Parents protest cuts for people with developmental disabilities

A small group of parents held a protest outside the office of Social Development Minister Harry Bloy on Wednesday, opposing cuts to programs for people with developmental disabilities.

Anmore resident Kimberley Yanko said she organized the protest outside Bloy's office after she received calls from upset parents that funding was cut for the Consumer and Job Preparation Program at Douglas College in New Westminster, a program that prepares young adults with developmental disabilities for the workforce.

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"One of them was a mother and she was just hysterical on the phone with me, asking me to help her," Yanko said.

Yanko has a 20-year-old son who just graduated from the program. According to the parents, Community Living B.C., the Crown agency that provides support for people with developmental disabilities, cut $130,000 in funding for the program.

The parents state Douglas College was informed that Community Living B.C. funding would end by Dec. 31, leaving current students with no funding just three months into the 12-month program. CLBC changed its tune on Tuesday, Sept. 20 after parents voiced their concerns, and extended the funding until August 2012.

But that's not good enough for Yanko, who worries about the temporary reprieve.

"You're pulling funding from the disabled, the people who need it the most, the people who are most vulnerable in our society. And you're leaving them high and dry. It's cruel it's nasty," she said. "These kids have hopes, they have dreams, just like you and I and everybody else, they want to go to college, they want to get a certificate, they want to get a job, they want to get married, they want to have children, just like you and I do. And who are we to stop them?"

Yanko's son Daniel recently graduated from the program.

"It was a really good experience, and they taught me a lot of stuff, how to take buses, and where to find jobs," he said, adding he didn't like the idea of cuts. "(People with developmental disabilities) will miss out on the whole program. They won't get work experience."

Doug Woollard, vice-president of organizational development with CLBC, noted parents were part of the reason the agency changed its mind.

"They certainly let us know what the impact was going to be for those people, and our priority is the people we are serving, and we realized we made a mistake and we reinstated it," said Woollard. But, the program may not continue after next August in its current form. Woollard said they may look at having people with developmental disabilities attend regular classes.

Parents have been voicing concerns over provincial government cuts to CLBC, but Woollard pointed out that funding has not been reduced.

"Our budget has never been reduced in the entire time that we've existed since 2005," he said. "What we are doing is managing our contracts to use the dollars that we currently have as effectively as possible."

But Faith Bodnar, executive director of the B.C. Association of Community Living, characterized the financial situation differently.

"My knowledge is that services have been cut to people across the province in order to fund services to others, so while CLBC's budget per se may not have experienced real cuts, if you don't have an increase in a budget for funding services ... that says to me you've got to find the money somewhere, and how you find the money is you cut services for those that are currently being supported, and that to me is a cut," said Bodnar. "A flat-line budget is basically a budget cut, because you are not keeping up with demand for services."

Bloy's ministry is responsible for services for people with developmental disabilities, but he was not available for immediate comment. Yanko is circulating a petition opposing cuts to CLCB. Google: Petition CLBC stop the cuts now.

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