A Vernon agency is on alert after some developmentally disabled individuals in B.C. have been told to find “real work for real pay.”
The supported work program at Ridge Meadows Recycling Society in Maple Ridge will close Jan. 1 and the 29 mentally challenged people who work at the facility will have to find jobs in the private sector.
“It’s insulting,” said Eileen Howells, executive director of Vernon and District Association for Community Living, which runs a number of supported work programs for about 100 people.
“These guys do a valuable service for the community.”
Parents and caregivers have been calling VDACL and asking if the provincial government’s actions in Maple Ridge will be repeated in Vernon.
“There’s a lot of fear out there,” said Howells.
VDACL’s clients operate recycling and landscaping services under contract, while there is also woodworking and the Cycle Cycle bike repair shop.
“They (Community Living B.C.) keep reiterating real work for real pay but they (clients) find a lot of worth in it as individuals. They come to work every day,” said Howells.
Howells says some individuals require support for behavioural and social skills and working on their own in a private business would not be ideal.
“During a recession, they are the first ones laid off.”
The contract with CLBC for recycling is $150,000 and supported work is $136,000 per year. All other costs for the work programs come from contracts.
Community Living B.C., which oversees initiatives for the developmentally disabled, denies supported work programs in Vernon are threatened.
“We have no changes or cancellations planned and they (VDACL) are aware of that,” said Lynn Middleton, Community Living B.C.’s director of regional operations.
Middleton added that VDACL has been looking at ways to meet its clients’ needs, including work in the private sector.
“We are very satisfied with the direction the association is taking to look at new opportunities.”
Middleton defends the direction Community Living B.C. has been taking.
“Real work for real pay is at the centre of work initiatives,” she said.
“We have seen positive results for people who work in the workplace.”
Middleton admits, though, that supported work programs may be the best option for some people.
“What’s important to us is to make sure we have a spectrum of programs available.”
One North Okanagan agency has already shifted its activities.
Kindale Developmental Association places clients at private businesses or the individuals have started their own enterprises.
“We closed down all of our workshops five or six years ago,” said Henry Sundquist, Kindale executive director.