VICTORIA – As the opposition kept up the political pressure on the B.C. Liberal government to halt the closure of group homes for developmentally disabled people, the interim CEO of the agency responsible held a rare news conference at the B.C. legislature Wednesday.
Doug Woollard was promoted to replace Community Living B.C. CEO Rick Mowles, who was fired last week amid reports of families being pressured to accept home-stay placements instead of group homes with 24-hour staff.
Woollard acknowledged that there have been 15 to 20 cases where CLBC did not consult adequately with the families of clients before changing their living arrangements. He said the intent is to reach agreement with families before changes are made
For one of those cases, the Williams Road group home in Richmond, Woollard gave a specific assurance: “If we don’t reach agreement with the families, we won’t change it.”
Under opposition questioning in the legislature Tuesday, Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux announced that her deputy minister, along with deputies from children and family development and the health ministry, are reviewing the way all provincial services go to developmentally disabled people. Cadieux continued to reject the NDP’s call for a moratorium on group home closures, and Woollard agrees.
A moratorium would make the system too inflexible as it deals with rising demand, he said. He confirmed that 65 group homes have closed, leaving 700 more around the province. CLBC has a budget of more than $700 million, and a waiting list of 2,800 people seeking either new or increased service.
Woollard said the government is aware of the demand, and CLBC’s estimate that it would cost between $51 million and $65 million more to meet it all. Part of the demand can be met by providing service at lower cost, and it is up to the government to decide how much to increase the budget, he said.