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Sooke mom adds voice to critical chorus

Judy and Jesse Hoffman - Jim Sinclair
Judy and Jesse Hoffman
— image credit: Jim Sinclair

An energetic and vocal assemblage pressed its point at the Legislature on May 18.

The group, made up of folks with developmentally disabled friends and family members, plus  sympathetic advocates was expressing displeasure with Community Living BC  and the Ministry of Social Development.

At issue is what the irate group insists is a decreasing level of care for a vulnerable group of citizens.

The group included Cooper’s Cove-area resident Judy Hoffman whose disabled,19-year-old son Jesse requires full-time care.

An indignant Hoffman told the Sooke News Mirror that terms of her son’s care had changed as of his 19th birthday, and that she had had numerous issues with the government over his care and support.

A single parent, Hoffman described the critical importance of a group home where Jesse had spent time... a service that had allowed her to take care of other necessary day-to-day tasks. The group home option for Hoffman, as for many who joined the May 18 protest, has apparently been removed leaving her as Jesse’s sole caregiver.

She says the workload and responsibility had led to a breakdown from which she is only recently recovering.

“The discrimination against me and my son is incredible,” said Hoffman who indicated she had filed two human rights procedures with the government over the issue – one this past April and one last October.

“About a month ago a case manager called and said he was putting it (one of the actions) forward. The respondents are CLBC and the Ministry of Social Development,” she outlined.

Hoffman was deliberate in stressing how good the care and support had, in her opinion, originally been from CLBC.

But she took issue with the “Continuity of Care” component of government policy.

“After six years with CLBC,” she pointed out, “his (Jesse’s) case was transferred to the Ministry of Children and Families, we wonder why?” she said.

Following Jesse’s 19th birthday government funding sufficient for eight hours of support per day had been provided according to Hoffman. She says that due to certain factors she is now going it alone as far as caring for Jesse is concerned.

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons is the NDP critic on such issues, and told the Sooke News Mirror this past weekend, “The government downloaded the costs of municipal pension plans to the organizations that get funding from CLBC requiring them to find about $22 million in savings. What I take most offense with is how the government (using CLBC) went around figuring out how to save money by reclassifying people without involvement of key people.”

As for the government’s stance on the issue, the following points were contained in a recent press release:

• Community Living BC has a budget of $701 million this fiscal year.

• The province has increased funding to CLBC for operations every year since its creation in 2005.

• In the last three years alone (2009-10 – 2011-12), the provincial contribution to CLBC for operations has increased by more than $31 million.

• The province has invested a total of more than $3.5 billion into CLBC since 2005.

• Ninety-three per cent of CLBC’s budget is spent directly on providing services and programs to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

Kate Chandler, External Affairs Advisor with Community Living BC said that due to confidentiality requirements, no statements specific to Hoffman’s case could be supplied, but she did include the following general comments on the issue with a May 27 email:

“I can assure you that CLBC’s priority is always the health, safety and well being of the individuals that we support.

“CLBC is working closely with all parties to ensure that the best system of supports is in place for this individual.

“CLBC supports eligible adults to live as fully and independently as possible in the community. Funding and the type of support provided depend upon the individual’s current disability-related needs, support preferences, and preferred home environment.

“In all cases – disability assistance is provided to eligible young people with a disability by the Ministry of Social Development.”

Hoffman is well-known to the folks in Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan’s office and her situation is familiar to Dawn Steele of the Mom’s on the Move network.

“The message we’re hearing repeatedly from families in the MOMS provincial network,” said Steele via email “is that the constant battle against government to access the supports that are supposed to be there for their children (but aren’t) has become the most stressful part of coping with the demands of parenting for a child with special needs.”

Hoffman is dedicated to the well-being of her son and, although frustrated by her dealings with the government, is not willing to keep her issues to herself.

“The day I filed the first human rights complaint,” she said, “I stopped being a victim.”

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