Sunday, July 27, 2008

Government’s attack on mentally disabled a moral failure

There's room for disagreement on lots of policy issues.
But when government passes a cabinet order so it can abandon people with developmental disabilities to the streets - or worse - that's just callous, and irresponsible.
We're not talking about borderline cases.
These are people who, by the government's own assessment, need support in making their way in life and face face terrible risks without it. Two court decisions have found the government has a legal duty to them.
But, on the recommendation of Premier Gordon Campbell and Children's Minister Tom Christensen, cabinet issued an edict this month that freed it from obeying the court rulings.
The issue is straightforward. The government has passed laws setting out its responsibility to help people who are genuinely unable to make their way in this world.
But the cabinet didn't really want to provide the support.
So an arbitrary rule was created. No matter how badly a developmentally disabled adult might need assistance, no matter how severe the problems or clear the looming disaster, if he scored 70 on an IQ test, he was cut off services.
Parents could spend years fighting for help for a young person with mental handicaps and serious problems - autism, FASD, emotional trauma. The support - social workers' time, housing, work programs - could be working, giving hope to all involved.
Everyone - doctors, counselors, family, social workers - might agree the young person couldn't make it on his own. They might even agree that without support he would be a danger to others, destined for the streets or jail.
But despite all that, the government said the magic IQ score of 70 absolved it of all responsibility. The same rule denied help for older people with disabilities when their parents, some in their 70s or 80s, could no longer provide the needed support.
A IQ of 70 to 80 puts a person in the bottom 10 per cent of the population in mental functioning. In a competitive society like ours, that's a big disadvantage. Add other problems and the situation is dire.
That's what the courts found when a Victoria mother challenged the policy. Her adoptive son, whose IQ was just over 70, had been receiving intensive daily support. Without it, the agency's own psychologist warned, the young man's disability, FASD, autism and other problems would make him a threat to himself and others in the community.
But Community Living B.C., the agency delivering services to the developmentally disabled on behalf of he government, said it would him he turned 19.
The B.C. Supreme Court ruled the arbitrary IQ cutoff violates the law setting up Community Living B.C., which said it was to provide needed services to help people independently. It didn't say needed services, unless the person scored over a certain level on an IQ test. The government challenged the decision in the B.C. Court of Appeal and lost.
The courts noted the government could pass a cabinet order exempting itself from the requirement.
But Christens said that would be wrong. A solution would be found.
But the cabinet shuffle took responsibility for services to adults with disabilities away from Christensen and handed them to the new Housing and Social Services Minister Rich Coleman.
Wrong became right and Christensen and Campbell signed the edict giving the government the right to deny help based on an IQ test.
Coleman says it's a temporary measure. Another pending lawsuit meant the government had to do something.
Which is rubbish. The lawsuit could have been delayed with an interim promise of continued services. The government consulted no one before making the change, which it didn't announce publicly.
And it has had two years since the court ruling - and five years since cabinet minister Linda Reid acknowledged the arbitrary IQ standard was wrong and should be changed - to deal with the issue.
Now people with serious disabilities, who could live successful lives, are being punished terribly for the government's.
It's one thing to disagree with government policies - that kind of debate is normal and healthy.
But this is a question of morality. The government, for no good reason, has placed itself above the law and chosen to make people whose lives are already difficult suffer
Footnote: Coleman and Campbell didn't consult the B.C. Association for Community Living, the Children and Youth Representative or anyone else on the change. Coleman's bleak record as a cabinet minister has been attributed in part to a failure to consult with those directly affected by government decisions. This decision has added to fears about his new role of minister for gambling, alcohol sales, welfare, the disabled and housing.

7 comments:

DPL said...

What a hard hearted government we have here in BC. Massive surpluses because services are constantly being cup. To arbitrarily decide a IQ is sufficient reason to cut people off assistance at the age of majority. Where do they go if their familes arn't rich? What facilities are ready and able to care for them,? Campbell doesn't care and Coleman does what he is told, as its the way he stays in Cabinet. It's tough enough to have a disabaled child but for a government to remove them from assistance at a certian age is beyond contempt. Are they throw away people? In Campbells eyes the answer is yes. A 400 million overrun on some convention center is OK. Phony pay out of 100 dollars costs over 400 million. No sweat folks. But to hell with the disabled, Shame on you Gordon for being such an ass. Did anyone support you when you were a fall down drunk driver convicted? Sure lots of folks felt sorry for you and you are still in power. They made a big mistake.

