Sunday, June 29, 2008

Worries about shuffle's effects on disabled

Mostly, everyone involved seems confused by the shuffle of services for mentally disabled adults out of the children's ministry and a new ministry for poor people, the addicted and mentally ill, housing, gambling, alcohol sales and people with developmental disabilities.
The only sure thing is that there was no consultation. This was planned a by a few people who figured they didn't need to listen to anyone else (notably the people who needed the help, and their families, and those who worked with them).
Here's a positive reaction from one group, and concern from the BC Association of Social Workers, which consistently offers quite useful observations from those who work on the frontlines. (And which is, despite its mandate to represent the issues of members, not obviously self-serving in its analysis.)
Also, for general edification, a note from children and families deputy minister Lesley du Toit on the shuffle.

For the change.

Picking up the pieces: Positive changes for children with special needs

Port Moody, B.C. June 26, 2008

The B.C. Association for Child Development and Intervention (BCACDI), which represents and advocates for agencies providing services to children and youth with special needs and their families in B.C., is encouraged by the move of services for children with special needs back to the Ministry for Children and Family Development (MCFD) from Community Living B.C. (CLBC). “This is a change that will see children's services re-integrated into the Ministry that is responsible for all children”, says Bruce Sandy, Provincial Advocate. “A host of government and other reports have pointed out the damage that service fragmentation was causing families and children due to long delays in accessing supports, the absence of appropriate supports, and constant confusion regarding who should be providing services. Many of these barriers will now be eliminated”.

“The operative word in “special needs child” is “child”, says Alanna Hendren, Vice-President of the BCACDI Board. “We have worked for many years to have people in the community recognize children with special needs as children first, so they are not defined by their disability but by their potential. A move back to MCFD shows that the government now supports this view and intends to re-integrate services for children with special needs”.

The Ministry for Children and Family Development has been working with the community, including BCACDI to develop a strategic plan and framework for action for services for children and youth with special needs that works across the Ministries of Children and Family Development, Education and Health to ensure that all services are integrated, coordinated and focused on the best outcomes for each child. This plan has been endorsed by each of the Ministers involved in addition to the Minister of State for Child Care and the Premier.

BCACDI will continue to monitor and work on behalf of service agencies and stakeholders as the children's services are transferred back to MCFD over a transition period. This will be on the agenda for our upcoming meeting with Minister Christensen.


Confusion and Chaos: What else will the new "Super Ministry" of Housing and Social Development offer our most vulnerable citizens?  

The BC Association of Social Workers questions how the provincial government's continuing organizational change will contribute to better services to the public, and in particularly to its most vulnerable citizens. The newly created Ministry of Housing and Social Development will now assume gargantuan responsibilities for income assistance, mental health services, housing, services to adults with developmental disabilities, landlord-tenant disputes, transition houses and licensing and monitoring of gambling in BC.

Just what - and who - will be served by collapsing services and programs to vulnerable populations into a "super Ministry"?   The Hughes Report was clear that the child welfare and social service system cannot withstand any more organizational change. The Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, has been equally clear that organizational change and service gaps are creating huge and long-lasting real life and systemic impacts for vulnerable and at-risk populations of individuals, families and communities.
Child poverty and homelessness are on the rise. Individuals and families are already struggling to access income assistance, mental health services and community support services. Their difficulties in doing have been exacerbated by the staggering and chronic systemic changes and shuffling of responsibilities along with the instability of leadership and oversight of these public services. We are deeply concerned that in the creation of this "super Ministry"? it will be that much easier for individuals to fall through the gaping holes that already exist for marginalized citizens.  
We share in the BC government's five great goals with particular attention to number 3: Building the best system of support in Canada for persons with disabilities, those with special needs, children at risk and seniors.  
We believe this goal and these interests are best served by continuing to provide continuity of service for income and employment assistance through a stand alone Ministry, such as the current Ministry of Employment & Income Assistance (MEIA), maintaining strategic operational planning within one organization and utilizing the strength of senior leadership available within MEIA.
We further encourage the BC government to leave responsibility for Community Living Services to adults with developmental disabilities within the mandate of the Ministry of Children & Family Development to allow further time for Community Living BC to solidify and stabilize itself as the Crown agency responsible for provision of services to adults with developmental disabilities and their families. With the move of adult services from MCFD to MHSD there will be a further disconnect between the continuity of services and supports, which will have lasting impacts on generations to come.
We also renew our commitment to working collaboratively with the BC government, its leaders and other important stakeholders and leaders to strategically stabilize, innovate and renew the social service, mental health, housing and child welfare systems so that BC can truly offer all children, youth, and families the best future possible as BC prepares to enter the light at centre stage of the international and global media and community.

And the deputy minister's comments.

From: Erickson, Jennifer MCF:EX
Sent: Tue 6/24/2008 4:56 PM
To: MCF All Exchange mailboxes
Cc: Burns, Heather PAB:EX; Greschner, John RCY:EX Subject: Message from the Deputy Minister

Dear colleagues:

As you may be aware, the Premier shuffled his Cabinet yesterday. The shuffle did not impact either of our ministers; Minister Tom Christensen and Minister Linda Reid will continue in their current roles as Minister of Children and Family Development and Minister of State for Child Care respectively.

However, responsibility for Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) was moved to the newly created Ministry of Housing and Social Development. MCFD will assume responsibility for children's services currently delivered by CLBC. This change will not take effect immediately and we have already started working with CLBC to ensure that the best interests of children are protected through the transition phase.

Some of the communication that was released yesterday with details about the shuffle was unclear about the location of current ministry programs. I just wanted to be clear that Early Childhood Development, Youth Services and Child and Youth Mental Health all remain responsibilities of this ministry and will not be moving. Other than the move of CLBC, there were no other changes to the current ministry responsibilities.

Kind regards,
Lesley du Toit

1 comment:

Dawn Steele said...

The one thing that everyone agrees on is being absolutely sick to death of the endless massive reorganization plans.

Everyone agreed on this 10 years ago, which is why Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals campaigned in 2001 to "stop the endless bureaucratic restructuring" and then turned around and did exactly that for eight years, with no end in sight!

No matter how you restructure or reorganize, it's going to offer some advantages and some disadvantages. Someone can always find a reason why merging with this Ministry or separating from that one will be a better fit than what you have now.

But the main point is that as long as you keep changing your mind about which structure is the right one, you can keep all the energy and debate focussed around that, while diverting energy and attention from the failure to fix the chaos on the front lines.

CLBC has been a disaster from Day One and it's still a disaster, with no cause for optimism about a fix visible anywhere on the horizon. But there's absolutely no guarantee that whatever comes next will be any less of a disaster.

The only guarantee is that whatever does come next will only give Premier Campbell and his Cabinet another excuse to further delay solving any of the massive problems and gaps on the front lines.

Great for their own political purposes, with an election coming up. Very depressing for everyone else, even those of us longing for some signal that this is something we could finally be optimistic about.