Finance committee hears plight of 19-year-old

More support requested for social services.

Alison Norman does not like being on a wait list.

The 19 year old, who has Down syndrome, has been waiting several years to join a disability services program that can help her live more independently.

On Sept. 20, Norman told a finance committee of 10 MLAs how she felt about the wait.

“I don’t like it. I think it is not fair,” she said. “I can’t go for life skills or can help with a job in the community.”

The finance committee Alison spoke to is travelling across B.C. to get public input before the 2012 provincial budget. They met in Smithers on Sept. 20.

Alison’s mother Cory Norman also addressed the committee.

Two years before Alison’s 19th birthday, she said, the family met with a facilitator at Community Living B.C. (CLBC) to set up adult services for Alison.

But although a plan was made, in April the family heard that Alison was not eligible for CLBC funding because her health and safety are not at risk.

“In spite of their disability or need, those from a secure, loving environment do not qualify,” said Cory Norman.

Alison’s case is a familiar one, said Dana Gorbahn.

Gorbahn is the Executive Director of High Roads Services Society. Funded by CLBC, High Roads provides services to adults with developmental disabilities in Smithers.

Speaking of the CLBC plan for young adults like Alison, Gorbahn said, “The plan looks really good on paper. Now they just need to transfer it into action.”

The problem, he said, is that the B.C. Treasury does not give CLBC the funding it really needs.

Gorbahn also spoke to the finance committee on Sept. 20—the fifth time in five years that someone from High Roads has presented.

“This might be brash, but I wish we had the lobbyists that Health has enjoyed over the past years,” he said.

B.C. Health received $1.2 billion in additional funding this year. That increase alone is twice the CLCB’s 2011 budget, he said.

The province did announce an extra $6 million in funding to CLBC on Sept. 14. The extra funding will help 540 people with developmental disabilities who fall into the high-risk category.

While the funding is welcome and the premier’s staff seem to have a sincere concern about the issue, Gorbahn said it’s not nearly enough.

“It’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction to what’s happening around the province,” he said.

Gorbahn said that over the next five years, High Roads expects a 35 per cent increase in new cases. B.C.’s population is aging, he said, and many parents of children with developmental disabilities will need help in the coming years.

“Those are the pressures that are being thrown at us,” said Gorbahn.

But in spite of the expected increase in case loads, he said the CLBC budget has flat-lined. High Roads itself saw a 16.4 per cent funding drop last year.

Gorbahn said he does not blame the CLBC for the funding problem. The issue is higher up, at the Treasury Board. What they need to realize, he said, is that providing early support services is a great investment.

“If we provide great support, we’re going to reduce the health risks and the health costs,” he said.

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