Don McRae, minister of social development and social innovation, speaks with Bryce Schaufelberger and Joe Rikley of the HOMES Society during a visit on Monday during Community Living Month.

Don McRae, minister of social development and social innovation, speaks with Bryce Schaufelberger and Joe Rikley of the HOMES Society during a visit on Monday during Community Living Month.

By Alex Butler – Abbotsford News
Published: October 09, 2013 

Joe Rikley and Bryce Schaufelberger’s work focuses on self-advocating for the needs of people with disabilities – work that includes ensuring the government has heard their needs and concerns.

Rikley and Schaufelberger, who work for the HOMES Society in Abbotsford, run a website made by self-advocates with disabilities for others sharing their challenges. The website – selfadvocatenet.com – aims to use technology to help connect people with disabilities and let them share their stories, successes and challenges.

Don McRae, minister of social development and social innovation, stopped by the HOMES Society – a group that organizes supportive housing for people with disabilities or mental health issues – on Monday as part of his tour around the province during Community Living Month in B.C.

Community Living Month is designed to recognize the contributions of people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. This year’s theme is inclusion and employment.

McRae will meet with local employers, service providers, home share providers and individuals to discuss opportunity and challenges in the sector.

One of those challenges, Rikley and Schaufelberger told the minister, is what they see as budget cuts to service providers.

In April, a new labour contract was ratified by unions and employers in the community social services sector, which provided a three per cent wage increase for front-line workers, including people who work with those with disabilities.

Rikley said that at that time, the government pledged to fund the wage increase. But now it will not, which means community agencies will have to find savings internally in order to fund the wage increases.

McRae said the government doesn’t see it as a cut, as funds are not being taken away. But organizations will have to creatively find savings to pay the wage increases.

“I want to make sure services aren’t cut.”