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Families have to navigate between the community and the social-service system

If there is a crossroads facing families who have a loved one with a disability today, it is a tension between looking to community and looking to the social-service system to find what they need and want.

This is what Kevin Lusignan, President of the Family Support Institute of BC, tells BACI Blast.

“Families are navigating between the community, which is essential to our hope for inclusion, and the service systems which is, in a lot of respects, the need to ensure families have the support to stay resilient,” Kevin says.

B.C.’s community-living sector has recently been hearing more and louder voices proclaiming what its future needs to hold, as a string of funding crises and other controversies have ignited reaction.

Some people think that the future rests in the capacity of the community and that paid supports in social services can sometimes get in the way of people’s inclusion.

Others, many of whom are parents dealing with what happens to someone who has a disability every day, feel that services are a good start to support the family.

“Families are just trying to figure out what the right thing is, and trying to get through the day,” says Kevin, noting situations some families face include a parent having to stay home and not seek paid employment to care for an adult son or daughter who has a disability because they haven’t been able to find appropriate supports and opportunities.

“And then they’re told, well, the community has the capacity. Maybe it does, but you have to have the appropriate skill-sets to go out and find it. Then you need to be able to go out and ask for it, and a lot of parents were raised with the idea that you look after your own, so it’s pretty tough to go out and ask for someone else’s help,” says Kevin.

A recent two-day event in Vancouver explored the possibilities in having someone act as a connector between people who have a disability and their local neighbourhoods.

Joe Erpenbeck, who is a fellow with the Asset-Based Community Development Institute in Illinois, and has had success with this approach, presented to parents, service providers, and people from government.

Kevin says he’s excited about the possibilities in this new approach, although he says paid supports will often be required until the community development approach has replaced the paid supports.

“I think that for some families and some people, proper support to help them achieve their goals will always be needed,” he notes.

“And at the same time I know that even a person that is well supported and has the best staff and is fully funded, even that does not by itself give rise to a good life.

“Human beings need human contact to be healthy… and so inclusion and belonging, which money can’t buy, is important. In that respect, strong communities that are inclusive, where people can make connections, are of real importance to people with disabilities.”

Kevin adds one of the strongest leverage points he sees for inclusion is employment.

Watch for more stories on B.C.’s community-living sector at a crossroads.

Feel free to comment on this story below, or e-mail the writer, Michelle Strutzenberger, at michelle(at)axiomnews.ca.


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