Liewicki Leaks: Government only responsible for VVC residents

Nathan Liewicki
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In the spring of 2013, Social Services Minister June Draude received the final report from the Valley View Centre (VVC) Transition Steering Committee.

Valley View Centre is set to close by 2016.

The committee — established in February 2012 and comprised of representatives of the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living, the VVC Family Group and the ministry of social services — prepared a 90-page report, which included 14 recommendations intended to guide the development of alternate services and the transition of individuals from VVC to their new homes.

One of those recommendations was providing opportunities for residents to maintain relationships as they move to new community homes.

Said relationships were described in the report as “critical to the emotional well-being of the residents.”

After receiving the report, Draude noted that efforts would be made to keep VVC residents together by its 2016 closing date.

The eventual closing of the VVC is not, however, something that can be prevented.

It’s also not something that Moose Jaw residents, especially those who recently received notice that their jobs would be expunged by Sept. 30, should be stunned by.

We knew layoffs were looming 30 months ago, and it just so happens that the first round of those layoffs just became public knowledge.

While, I sympathize with the individuals forced to explore the job market as a result of VVC’s closing, their plights are not as pertinent as the VVC residents, many of which have called the centre home for a large portion of their lives.

When VVC does indeed shut its doors, the ability to accommodate individuals with intellectual disabilities is going to be a challenge for government officials, whether they publicly admit it or not.

Accessing the specialized services and supports required for outgoing VVC residents, whether in licensed private homes or group homes, is — in my opinion — going to be difficult to meet.

This will, as the report states, increase the potential for individuals to “deteriorate in the community” — something nobody wants to see. And while I agree with my colleague Mickey Djuric that the impending closure of VVC has the potential to become the problem of all Moose Javians, I disagree with her that it’s the government’s responsibility to assist VVC employees in finding new jobs.

The government’s only responsibility in this whole situation is to assist residents. Although the general public may not agree with me, the loss of employment is something we all have to deal with regardless of profession.

Ultimately, however, if the $37 million on necessary upgrades to the facility had been spent we wouldn’t be talking about this. But we are.

“Maybe this report is still not going to give the final feeling of ‘OK, it’s going to be all right,” Draude told reporters in May 2013.

Fifteen months and a handful of layoffs later, there is no OK feeling about this whole process.

The government made a difficult and highly criticized decision two-and-a-half years ago, but they must do everything in their power to support Valley View residents. That is their only priority. That is their only responsibility.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Saskatchewan Association for Community Living, VVC Family Group

Geographic location: VVC, Moose Jaw, Valley View

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