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Government aware of CLBC's needs, says agency's interim head

The government knows what's happening at Community Living B.C. and could put in more money if it wanted, the acting CEO of the agency said today.

"They know what the circumstances of CLBC are," Doug Woollard said in a meeting with reporters in a legislature committee room.

There are 751 adults with developmental disabilities on the waiting list for services, plus 2,100 people already receiving services who are waiting to receive more services, he said.

The government recently boosted CLBC's budget by $8.9 million, which was appreciated, but to clear the waiting list would take between $51.5 to $65 million a year, he said. The agency also adds between 550 and 650 clients a year, he said.

An $18 million budget lift last year mostly went to pension increases for unionized staff he said, adding that the agency found $15 million in cuts elsewhere that it could use to increase service.

Woollard, who replaces fired CEO Rick Mowles, acknowledged CLBC has made some mistakes and in some cases lost sight of its primary role delivering services to adults with developmental disabilities and their families. He argued, however, that surveys show some 75 percent of their 11,000 clients are satisfied with the services.

Earlier this week Liberal MLAs Randy Hawes and John van Dongen have echoed NDP calls for a full review of CLBC.

"They're suffering, they need service, I want to make sure they get the service," said Hawes. "I would like to see us do a top to bottom investigation because there's a lot of stuff going on here."

Woolard dismissed the idea of a review, saying there was a full review in 2008 and 25 of the 27 recommendations have been put into place. There will also be an interim plan submitted to the government by November, he said.

Social Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux, who recently was shuffled into the position, said she's looking into the agency, as are four deputy ministers.

"The government's position keeps changing," said NDP Leader Adrian Dix. "They say there are a handful of cases when there are 2,800 people according to their own information on wait lists. There's a crisis at CLBC and that requires an independent review."

There needs to be a moratorium on group home closures, he said. "This is a government that's failed absolutely on this issue."

Woollard acknowledged 65 group homes have closed and said there needs to be better communication with individuals and families, but said a moratorium would take away too much flexibility from CLBC.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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