Group home residents will not have to move

Government gives families written commitment that men can stay together in Langley home

Three middle-aged men with severe developmental disabilities won’t have to give up their Langley home of nearly 15 years.

The provincial government quietly ended months of uncertainty late last month when it informed the families of the trio that a planned move to Abbotsford was being called off.

It was a relief for the families, who had been fighting the provincial government’s decision to close the group home and move the men into a less-supervised environment.

Community Living British Columbia (CLBC), the provincial Crown agency that funds services for adults with developmental disabilities, told the families an agreement has been reached that will allow the men to remain in their home with their current caregivers.

And they put it in writing, said Diana Mills, whose brother is one of the residents.

“It’s all great news,” Mills said.

“We’ve wanted it from the beginning.”

The families had warned the move could put the public at risk.

The three men, all over 40 years of age, lack impulse control and can become violent outside a structured, stable environment.

The men were never told about the proposed move, Mills said. “They were going to hold off until the last minute.”

Mills said her brother and the other two men have bonded over the years.

“They consider each other like brothers.”

The decision to relocate the men was made after CLBC insisted the managers of the group home reduce their rates by more than 20 per cent.

The managers (who could not be reached for comment) at first refused, then proposed a five per cent cut.

When The Times raised the matter with the CLBC, the agency  issued a written statement which called the case an “exceptional situation where our business arrangement with the service provider is changing and CLBC does not own the home.”

“CLBC worked diligently for over a year to reach an agreement with this service provider [before deciding to move the men],” the statement added.

There was no further comment.

The change of heart by CLBC was welcomed by the opposition critic for Community Living BC, Powell River — Sunshine Coast NDP MLA Nicholas Simons, who called it “wonderful news.”

“It’s too bad that they [the families] had to go through all that stress,” Simons observed.

He said cost-cutting by the provincial government has closed down more than 60 group homes in the province, and forced many residents into accepting a lower level of care.

“This is clearly one of those cases where they [the CLBC] pushed too hard,” he said.

Simons said cost-cutting has forced managers of some group homes to eliminate things like art therapy and field trips for their residents.

Simons said CLBC’s own statements show the amount of funding for each client has dropped every year since 2006, from $51,183 to $45,320 and it will drop further because the agency is trying to cut $22 million from its budget.

Controversy over the cuts led to a shakeup at CLBC in October, when CEO Rick Mowles was fired amid.

His replacement, Doug Woollard, acknowledged that there have been cases where CLBC did not consult adequately with the relatives of group home residents and promised the government agency would aim to reach agreements with families before changes are made.

Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux announced a review of the way all provincial services go to developmentally disabled people, but rejected the NDP’s call for a moratorium on group home closures.

– with files from Tom Fletcher