‘United we stand, divided we fall’. ‘A house divided can not stand’ These are but two of the many sayings regarding the dangers of
being divided in the face of opposition.
Unfortunately, the wisdom of such sayings is clearly evident when it comes to how people with disabilities are treated within this province.
Currently within British Columbia services for people with disabilities is divided between three ministries and one crown corporation.
One ministry deals with people with physical disabilities, mental health issues, and disabilities gained in adulthood.
Another deals with all children and youth regardless of how the disability was required.
The crown cooperation deals with people with development disabilities, while the third ministry along with handling welfare handles everybody’s monthly pensions.
This complicated weave of government offices makes it very difficult for advocates to help. Requiring specialization and a singalong approach.
This makes it easier for the government (I’m talking any provincial government not just the one currently in power) to control how both information and monies are dispersed to individuals.
The experts will say that such divisions are required because all of those groups have a unique set of issues that require a specialize support set to best deliver care.
I just don’t buy it. During the 50+ years I’ve received government services I’ve met many people with many different disabilities.
To a person they have all had to deal with issues around isolation, lack of employment/the difficult of getting a job, depression, experts not listening to their needs, financial security, you get the idea.
If and when these problems were solved, the solution was almost always customized to the individual either by some amazing staff or the individual and their personal support network.
So if many of the problems faced by the disabled are universal and the solutions are almost all best customized why not pool all of the resources into a single ministry for people with disabilities?
Having one ministry would mean one set of criteria for how and when someone with a disability would get services and how much money she would get to provide that support.
So if you’re in a wheelchair, how you became disabled (accident, CP, illness etc.,) wouldn’t be an issue for the nature of your support, only that you are in a wheelchair.
As well the transition from child to adult would become a lot easier because everything is handled by one ministry and one pool of support money, not two or more as is it currently is.
Just imagine if you’re a teen transitioning to an adult, and at least for a while you could have the same case worker and service provider handling your support.
Individualized funding could become more achievable for a greater number of people.
With just one procedure to follow everything become streamlined, and easier.
Plus, there might be the added benefit of providing enough work that a group of professional advocates to actually earn a living wage while they help people with disabilities and they support networks to have greater freedom.
There are some people who do this now, but they’re either volunteers, members of non profits or have to work two or more jobs just to make ends meet.
This might have worked in the past, but with Canadian/BC people with Disabilities Acts coming in the next 12 to 24 months, and people starting to use their RDSP to fund their support, the kind and level of assistance needed is going to change and become more complex to navigate properly.
People with disabilities deserve to have professional assistance, like they have doctors, and dentists today for their health needs, to help with life planning.
One of the biggest advantages of a single ministry in my opinion, would be to get Person with Disability Benefits away from the welfare office.
Instead it could be handled by staff who do not have an inherent distrust of People with Disabilities and with less arbitrary rules meant more for people needing short term help getting back on their feet and instead focusing on providing a basic floor for people and helping them achieve a higher quality of life.
Finally, and no less important, a single ministry would mean the entire disabled community would be united.
If cutback occurred we would be of one voice to battle them. Mutual self interest would help self-advocates currently supported by two different ministries to potentially speak with one voice.
Not to mention parents and other support networks could be mentored in how the ministry works by people actually in the system, not a group of experts who think they know how things work.
United, we could actually stand on our own.