If everybody looked the same

The rich and the poor seem to have benefited equally from a $24 million government-bankrolled fund for the developmentally disabled. According to an internal report obtained by Public Eye, "the capacity to apply financial hardship as one of the criteria" for receiving a grant from the Community Living Restructuring Fund "did not exist within the framework of the existing trust agreement or advisory committee process."

Children and family development communications director Kelly Gleeson says the money was doled out by the Victoria Foundation not the government. And most ministry funds administered in that manner don't use financial means-testing to determine who receives a grant and who doesn't.

For her part, Victoria Foundation spokesperson Sharlene Smith says "There were some circumstances in which assets were a consideration” by the fund's advisory committee. But means-testing wasn't used because the grants were "tied to improve the lives of the individual with the disability" - who have limited earning abilities - and not their family.

But New Democrat children and family development critic Maurine Karagianis says she's disturbed the committee - which was responsible for those granting decision - didn't use such a test. "I would certainly think that families need to demonstrate what their need is and why that need is there. And so, if that's not been done - and it hasn't - then what was their criteria for giving out this money? Was it just first come first serve until the money is gone? If so, very deserving families may have been left out."

The Community Living Restructuring Fund was established in 2003 to provide grants to families and associations that would "enhance the accessibility, safety, privacy and independence" for those with developmental disabilities. The following is a complete copy of the criteria the committee used to make their granting decisions, as well as the relevant portion of the aforementioned report. That report was prepared for the Victoria Foundation by the charity's special projects coordinator Sharon Bearpark.

***

THE APPLICATION PROCESS -

I had not applied earlier thinking I won't get the fundmg. But then decided to do so thinking had nothing to lose by trying. So for my daughter I put in the effort. I am so grateful this funding. It made me proud of myself that I advocated for my daughter. Thank you from bottom of my heart Rajnder, Delta

The application process that was developed by the advisory committee established eligibility criteria and as a result not all applicants would be assured of funding. The Victoria Foundation and the Trust Advisory Committee recognized that applicants denied funding would find the denial disappointing and would challenge their family or agency's ability to find alternate sources of funding. As the fund was time limited the fund would eventually run out and this was stressful for both applicants and the advisory committee. Some applicants found the application process time consuming and more difficult for those under significant strain or without professional assistance. Not every family has a social worker or a link to a local community living support network and those living in more rural areas or without a link to community living services might have found access to the fund more difficult. The volume of requests to the fund also exceeded the funds available and not everyone eligible for funding might have known about the fund.

Establishing eligibility for applicants was challenging as there were a large number of applicants eligible by virtue of their age who might not be eligible for adult community living services in years to come. The advisory committee reviewed a large number of requests from individuals without developmental disabilities who also have significant needs that could not be met through this fund. Wherever possible these applicants were referred to other potential sources of funding. Concerning for the committee was the difficulty in establishing what the long term care plans were for some of the applicants. The stability of these plans was unknown in some cases and the advisory committee had to rely on letters of support to clarify some of these issues. It was also clear that some of the families and agencies applying for funding had the financial resources to complete their projects independent of this fund. Each application was reviewed to determine if reserve funding was available. The capacity to apply financial hardship as one of the criteria of funding did not existing within the framework of the existing trust agreement or advisory committee process.

***

1) The CLRF fund required a completed written application form and the advisory committee reviewed applications for individuals or families and organizations . Applicants had to include:

a. Confirmation that the child or adult was eligible for community living services by a community living professional (ie social worker, supporting agency etc) or evidence of eligibility for services under the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development's At Home Program

b. Letter of support as to the need or appropriateness of the request by a community living professional (ie. Occupational therapist, physiotherapist, social worker, doctor etc)

c. Information on how the funding would improve the quality of life of the individual(s) being supported

d. Information on family or individual contributions to date

e. Information on requests to other funding sources

f. Evidence of home and/or vehicle ownership

g. Where residences were leased, details outlining the length and terms of lease and permission from the landlord for renovations

h. Two independent estimates for costs in excess of $10,000 (Estimates must be good for at least 8 weeks. Estimates were firm as cost over runs would not be eligible for funding)

i. Submission of design diagrams and plans for major renovations

j. Information as to how the funding would save money or avoid future costs for the family or care provider

k. The Committee reviewed all completed applications and where information was deemed insufficient to assess the request, consultants obtained additional information at the request of the advisory committee

l. No application for work completed prior to the inception of the fund (April 2003) would be eligible for funding

m. Once approved grant recipients were required to submit evidence of the use of the grant, invoicing, photographs and final evaluations to the Victoria Foundation.

In addition to the above, the Committee developed a binder of policies and procedures that guided
the review of applications.

1 Comment

This raises interesting questions. There's a good argument re looking at the individual's means, not their family's, when assigning benefits (e.g. a rich granddaddy doesn't rule out welfare). But that doesn't hold for kids, and it's a lot murkier for adults if the benefit (financing home renos) stays with the relative as a capital asset to dispose of as they please--i.e. not in trust for the beneficiary.

Ideally, we should fund home renos if needed for every family willing to relieve society of the responsibility and far higher lifetime costs of supporting their disabled adult children. But budgets are rarely open-ended, which calls for some way of assessing and prioritising needs. Community Living advocates don't like discussing means testing (we tend to be the families with more means who'd lose out?) but it's something to confront if we want to address growing needs with shrinking budgets in ways that are both sustainable and effective.

MCFD's Autism programs are another good example. Families get $25,000 to fund therapy for kids under 6 and $6,000 a year for kids over six, regardless of their financial means or the needs of individual kids, which vary greatly under the broad "Autism Spectrum Disorder" label. The simplicity is admirable and hastens access. But it also means some of us get more than we need while other families are going bankrupt supplementing therapy costs from their own pockets. Kids in poorer families make do without.

It's a lot cheaper & easier to administer one-size-fits-all programs, but it's not the best way to spend tax dollars, nor the most effective way to meet needs that vary greatly.

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.