In the fall of 2017, two extraordinary Cowichan Valley women met with me to talk about homeshare providers. These two women described what it is to provide a homeshare service: they welcome individuals—officially termed clients—with special needs into their homes, care for them in every way the clients need, and include them as part of their families. It is virtuous work.
The two women went on to describe how emotionally and physically challenging the work is, especially given the gaps in support they need to provide adequate homeshare services. These challenges get worse when they share stories about how the government-run agencies with whom homesharers have contracts appear to take advantage of the loving relationship between the homesharer and their client, and threaten to reduce compensation and respite if the homeshare provider asks for an increase in support.
In February this year, a group of homeshare providers met with me to take this conversation further. Many of them told the same stories of a lack of support and respect for the homeshare providers. That meeting prompted me to write the following letter to the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, under whose mandate it is to support homeshare work:
Dear Minister Simpson,
I am writing to you to address serious concerns raised by Community Living BC Homeshare providers in the Cowichan Valley and South Island region.
Homesharers provide a unique service to individuals with special needs. Through this service, these individuals are welcomed into the caregiver’s home and, in most of the cases I heard, become part of the family.
I hosted a group of homeshare providers at my constituency office last month, where they shared with me the issues they face in their work. It was disheartening to hear how this challenging work is not being adequately rewarded or recognized by the provincial government, especially given the burden this service removes from the healthcare system.
I have appended letters from a few of these homeshare providers outlining some of their complaints. Common among them are:
- a disconnect between the government and the agencies managing the homeshare work, which is removing oversight and accountability from the public service;
- a lack of consideration for the homesharer’s wellbeing, as evidenced by the lack of respite support and lack of wage increase ; and
- a fear that speaking up will disrupt their current income level, or in some cases may result in the individual receiving the service being removed from their home.
To the last point, given the culture of punishment for speaking out, these letters are a testament to the risk these providers are willing to take—including losing access to a loved one—in order to make a change to this system.
In spite of the lack of support, these caregivers remain dedicated to the work of providing a better quality of life for society’s most vulnerable people. They will continue this work because it is a virtue, which is all the more reason they should be rewarded for their sacrifice, not punished for it.
Please let me know what actions you will take to improve homeshare service delivery and increase funds to support homeshare provider.
MLA for Cowichan Valley
Cc: Honourable Carole James, Minister of Finance
The homeshare providers wrote their own letters to me, explaining their dismay with the level of service they are receiving. I attached those letters with my own, and sent them together to Minister Simpson.
This week, I received this response from the minister:
Dear Ms. Furstenau:
Thank you for your letter of March 13, 2018, regarding concerns raised by home share providers in the Cowichan Valley and South Island region at your February 2018 meeting. Also, thank you for including correspondence from home share providers in your area conveying specific challenges they face in their work, including concerns about government supports. I am pleased to respond.
I am grateful for your effort to capture the concerns of providers in your area and pass them to me. I would like to assure you that both I and Community Living BC (CLBC) take them seriously.
During the past year, CLBC has done some preliminary work to assess support needs in the sector, and I have requested that CLBC engage with home share providers to gather further input and make recommendations to me by June 2018.
I have also met with groups of home share providers from different regions and have heard similar concerns and comments shared by the people you met with. I fully appreciate the critical role home share providers play in meeting the needs of many CLBC clients and ultimately we want to strengthen that role.
I have forwarded your letter, and the attached correspondence, to CLBC for their review as part of this engagement. I have also asked that CLBC directly inform these providers about the upcoming engagement opportunity.
Further, I would also like to assure you that CLBC is committed to fostering open and respectful conversations free of any fear of reprisal. If this is not the case, any provider can express their concerns directly to CLBC through its whistleblower process by calling 604 664-7953. For more information on this policy, please visit http://www.communitylivingbc.ca/about-us/governance/clbc-whistleblower-policy/.
I greatly value the work of home share providers, and I am committed to understanding their needs to ensure a strong home sharing system for those we serve.
Thank you again for taking the time to write.
Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction
I look forward to hearing the outcome of the public engagement review, and how CLBC responds to the homeshare providers’ needs.