Disabled adults and families devastated by province's proposed group home closures

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"I think people are getting a little ahead of themselves here," he said. "We're right now in consultation with families -- in fact, nothing has been decided yet." 

Sibley explained that CLBC had been asking companies such as Western Human Resources (the company it hired to provide care in the Williams Road home), to identify which cases in which a disabled adult could probably function outside of group home care. 

"Different adults have different needs," he said. "Any time you have a situation where a person is being supported in a way that is not appropriate to their needs --- if they are being over-supported -- we have to change that. It's the right thing to do."

Sibley agreed that cost was a major factor in moving residents out of group homes. According to an announcement from last December, CLBC projected that it would have a budget shortfall of $22 million for the 2010/11 fiscal year and would need to undergo a "a service redesign" to cut back on costs.

That has meant closing group homes and moving residents into less expensive living arrangements. Sibley added that it's not just about cost: "Many adults have rich and fulflling lives when they leave their group home," he said. "We wouldn't move people with high needs, but different adults have different needs. No one is being moved against their will."

Sibley's comments echo the repeated argument by Social Development Minister Harry Bloy, who said in a debate with Powell River – Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons on May 3 that disabled adults were moved out of group homes by choice:

N. Simons: Last week in this House the minister responsible for Community Living B.C. said that no adult with a developmental disability was forced to move out of their group home. Perhaps the minister could tell that to Renata Cole of Terrace, whose daughter and three other residents of a home were required to move because of the budget pressures put on by this government to Community Living B.C.

Can the minister please explain to that family how their daughter was forced to move?

Hon. H. Bloy: To the member across the way, in my short time in this ministry I have been assured by Rick Mowles, the CEO of Community Living British Columbia, that no one has ever been moved without their prior approval, without being part of the planning process. [...] I want to reiterate to the member across the way that group homes are not a choice. Group homes have not been closed. Every individual has been asked if they want to move out. Not every person wants to live in a group home.

Bucar, however, disagrees that CLBC consulted or obtained consent about their daughter having to leave her home.

"Paul Sibley is either not in touch or misinformed or out-right not telling the truth, but there has been no consultative process leading up to the decision to close Williams Road Group Home," Bucar said.

"We were told the home is closing. CLBC decided to have one-on-one meetings with the parents and guardians to tell them it is a done deal and to get the transition plan in order."

Targeting union workers? 

 Some people are saying the group home closures are about more than just cost-cutting. It's also a targeted attack on unions, says James Cavalluzzo of the BC Government Employees Union. Cavalluzzo is a member of the BC Community Living Action Group (BC CLAG), a network of advocates, families, staff and agencies who support adults with disabilities.

"There's no doubt that they are targeting unionized group homes," Cavalluzzo said. In April, Cavalluzo put in an FOI request to CLBC to find out which group homes they had been closing since 2005. Although CLBC has not responded to his request, Cavalluzo believes that most of group homes that were closed so far were staffed by union employees. 

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