A provincial government-commissioned review suggests Community Living British Columbia might not save money when it begins closing group homes. This past September, the authority launched a six-month project to give developmentally disabled individuals living in those homes the option of moving into what are described as "person-centred and cost-effective" dwellings. And, as part of that process, some group homes could be closed - with the financial savings being tracked by the authority's quality service branch.
But a literature and initial program review, conducted by the University of British Columbia, notes a 1998 comparison between supported living and traditional residential services in Oregon found there was "no statistically significant difference in public support costs between supported living services and group home services." Although a 2000 study in Australia showed "per consumer staff support hours and annual (non-capital) costs on accommodation support services were far greater for group home residents than for semi-independent settings."
In an email, Community Living British Columbia communications director Sally Greenwood wrote the authority wasn't worried about that conflicting evidence. The reason: "the primary objective of the (residential options project) is to enhance quality of life for people with developmental disabilities - to provide choices and options and ensure each individual is in the best suited residential option available. If cost efficiencies are an outcome of this project, then cost savings will be allocated to assist those currently waiting for supports."
For his part, the review's principal investigator - University of British Columbia associate social work professor Tim Stainton - acknowledged existing academic literature doesn't give a definitive answer as to whether group homes are more costly than other residential options.
But, he added, "If you look at B.C.'s own figures, it's pretty clear that family care model homes and independent living homes do tend to cost less than group homes. Again, you can't be universal. But, I think, for B.C.'s own figures that would be born out. Although, at the end of the day, I'm more interested in quality outcomes."