KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This Tuesday members of the Community Services Standing Committee unanimously adopted a motion asking that full funding for the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living (NSACL) be reinstated.
The meeting’s focus was on community living, and executives of the NSACL presented and answered questions.
Apparently not one member of this oversight committee believes that the reasoning for the cuts as offered by minister Bernard and the Premier, holds much water. The motion was tabled by Iain Rankin, chair of the Liberal caucus.
It was never clear why in 2015 the Department of Community Services chose to cut discretionary grants to a variety of organizations that work on behalf of vulnerable Nova Scotians.
The NSACL, an organization that supports people who are labeled as living with intellectual disabilities and their families, saw its funding cut by $24,000 to $55,000.
Funding was cut because these groups cannot show that the money serves people in need, suggested minister Joanne Bernard at the time.
Just this week premier Stephen McNeil repeated that assertion in an interview on CBC radio.
“At the end of the day, is the money getting to the client? Is it making a difference?” the premier asked.
In the case of the NSACL, the funding cut was preventing the organization from hiring a family support coordinator in the Annapolis Valley region.
This person helps families of people with intellectual disabilities navigate a complex bureaucratic world.
“We do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to support families in crisis,“ Jean Coleman, executive director, told the committee members.
Accountability issues were never raised by the department, said Dr. Carmel French, president of the NSACL.
“We were totally taken by surprise. We have always submitted our budgets and it has never been questioned. So we were very surprised with the cut,” said Dr. French.
Coleman and French both expressed a concern that Community Services is no longer pursuing targets laid out in the so-called Disabilities Roadmap.
That document contains an ambitious plan to phase out large institutions for people with developmental disabilities, and provide more supports for community living.
In December of 2015 the NSACL together with other stakeholder groups issued a report card that was highly critical of Community Services’ progress on the roadmap.
We’re not seeing any progress at all, and families are feeling abandoned, Coleman reiterated at the committee hearing.
What’s more, Community Services is no longer keeping NSACL in the loop.
“We feel left out,” said Dr. French.