Chronic problems in group homes for people with disabilities found

Hundreds of people living in group homes for people with developmental disabilities are living in violent, overcrowded facilities that lack such basic safety provisions as locks on windows, according to a report released Tuesday by a federal review committee.

Delayed action to fix these deficiencies has also hampered the ability of people with developmental disabilities and their families to make informed decisions about placement, the report said.

The report from the National Review Committee on the Welfare and Care of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has been reviewed by the provincial governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as by the Institute for Applied Research and Development, a non-profit that advises government.

The committee received 3,400 responses to its survey in the two provinces, and identified 905 groups living in group homes at various times since 1999. An independent assessment of conditions found 850 of those homes are inadequate. It also found 411 of the 805 organization lacked proper locks on windows, 18 lacked gaskets on the doors, 15 lacked safety locks and nine lacked security alarms.

It identified the following deficient conditions in the 905 group homes: no security alarms, broken doors, broken windows, broken locks on the doors, broken windows and no security locks.

The committee said the largest group of 589 people live in a Balfour House building — an agency that has built and operates about 30 sites — and that most of them had problems with locks.

“The majority of the people living in Balfour houses don’t use locks,” Judith Stephen, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Association of People with Developmental Disabilities said at a news conference Tuesday in Saskatoon. “We certainly need them — it’s the only way you can keep people safe.”

The committee described these experiences as unacceptable.

“People with these disabilities — many of whom are in group homes because they were rejected or denied alternative placements, for fear of rejection or revoking of licences — are being denied the chance to enjoy the same basic expectations as all Canadians,” committee chair Mark Lupfer said.

Families have concerns and are looking for changes, Stephen said. The government did not fund the report, the committee said.

The committee also found that the institutions in Saskatchewan that housed people with developmental disabilities have outdated security procedures. These include single-locking doors in common areas, communal mailboxes without locks and group homes without a proper safety plan for exit.

The committee said the conditions are “unacceptable.” It said it is also concerned about people housed in group homes who should be living in independent living facilities, or in community homes and respite facilities.

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