Estimates Debate: Social Development and Poverty Reduction Ministry

MLA Sonia Furstenau

Transcript 2CSC:1420-1430

S. Furstenau: Thanks to the critic for the official opposition for helping us arrange some time here.

I wanted to continue on some questions around home-sharing quite specific to my riding. It's a very significant issue that comes into our constituency office. One of the most numerous in the number of cases we have is with home-share providers and their clients in our riding.

I want to recognize how important it is — the work that the home-share providers do, how compassionate they are in their work. But in the last few months, particularly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, that work has become, in a lot of ways, even more challenging for the home-share providers.

I have one example relayed to me by my constituency assistant, about a man who has two special needs clients in his home as part of the home-share program funded by CLBC. He's a very dedicated home-share provider. These clients have challenges. They're compulsive, have poor reasoning and judgment skills, and they are used to accessing external programs as part of their daily and weekly routines. But of course, during the COVID-19 period, those programs weren't being accessed, and the provider had a pretty tough time trying to explain to them why this was happening.

For the home-share provider, the real challenge was that in the whole period, at least by the time he'd reached out to us — by then, it had been several weeks — he'd had no respite at all. So 24 hours, seven days a week, with no respite.

I'm wondering if the minister can respond to that situation and whether he's heard of that happening for other home-share providers and what his ministry is working on to ensure that, particularly if we have more periods of isolation coming…. What can he let home-share providers know about how the ministry is going to provide them with respite in times like this?

Hon. S. Simpson: Thank you to the member for the question. The issues the member raises are real issues. The first thing I would say is that clearly, the focus and the direction through the ministry, through the provincial health officer and through CLBC was that we needed to keep people safe. That meant, largely, keeping people at home in the home-share situations. That obviously increased the challenges that people faced.

As part of that, all the home-share providers were provided an additional $500 to $1,500 per month in order to help offset some of those costs. That's reflected…. You'll know that there was an allocation of $35.6 million to CLBC for emergency services. Well, not all of that has been expended. About 80 percent of the dollars that were expended went to home-share services to support them because of many of the types of issues that the member's talking about.

The direction, also, from CLBC to service providers…. The vast majority of home shares contract through service providers directly, rather than directly with CLBC. They come through service providers. The direction from CLBC, as we move to the next stage of service delivery or expanding and opening up services, is to look very closely at how we open up exactly those kinds of services the member's talking about — to allow alternate services, group services and other kinds of services — so people can be out and not entirely wedded to staying home.

The issues are real ones. We've learned something from it. We've applied some resources. There obviously is still more work to do.

S. Furstenau: Just on that, could the minister confirm that every home-share provider did get between a $500- and $1,500-a-month top-up in this period?

Hon. S. Simpson: It would not be every one, because some home-share providers…. The nature or the structure of their contracts didn't expect or anticipate them to have additional supports there. But any of them that had had those in place as part of this — had these supports and lost those supports — then received these additional dollars. It would have been, certainly, a significant case.

There were home-share providers for which those types of supports were not part of the contractual arrangement and the expectation of the home-share providers. For others, it was. Where they lost those services, dollars were provided to try to offset the pressures of those lost services.

S. Furstenau: I guess further to that, in the context of COVID-19 and the period that we've been in, we've acknowledged the extra work of care providers around the province in all of this. I guess my question is more of a philosophical one for the minister, which is: given that home-share providers have been, in essence, front-line workers caring for people — not necessarily people with COVID, but caring for people day-in and day-out — does he consider them to be similar to front-line workers that also received the top-ups that were given to other care workers in the province?

Hon. S. Simpson: One of the key differences here, of course, is that with home share they are not employees. They are contractors versus being employees. Having said that, we know that around the pandemic pay, there are a number of idiosyncrasies around those resources. If we want to dig deeply into this, I'm going to encourage the member to dig into the pandemic pay issue with the Minister of Finance, as all of this money and the criteria are all set by the Ministry of Finance. They are the ones who determine the criteria and the eligibility of different bodies to receive the funding.

S. Furstenau: Thanks to the minister for that answer. I guess it's not so much about the specifics of the financing but more the philosophical view of the matter.

I'm going to just jump to one more very specific constituency-related question. Of course, I'm not going to give any identifying information, but we have a constituent who has come to our office, who's living in a group home funded by Community Living B.C. and has experienced situations there. Her psychiatrist, her general practitioner, her family doctor and her parents agree that this is not a particularly safe or effective environment for her to be in.

However, there have been months of meetings and phone calls and still no plan for this constituent. I'm just wondering if the minister could give some insight into what can be done at that point. Working with our office and kind of hitting a dead end, the situation for this constituent is quite a serious one, and we're not sure how to move forward with finding a new placement for her. What can the minister offer as advice in that kind of situation?

Hon. S. Simpson: I believe that we are aware of the case that I think the member is speaking about. It is the challenge of being in a group home. These are people who are at different points in their lives being together and where those supports would come. There is work being done on that.

Around the case, I'm not sure that a resolution will necessarily be exactly the resolution that the family may want. What I can tell you is that CLBC continues to work on this particular case, and they are aware of it. My office is aware of it, and we're continuing to work on it. We're happy to continue to work on it with the member, her office and the family to find a resolution that makes sense for everybody and, most of all, for the individual involved.