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April 15, 2006

Hagen Creates "Unmanageable Caseloads"

At the same time the government was taken to the woodshed by Ted Hughes for letting budget cuts get in the way of protecting children, the Ministry of Children and Family Development targeted special needs children and their families for a betrayal. How fitting for the Easter season! Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) has been controversial since its inception. Set up to take responsibility for community living services for the developmentally disabled, it found itself at the centre of the Doug Walls affair and the resignation of former Minister Gordon Hogg. In 2004 the Ministry "temporarily" transferred responsibility for special needs children , such as those suffering from autism, to CLBC. On April 10, 2006, it announced that the temporary arrangement would be made permanent.

Sean Holman reported on his website, Public Eye Online, together with commentary from advocate and concerned parent Dawn Steele, that according to CLBC's communications director Sally Greenwood information about keeping special needs children services at CLBC was well-received. Steele noted that shows how "a good flack can trump reality every time." In her newsletter to "Moms on the Move", Steele explained that:

"In dishonouring the signed agreement, the Minister attempts to justify his abandonment of these children with the nonsensical claim that he is minimizing the impact of change on them by making a temporary change permanent, because things have gone smoothly under the temporary arrangement of recent months. This totally ignores the fact that CLBC is still in the process of building its organizational structures, operating systems and new service delivery model, and has therefore essentially been operating as if it was still MCFD since devolution officially occurred in July 2005."

"The real changes under CLBC are still to come, for example when the traditional social worker role of providing ongoing support, case management and monitoring is entirely eliminated under the new CLBC model and those staff instead become merely planners, who write a one-time plan and then leave families to fend for themselves as best they can. Worse yet, families are going to find that under CLBC's proposed rules, they have to come up with something like 50% free services from "the community" if they want to qualify for any CLBC-funded services."

Sources within the CLBC tell my informant that Steele's concerns are valid. My informant wrote: "The party line is that each Facilitator (case manager) will be responsible for only those cases deemed "active", which is only 10- 15% of the present caseload. This claim is preposterous, and almost laughable were it not for the adverse consequences which will likely occur as a result of this restructuring. Effective May 1st Facilitators in Vancouver will be responsible for an unmanageable caseload, which will almost double. Should a critical incident occur CLBC can always fall back on its Policy Manual, which will be cited in order to deflect blame and to scapegoat staff for not following policy. This Manual covers many butts."

The same week the Hughes' Report was released the Campbell government again forced unwanted change on services for children and further overloaded social workers. Dollars designated for special needs children are in danger of being lost in a new bureaucracy set up to control the cost of serving developmentally disabled adults. When the Legislature resumes sitting on April 24th watch for Adrian Dix to hold Stan Hagen's feet to the fire.


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2006 David D. Schreck. All Rights Reserved.