BC Liberals Suck said...

And we quote, from our evil overlord himself, in what he ironically calls his "Message from the Premier and Accountability Statement"

The Five Great Goals will place British Columbia at the top in literacy, healthy living, social support, environmental management and job creation. To achieve the Five Great Goals the Office of the Premier provides overall management and strategic direction to government.

The Five Great Goals are to:

1. Make B.C. the best-educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent.
2. Lead the way in North America in healthy living and physical fitness.
3. Build the best system of support in Canada for persons with disabilities, those with special needs, children at risk and seniors.

http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2006/sp/prem/

This is not essentially about disabled folks and their rights to access services (or supports to the families who care for them). This is primarily about the pending privatization of the welfare system in BC. Creating a cloak of invisibility and a GIANT gaping hole into which these folks will disappear from age 19 onwards, so they will have a difficult time getting onto welfare once it is privatized.

There is more on our blog about this. It is one of the most pressing issues that will occur in the next year to 2 years and this will change the fabric of BC for generations to come if it is not stopped, or undone.

Anonymous said...

I read the recent article
and it's not a sound decision
nor wise to help mentally
challenged persons with
an IQ of 70, what are they
going to come up with to
CONTROL and SAVE MONEY, THEY
ARE NOT PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND
THESE ISSUES, NOR ARE THEY
INTERESTED IN WANT TO UNDERSTAND.

THINGS NEED TO CHANGE AND I
THINK THE BEST WAY IS TO FORCE
THEM TO CHANGE WITH MIGHT
AND A GOOD FACE TO FACE
FIGHT!!! OTHERWISE THEY WILL
CONTINUE AS THEY ARE TO MAKE
STUPID CHOICES FOR THOSE WITH
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

PROFESSIONAL PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND
MENTAL ILLNESSES NEED TO BE
ON BOARD TO MAKE SOUND WISE
DECISIONS.

Anonymous said...

I WANT TO CORRECT MY STATEMENT
PEOPLE WITH AN IF OF 70 OR
LESS WILL BE HELPED BUT
OTHERS OVER THIS IQ WON'T.
THAT'S SO STUPID PEOPLE NEED
HELP OVER A 70 IQ.

I LIVED OUT EAST FOR YEARS
AND THIS IS THE MOST STUPID
GOVERNMENT I'VE HEARD OF,
THEIR POLICIES HELP VERY LITTLE.

THEY SPEND ENORMOUS AMOUNTS
OF MONEY ON LUXURY BUT WON'T
HELP THOSE THAT NEED HELP.

THEY ARE STUPID PERSONS AND
REAL JACKASSES!!!

Anonymous said...

"Yeh, but who else ya' going to vote for?" That's the mantra of the united right wing in this province. But I'd say any member of the Liberal caucus and any supporter of that party in BC who does not take a stand against this and similar policies will have been tainted with the same stain. BC will never be in contention for the best place on earth when those who worship only at the alter of Mammon persuade a majority of voters that do otherwise aren't fit to govern.

Anonymous said...

No change
"I would like to clarify a recent change to an eligibility regulation that outlines IQ 70 or below as one of the requirements used to determine if adults receive services from Community Living BC.

The change is in response to a recent court decision that said eligibility criteria should be legislated.

Nothing has been changed. Everyone previously receiving services will continue to receive services. This is a temporary solution and our actions maintain the status quo."


Rich Coleman, Minister of Housing and Social Development - The Province, July 29, 2008.

O0ops: After more than five years and zero consultation Coleman, again, gets it wrong.

Dirk Buchholz said...

As a disAbled person I can say it's tough being disAbled.Thank god I have the mental faculties to be able to get through.
I can only imagine the misery that awaits the mentally disAbled, when all support is cut off.
p.s the capital A in disAbled is intentional.