Minister responds to CLBC column

I’d like to set the record straight about Paul Willcocks’ column “Province and CLBC failing disabled citizens” (Sept. 19) in which he misconstrues a few facts.

I’d like to set the record straight about Paul Willcocks’ column “Province and CLBC failing disabled citizens” (Sept. 19) in which he misconstrues a few facts.

Mr. Willcocks claims that CLBC per-client funding has been cut every year since the Liberal government created the agency six years ago.  Although the number of people requesting services through CLBC is increasing every year, it is misleading to talk about quality of service in terms of per-client funding. More money per person does NOT automatically equal better services.

For example, home shares cost, on average, $32,000 a year per person, whereas group homes cost about $109,000. Some people simply do better in a more individualized or family environment like a home share, and home shares allow CLBC to support three people to every one person supported through a group home. Group homes will, however, always be available for those who need them. In fact, the number of people being supported in group homes increased by 2.2 per cent last year despite the closure of 40 group homes.

He also states that serious needs that fall short of the urgent threat to life and limb are still not being met. I can assure you that the care, comfort and well-being of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are, and always will be, the priority.

CLBC’s budget has increased every year – totalling $3.5 billion since its inception in 2005 – and the additional $8.9 million brings the budget for 2011-12 to nearly $710 million, an increase of $17.8 million over last year. We are not putting the bottom line ahead of people’s needs. In fact, at a time when British Columbia is in the midst of economic uncertainty, the additional funding for CLBC demonstrates our ongoing commitment to B.C.’s most vulnerable citizens.

There are also some misconceptions about CLBC’s waitlist for services. This list is not a line-up out in the cold – it is an inventory of all the requests for services, which can include different or increased services.

Many people are already receiving some support through CLBC, but have requested additional services. Many will now have these additional requests fulfilled, starting with those who have the most urgent health or safety needs. I recognize that even with the funding increase, we will continue to face increased demand for programs and services.

This is the natural progression of CLBC’s efforts to increase their inclusion in their local communities.

Harry Bloy

Minister of Social Development