Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Former CLBC chair confirms, belatedly, underfunding

The Vancouver Sun had an odd letter to the editor from a former chair of Community Living BC today. (Not the current chair, as the published version indicated.)
Lois Hollstedt was the first chair of the board and served until 2010. She argues in the letter that the Crown corporation is underfunded - undoubtedly true.
And that more problems are ahead as the lack of funding, in the face of growing demand, creates a continuing crisis - also undoubtedly true.
But where was Hollstedt as the crisis developed?
Last year, as CLBC chair, she wrote the introduction to the corporation's annual report and concluded with this:
"Finally, as we continue to serve more and more people, our budget has expanded to meet demand," Hollstedt wrote. "It has been my privilege to be involved in these changes and I want to thank everyone for their roles in bringing CLBC into reality and for continuing to work toward our vision."
That was not true. The budget had not expanded to meet demand, as she now confirms. An honest and accurate report from the board would have raised the issues Hollstedt sets out in the letter to the editor much earlier.
So why did she say the opposite? Is the board representing the people CLBC was created to serve, or acting in the government's interest?
My intent is not to single out Hollstedt. But there has been a striking co-option of advocates, and the results have been damaging.

The published letter is below:

CLBC board chair hopes publicity results in money


Re: Community Living seeks to restore core values, Oct. 29

While your story presented a good and fair overview of CLBC's creation, it did not discuss the lack of money provided by government to fully fund the mission it gave to the organization.

Simply, the growth in people asking for and needing service has been greater than the money provided.

Demand has grown from four to six per cent a year, inflation is two to three per cent a year, and the money has not kept pace.

The 2010/11 Annual Report (page 26) shows over five years operating money grew 9.4 per cent ($622 million to $681 million) while adults served grew 29.6 per cent (10,400 to 13,481).

2011-12 budgets increased 0.79 per cent and the $8 million announced last month lifts it to a 1.2-per-cent increase for this year.

Your story indicates 2,800 people are on the wait-list. Without substantial new resources, people will not get the services they need, and government was told by me and by the CEO that this would happen.

In 2010-11 the equivalent of $39 million in service changes were redirected to new people, and without this difficult work by a dedicated staff across B.C. the problem would be so much worse.

Let us hope the publicity from this continuing story will result in significant new money for more people to have their needs met.

Lois Hollstedt CLBC Board Chair


Beau said...

The letter is very odd. Her insistence that both she and the CEO told government that people wouldn’t get the services they need when all other documentation reflects the complete opposite. She doesn’t identify that she is the ex-chair or that she retired in July 2010. However, this offends me, “In 2010-11 the equivalent of $39 million in service changes were redirected to new people, and without this difficult work by a dedicated staff across B.C. the problem would be so much worse’. I can only assume she means the difficult work was done by CLBC staff when the difficult work and sacrifice was made by the people forced to leave the home(s) they had lived in for years and the service providers and non-profit community living agencies tasked with the onerous job of having to deliver this sad news to families. What the hell is she talking about? Selective memory obviously.
CLBC staff and Carla Thiesen got to go home every night to their comfortable homes where no-one was telling them, ‘too bad, you’re too expensive to care for, we’re going to make you move’. Yet all the while Thiesen kept raking in the money at over 5 times the going rate for Home Share.
The entire culture of CLBC has been corrupted from the board on down. Holstead after all was the was responsible for CLBC leadership until 16 months ago.

Anonymous said...

It's always disgusted me to read of after-the-fact (long after) whistle blowing, exposing systemic misdeeds and wrongdoings, the perpetration of which was tacitly approved of, if not actually perpetrated, all along by the very authors of those same sermons, while they were safely tenured in their generously compensated jobs with handsome requisite benefits and entitlements, and who are now only "coming out" after the successful completion of their pensionable service. Puke.

Raymond Graham

Dawn Steele said...

