(KJIPUKTUK), HALIFAX - For a long time people labelled with intellectual or physical disabilities have pointed to insufficient community-based assisted living arrangements in Nova Scotia.
Now critcs say that a growing wait list for small-scale residential solutions indicates that earlier promises by the Department of Community Services to reduce the wait list are not being kept.
Hopes were high.
Many people were delighted when in 2013 the Department of Community Services announced the phasing out of large institutions, a more individualized approach in terms of care and funding, and altogether a new emphasis on changing services to better accommodate people with disabilities.
At that time the Disability Support Program wait list for residential housing stood at 951. The list contains both people who want out of institutionalized care and people for whom living at home is no longer feasible.
Now that same wait list has grown to 1,112, writes Lori Errington, spokesperson for Community Services.
Cindy Carruthers, a coordinator with the self-advocay group People First Nova Scotia, is not surprised.
"Litle has happened, except for the hiring of senior bureaucrats in charge of the transition," Carruthers believes.
"People First Nova Scotia was very excited to see the (transition) roadmap in its initial stages, but for a long time now there has been no update and little visible progress," says Carruthers.
"These numbers are very concerning, it doesn't look like anything is being accomplished," she adds.
In 2013 Community Services committed to "implementing these recommendations over a five-year time frame, with major action steps for each of the ten recommendations being plotted over 2013-14 through 2017-18."
But a Request for Proposals to plan and manage the transition was only issued in December last year. Meanwhile the initial five-year project timeframe has morphed in something more like a ten-year plan. Pilot projects were announced but have since been cloaked in silence.
Community Services also committed to including and informing stakeholders throughout the transformation process.
More empty promises, says Carruthers. After a couple of updates that process dissipated.
"We had a member at the table, and there was a great deal of excitement and trust," she says. "Community Services officially ended the meetings last September, and there has not been a word since. We would like some sort of update."
So how to explain the increase in the wait list?
In a follow-up email Community Services points to the the high rate of disabilities in our province, and its aging population to explain the waiting list increase. It also says that people do not want to be referred to Continuing Care, despite their changing care needs.
The Halifax Media Co-op also asked whether the department had set reduction targets for next year's wait list. That question remained unanswered.
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