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Independent Living Vernon fears service cuts

Laura Hockman (back left), with Independent Living Vernon, family resource developer Julie Armitage and clients Katie Moore and Maggie Litster are concerned about the future of the agency.  - lisa vandervelde/morning star
Laura Hockman (back left), with Independent Living Vernon, family resource developer Julie Armitage and clients Katie Moore and Maggie Litster are concerned about the future of the agency.
— image credit: lisa vandervelde/morning star

A Vernon agency fears a new government policy will strip the disabled of their independence.

Independent Living Vernon has been told that instead of automatically receiving core funding from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, it will compete with other groups for the same pot of cash and there is no guarantee of support.

“People need to know the disabled and families will be impacted,” said Laura Hockman, ILV executive director.

ILV receives $53,500 annually from Ottawa or 25 per cent of its total budget. Under the new rules, it will face a 35 per cent cut this year, 30 per cent in 2014 and 35 per cent in 2015.

Changes to how the non-profit operates have already been made. Part of the office has been rented out to another group and staff hours have gone from 3.5 full-time equivalents to two or 2.5.

“We will have to start saying no to people. We won’t have the staff to do it all,” said Hockman as she chokes back tears.

“To have to say no to people will kill me because we’ve always said, ‘Yes, yes, yes.”

ILV began in 1993 and it provides a community access program, designated parking signs, employment planning, crisis intervention, information and peer support.

There is phone and Internet access, and the centre is also the first place a person often turns when they are newly diagnosed with a disability or are having difficulties navigating bureaucracy.

“For a lot of people, this is a lifeline until they can access other services,” said Julie Armitage, who works with the developmentally disabled and has directed people to ILV.

Volunteers will soon be using the computers and printers to help the disabled file tax returns.

There are about 8,000 contacts with individuals a year and among the regulars is Katie Moore.

“It’s a very important service. You get to know what’s out there,” she said.

The agency’s other sources of revenue include gaming, fundraising and small contracts, but Ottawa’s funding is critical.

“We will, in a very limited way, be able to continue but it will be a struggle without it,” said Hockman.

While ILV can apply for funds under the new rules, Hockman says the guidelines have been expanded to include hospital foundations and private companies.

“For a small organization like ours, the capacity to apply is limited,” she said.

HRSDC says changes are being introduced but insists national funding remains constant at $11 million.

“Key changes include: improving the transparency of funding by moving towards competitive processes, introducing a leveraging requirement from non-federal government sources, and an increased focus on tangible outcomes,” states a department e-mail.

“However, the objectives of the program will remain the same, namely, to address barriers faced by Canadians with disabilities to full inclusion and participation in society.  Therefore, organizations with strong and established connections to Canadians with disabilities will be well-positioned when competing for funding in the future.”

Colin Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap MP, doesn’t believe ILV should be concerned.

“If they have a solid program, they should have no problem being at the top of the pile,” he said of ILV applying to Ottawa.

 

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