Vancouver–Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan seeks help for disabled young adults

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The NDP’s critic for Community Living B.C. says she wants to know why some developmentally disabled young adults are receiving far less support than they qualify for under a government assessment tool.

In an interview at the Georgia Straight office, Vancouver–Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan said that in the lead-up to them turning 19, CLBC clients are evaluated with this tool, known as the “guide to support allocation” or “GSA”, which has various levels.

“Many of them [the clients] are at a higher level—Level 4 or Level 5 and so on—and then on that basis, minimally, the government should be providing them 17.5 hours of day support per week,” Kwan said. “They’re getting funded 2.5 hours if they are lucky.”

Kwan added that when she raised this issue in the legislature in April, the minister responsible for Community Living B.C., Don McRae, promised to respond by early to mid June.

“It is now August,” Kwan said. “I have yet to receive an answer.”

McRae, the minister of social development and social innovation, was unavailable for an interview.

During his ministry’s spending-estimates debate in the legislature on April 30, McRae told Kwan that if developmentally disabled adults are assessed at Level 4, “they have the ability to access up to 17 hours a week of supports.

“That does not necessarily mean there are 17 hours,” McRae added, according to Hansard. “It’s a maximum of up to.”

His comment came after Kwan cited examples of five developmentally disabled teenagers moving into adulthood.

She said the first, a 19-year-old woman with an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy, will likely receive the minimum of $2,800 in annual support despite being assigned a high GSA level. Kwan said the woman also has an anxiety disorder and uses a wheelchair to travel long distances; her parents are self-employed and each periodically leaves the country for business reasons.

The young woman was assessed at Level 4 on the GSA, Kwan said in the legislature, which means she will be “requiring” 17.5 hours of day support per week.

“However, her mother has been given the heads-up by a CLBC facilitator that she should not expect more than $2,800 in respite funding,” Kwan said during the debate.

With that amount of funding, the young woman will only receive 2.5 hours of day support per week, according to Kwan.

She told the Straight that there are other parents in situations like this.

“They’re struggling, living in frustration, living in isolation, at wits’ end,” the NDP MLA added. “That’s what some of the parents have told me.”

In the legislature in April, Kwan also spoke about an 18-year-old whose parents expect will be assessed at Level 4, which would make him eligible for 17.5 hours of day support per week.

“We don’t know yet what the funding’s going to be, but if it’s going to be the base level of $2,800, it’s not going to meet the needs,” she said, according to Hansard.

She cited a third case involving an 18-year-old man with an intellectual disability. According to Kwan, he wears a helmet to avoid head injuries resulting from seizures triggered by his “poorly controlled and unpredictable epilepsy”. As of April 29, his parents hadn’t learned what his GSA score was.

“If the base level is $2,800, this family is going to be in dire straits,” she predicted in the legislature.

In a fourth example, Kwan mentioned a visually impaired young man with Down syndrome. His family had written to her asking “why, all of a sudden because he’s turning 19 should his needs not be met?”

A fifth case involved a woman with autism spectrum disorder who was turning 19. She, too, hadn’t been told her GSA score.

Kwan then asked McRae how many people aren’t getting funding in accordance with the GSA scoring system.

“The score on the guide does not correlate to any immediate funding,” McRae said. “It all depends on the individual and the needs that they have.”

To that, Kwan asked: “Does the minister consider approximately 140 hours of support a year, which equates to about 2.5 hours per week, adequate for a transitioning youth who has been assessed by CLBC as needing 17 to 23 hours per week?”

“There are certain circumstances where not every service requested is able to be provided,” McRae responded.

(Below, you can see Jenny Kwan discussing Community Living B.C. on the Georgia Straight's weekly TV show on WOWtv.)

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zi paris
I've been doing Home Share for a number of years and I can safely say we are not given the resources needed to do our jobs properly. I would quit except the individual I'm supporting would be in worse straights if I did so, and the system makes it very hard for me to do so. I worked front line in the field for more than 20 years and because I'm now a contracted employee I've lost every shred of seniority I had. If I go back to doing front line work - even after taking on substantially more responsibility doing Home Share - I start again at the very bottom of the ladder, earning $13/hour. I went into the work being told that there would be "support" for me as a Home Share Provider, but in reality it's so thin (and funding is being cut even more) as to essentially be ineffectual. I was very quickly told there were no further resources available to help me, and one of the directors of the organization I work for (Semiahmoo House Society) tried to cut what I already had. You're basically left on your own. I've had five days off in the past year.
The greater problem is that the work just isn't seen as important, it isn't respected. A lot of folks are on the edge of burn out, or have burnt out and are just putting in time. The interest appears to be that of "survival" - for staff and clients - and very little if anything more. There's often a major disconnect between the middle and upper management of organizations I work for- and people on front lines.
I don't know what the solutions are. The problems are deeply embedded; they're systemic, they're political. There's a type of stasis in the field where you're almost penalized for taking initiative and making improvements. Forward movement is often made in token areas that looks good in media and such, while not addressing fundamental problems underneath the surface. The field knows how to basically hold the status quo, and deal with crises from time to time. They'll watch as you fall down the stairs, and then offer you a bandage and maybe a crutch.
There's been talk of funding being cut even more recently. So fewer qualified people will want to do the work. Maybe they're squeezing it til it reaches a true breaking point, with the plan to then reinstate a few dollars. Just enough to keep people alive. But many people - supported individuals and staff - suffer in the meantime.
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