I me with Lois several times over the years and always felt she was on our side, even if she felt that she couldn't say so publicly, and that she was going to bat for community living in the closed door meetings with govt that we never get to hear about.

But you raise a good point about an excessively deferential culture in which the supposedly independent heads of public agencies, the civil service and even non-government organizations feel an obligation to avoid saying anything in public that would be politically embarrassing to the government of the day.

Is it our Canadian preoccupation with politeness, cowardice, people too busy dealing with other stresses to deal with the fallout of rocking the boat or just a habit? Probably a bit of all of the above.

When I ask people why they're afraid to state publicly what they are all too happy to complain about privately, a common argument is that being publicly critical would undermine their relationship with government decision-makers and thus their effectiveness at being able to work quietly inside the system.

No doubt they have a point -- at least in cases where you're dealing with people who are actually inclined to listen. But in my experience, this approach has been hugely ineffective, especially in BC's long and troubled history of community living and I think this is why we are seeing more and more people finally starting to speak out publicly.

On the other hand, there are many cautionary tales that suggest that career-minded folks are wise to hold their tongue in public. When the Vancouver School Board trustees decided to speak up more forecefully about the impact of funding cuts in our public schools, Minister Shirley Bond was quick to unleash a team of attack auditors on them, with a mandate to find any dirt they could to undermine the board's credibility. And that they did, with a vicious condemnation that put the board on a short leash and served as a stern warning to any others who might consider following suit.

So I get why people do it, even if I strongly disagree (easy for me to say, I have nothing to lose!) but if people like this in positions of power and influence are unwilling to stand up and openly speak truth to power it undermines transparency and accountability, which are the cornerstones of sound governance.

Advocate said...

I couldn't agree more, Dawn. I don't understand the attitude of not standing up for what is right. It's no accident that CLBC's mandate does not include advocacy. No government agency has taken over the role since the new act came to be. There are organizations out there like BCACL and sometimes community living agencies but the latter are always at risk of losing contracts or being starved of referrals or contracts causing the agency to eventually wither away.

What is astonishing is how openly the executive and board of CLBC flaunt their attitude of 'take it or leave it', whether it's Doug Woollard lying his way through interview after interview, including stating there is no conflicts of interest when executives of CLBC hold the RICHEST home share contracts in the province. And how now, that this has been disclosed, it can't be talked about because of confidentiality. He needs to ask himself where this information is coming from and why. From within; CLBC staff who are threatened, demoted, bullied, ignored when they try to do the right thing, have started to come forward because Doug Woollard and Rick Mowles created this culture. It's good to see Woollard wriggle and squirm at the awkward questions.

The corporate culture of executives making excessive amounts of money off the sacrifice of services to people with disabilities, while forging private business partnerships with the then responsible minister, flourished unchecked. When you're unethical to that degree you lose perspective, as witnessed by Woolard's statement that there is no conflict of interest . While Woollard was no doubt hoping the tax paying public understood that ‘staff’ referred to those who hold contracts on par with other Home Share providers, he refuses to comment on the inflated contracts of his own executive.

I'm sure the current audit will clean up some of this corruption but only because of 'outside noise'. However, under Woolard's tenure it has continued unchecked, and likely still goes unchecked with contract identities buried in the name of a society created for that purpose.

Will we ever hear why Carla Thiesen's husband receives a hugely inflated rate of pay for performing the same task that a community living worker performs for $15. per hour. There will never be an explanation because to talk about it honestly requires a spokesperson of good character and a reasonable capacity for ethical behavior, all of which appears to be seriously lacking within the current executive and board of CLBC.

When there is nothing in place to hold CLBC executive accountable for their actions they have no reason to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this what to expect, though, with an ideology-driven agenda of privatization for profit?

Who is surprised?

Raymond Graham

DPL said...

Paul, check out the Reaside cartoon in the T/C today. (Saturday 12th)Sort of sums up the way CLBC would like to run things.