Board Voice executive director was invited to a briefing with the Health Ministry on April 16, 2019, to learn more about the return of home support services to health authorities. This is the information she shared with Board Voice members following that briefing. 

Good morning, members. Thanks to our board member Bill McMichael’s broad circle of influence (that’s what makes all our member boards that much more special!), I was able to have a phone conversation with Health Minister Adrian Dix last month about the decision to return home support services to the health authorities. Yesterday, I followed that up with a briefing with Teri Collins, ADM in the Specialized Services Division of the ministry.

First thing to know: There are NO plans or discussions at the moment to return any other home-support-related services to the health authorities. This includes Better At Home and specialized home supports such as those for acquired brain injury. So if you are providing those services, you can expect them to continue with your organization.

For those who are losing services to HAs, the transition of services will begin in the months leading up to the end of your contract. Beacon Community Services was unusual in having its contract renewal up this November; others are next year. She says HAs are already “working actively” with current providers in that transition, and notes that the expectation is for joint plans agreed upon by both HAs and transitioning agencies.

As noted, health authorities will be taking back the more generalized home-support services, some of which are already being provided by HAs in some regions. Teri tells me that all current staff, including excluded staff, have been sent letters saying there will be jobs waiting for them with health authorities if they want it. “The first principle is that everyone will have a job,” she said.

She continues to believe that this transition will not be bumpy, though she notes that it will take several months after the new contracts are in place for ending the issue of revolving home support workers for clients. She depicts the change as one of “lift and shift.” An underlying principle of this transition is of regularizing staff by ending the casual part-time instability of their work, and of ending the revolving door of different workers through clients’ doors.

Teri seems genuinely interested in hearing from us about issues they might face in this transition. As far as I can tell, the motivations for making this change appear to be about improving life for workers and clients. (Those of us who have been around a long time will recall that once upon a time, the small neighbourhood-based non-profits that used to provide home support did a pretty good job of providing stable work and a non-revolving door of workers for clients, but that system was destroyed under the Gordon Campbell Liberals in favour of much larger regional contracts, which are now the ones being brought back into the health authorities).

I mentioned to Teri that one of our members had noted transportation as an issue for many home-support workers, and that sometimes non-profit providers help them out with bus passes. She was interested in knowing that and asked if we’d please share any other insights that will be helpful in the transition. Please let me know any thoughts you might have on this and I’ll pass them along.  Now that it’s underway, we might as well do our part to make this as smooth a transition as possible for all concerned.

Health authorities are difficult beasts to advocate with, as they are quasi-independent but not really. Advocating with the health minister about health authority decisions seems too high up to be effective. But I’d recommend we all take note of Teri Collins’ name and position, as her role in the Health Ministry is in seniors’ services, mental health and addiction – all key areas for our sector. I trust you all know about the BC Government Directory for finding emails and phone numbers? So useful!