BRITISH COLUMBIA

Advocates say 2$ M for disabilities hardly enough to cover backlog

03/11/2013 08:02 EDT | Updated 05/11/2013 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - The B.C. government is providing $2 million to help those cope with developmental disabilities, but advocates say the cash is hardly enough to cover the backlog of need.

The funding will go to the Giving in Action Society who provides grants to help pay for renovations to increase accessibility in homes and vehicles, including items such as track lifts, wheelchair ramps or new handicap accessible vehicles.

Last year $1.5 million went towards 70 home renovations and 70 vehicle modifications, significantly less than the $5 million average of previous years.

The society has a backlog of applications that it has been putting on hold since May of last year due to uncertainty around funding, said society manager Jeanette Moss.

"The amount of dollars (given to applicants) may have been affected due to the uncertainty of the program, for sure," she said. "But I can't say we've rejected people or declined people."

Faith Bodnar of Inclusion BC, a non-profit developmental disabilities association, said the new funding is a necessity for many families in need, but now the government also needs to address a long-standing funding shortage.

"We applaud the government's recognition of the barriers that families have around renovating their homes and purchasing accessible vehicles for their sons and daughters," said Bodnar.

"It also now need to address the funding gap. And that's long-standing and it's not going to get any better unless we start making some significant investment in that area."

Bodnar said the gap has grown as hundreds of newly-eligible people each year need service.

"There were cuts to services in the last few years because of inadequate funding to address the needs of new people. People turning 19 and being eligible for CLBC (Community Living British Columbia) services."

She said between 500 and 700 people are lining up for service every year.

John Warne from Vancouver received an accessible van in January thanks to $22,000 from the Giving in Action Society.

His five-year-old son Nolan has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

"His wheelchair is a modified stroller at this point, but it works with the tie-downs so it's all good right off the bat," said Warne, who waited more than a year for the van, which will work up until Nolan is an adult.

"I thought for an initial period that we would have to wait to actually have an official wheelchair, but with the tie-downs in place on his stroller it works. So we're able to go with it so far and get an official wheelchair once we qualify for that, which I think will be in another six months time."

Warne said, despite the funding gap, he hasn't experienced any issues, and is "tickled" with the service he received from the Giving in Action Society.

"Nolan was very fragile in his younger years, (he was on) oxygen and he had all those things going on. I haven't come across any roadblocks as of yet, things have been pretty in place for us."