Families protest cuts to programs for the disabled
Families and advocates of the developmentally disabled marched outside the office of B.C.'s social development minister Wednesday to express their dismay over cuts to programming.
Kimberley Yanko organized the protest at Harry Bloy's Burnaby office after learning that a life skills program for high school students at Douglas College had lost its funding from Community Living BC.
"My son just graduated the program that the funding was cut. I saw what a huge difference it made on him, and I had a few phone calls from current parents asking me for help," she told CTV News.
"One of the women that called me was so upset that she was just in tears."
The consumer and job preparation program teaches students everyday skills like using public transit, dealing with beggars and surviving job interviews.
"These are things that have to be taught to these young adults. It's not, in a lot of cases, something that just comes naturally," Yanko said.
"This is just an unacceptable decision."
Her 20-year-old son Daniel said the program made a big difference in his life.
"It helped me to learn buses and new places to go on the bus and how to find jobs and where to find jobs," he said.
"I don't like it at all that it's been cut."
Since getting the disappointing news about the program earlier this month, parents have learned that the program will have a one-year reprieve, meaning that the 12 students enrolled now will get a chance to complete the class. Eighteen students currently on the waiting list might not be so lucky.
Among the protesters at the minister's office was Brett Smith, who just started the program at Douglas College. He said the funding uncertainty has left him frustrated and upset.
"They brought the program back for us, but it's not fair for the people on the waiting list. Why should they have to be cut?" he said.
The high school program isn't the only CLBC program facing an unsure future.
Families of the disabled have also complained about group-home closures in recent years. And a job program that offers minimum wage work at a recycling plant in Maple Ridge recently had its funding yanked, only to be temporarily reinstated this week.
Carol Kleckner's daughter Stephanie has worked at the recycling plant for about 10 years, and she said she was "absolutely furious" when she learned about the latest round of funding cuts.
"It's been one uphill battle after another," Kleckner said. "It happened almost a year to the day when we were told she was cut from her group home."
She said her daughter is waiting to move into a new home in October, but she's needed counselling to deal with the recent upheaval in her life.
An online petition lobbying CLBC to stop the cuts has generated more than 500 signatures since the weekend.
The NDP critic for community living, Nicholas Simons, attended Wednesday's protest, and described the programming cuts as "shortsighted."
"There are a lot of good programs that are under threat right now, and I just hope that instead of every single group having to fight hard and make it a public event, that government will see the light and realize that the cuts that they're making are not good for people," he said.
Bloy announced last week that he had found an extra $8.9 million to help people with developmental disabilities. He did not appear at the protest outside his office.
Premier Christy Clark said Wednesday that she understands the plight of the families of people with disabilities, and she hopes the extra funding will go a long way.
"We're pumping that money into the system now. It'll take a little bit of time to catch up, but I'm hoping it will make a very real difference for those families," she said.
Community groups are asking for a budget increase of $70 million.