Taking fight to the street

Parents organize protest to highlight problems with CLBC

A group of parents organized a rally in Burnaby's Metrotown area Sunday hoping to raise awareness about problems with Community Living B.C., the government agency that provides support for people with developmental disabilities.

"I'm sick of them wasting my tax dollars," said Kimberley Yanko, a mom of a young man with special needs. "The purpose of CLBC is to help adults with disabilities, not to help yourself," she added, referring to bonuses CLBC staff were getting while group homes were closing.

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According to Yanko, about 30 people attended the rally. They handed out roughly 500 leaflets with a list demanding several changes to CLBC. The rally included parents, caregivers, people with developmental disabilities and their friends and family.

CLBC has been under fire for closing group homes and making cuts to programs for people with developmental disabilities, while government funding has not kept up with the increasing demand for services. But Yanko said it's not just the funding she's upset about, it's the way CLBC spends what money it does have.

"It's goes a lot deeper than just the cuts. It's how the money is being spent. It's the lack of willingness to listen to what's needed," she said. "They need more training programs to train people with disabilities. They have a lot of younger generation people, like my son, sitting on waiting lists, waiting for post-secondary education."

Yanko's 21-year-old son, for instance, has been waiting for a year to get into a Kwantlen College course for adults with special needs.

Other demands from the group included an external review of CLBC, $70 million in new funding, better family representation and an independent provincial advocate for people with disabilities and their families.

Yanko said there has been a lot of intimidation from CLBC, which has silenced criticism from groups that fear their funding may be cut.

"There's been a lot of bullying by CLBC. People are afraid they are going to lose what little they have," Yanko said.

Stephanie Cadieux, the minister of social development, oversees CLBC. She said the B.C. government has heard the concerns of the individuals and families served by CLBC very clearly.

"As a result of those concerns - expressed in the public domain and privately in my own meetings with individuals and their families - we undertook a thorough and rigorous review to understand the nature of the problems affecting CLBC," she said in a statement sent to the NOW.

On Jan. 19, her ministry introduced a plan to improve the system of supports and services for people with developmental disabilities and their families. The plan includes $40 million in new funding - including funds to help CLBC better meet the needs of British Columbians, and also funds to improve and expand opportunities for training and day programs, Cadieux said.

"But our plan isn't just about more money. It's also about better co-ordination of services, and returning to a more collaborative process of working with families," she said.

"We added a permanent appeal mech-anism for individuals and families concerned about the supports they're receiving from CLBC."

Cadieux also pointed to government plans to expand the role of the Representative for Children and Youth and continue support for the "advocate for service quality," a government-appointed person who helps people with complaints or access to services.

"Together, these steps will ensure that the voices of advocates will continue to be heard as we move forward," Cadieux said.

The minister also asked that CLBC stop its "variable pay compensation" practice, where top staffers were getting bonuses even, while the agency was closing group homes due to lack of funding.

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