Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'm sharing my blog space today with a Victoria man who is justifiably frustrated with the system in B.C. for people with developmental disabilities, and wonders why Premier Christy Clark's promises to put "families first" doesn't seem to apply to his family: 

By Ian McInnes

Families First, a political concept that resonates well if you have 2.3 children, are a member of the middle class and live in urban BC
 In fact, it is rather easy to put Families First as a member of these strata of our society; you have the financial strength, community support, and educational opportunities to do just that.  And if you vote Liberal you not only get government support but receive a pat on the back from your premier saying “keep up the good work” we’ve got your back.
 But if you have a family unit that includes a member with a developmental disability, it is impossible to put family first.
 The reality is the family member with the disability comes first at the expense of you, your spouse and the other members of your family.
If the family member needs to be fed because they are unable to feed themselves, they come first.
If they need to be dressed because they cannot accomplish the task, they come first.
If they need to be diapered 5 times a day because of incontinence, they come first.
If they need be turned in the middle of the night, you get up and do it.
 Other siblings say, “What about me; don’t I come first sometime?” Your spouse says, “What about me don’t I deserve a little attention sometime?”
And you say, “What about us don’t we deserve a holiday; a break from this 24/7 responsibility; a time to be just us?”
 For families with a disabled member, Families First is just empty political rhetoric
 A slogan of “Retaining a Semblance of Family” would be a more apt rallying call. Faced with the responsibility and stress of developmental disability, most families just fly apart (over 90 per cent end in divorce).
Being a couple, handling a family member with a disability is extremely difficult.  As a single parent, it is impossible without a great deal of external support.
And unlike the conventional family unit there is never an “empty nest” period to look forward to.  The responsibility, for those willing to accept the challenge, is for life, either yours or that of the person with the disability.
As a caring community we must support such family units and support them more vigorously than conventional family units. Families First must include those with a disability.
 Since 2005, Community Living BC is the crown agency mandated to provide that support. But instead of increasing or at the very least maintaining service, CLBC is cutting and curtailing services to the developmentally disabled.
According to Paul Willcocks, a keen observer of B.C. politics, “the amount of funding per client has fallen every year since it (CLBC) was created six years ago.” 
The final irony may be that Harry Bloy, the minister responsible for CLBC, has been made a cabinet committee member of Families First. 
He has had the opportunity to improve the lives of the developmentally disability and by extension their families, but to date has chosen to make their lives more difficult.
 Families First remains a political rallying cry for the Liberal government but does not apply to families with a member having a developmental disability.

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