees had received government-funded contracts to provide services, "which by definition are conflicts of interest." The values of the home-sharing contracts range from $15,000 to $59,000, and are consistent with the standard funding structure.
According to the audit, CLBC could not provide evidence that all of those conflicts were fully disclosed or resolved when they were reported.
The audit acknowledges that in some cases, the contracts were awarded to new employees who were already providing services before they were hired. In others, the employees had the appropriate skill sets to care for adults with developmental disabilities.
Still, CLBC broke its own rules, the audit found.
"While CLBC has established fairly robust conflict of interest management controls and has plans to further enhance them, CLBC did not consistently follow or enforce its current conflict of interest policies and procedures," it reads, recommending that the agency strengthen its policy and do a better job of enforcing it.