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11Sep

‘Everybody deserves a shot’: Job offers more than a paycheque to man with Down syndrome | CBC News

by admin

Brion Kurbis-Edwards knows exactly what he wants to do with the money he makes from his job clearing trays and cleaning tables at the Lonsdale Quay Market.

He wants to see his “favourite superstars” in concert: Nickelback, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

Kurbis-Edwards has Down syndrome. And, at 24, this job marks the first time he’s been paid for his work.

Kurbis-Edwards’ complex medical needs and the stigmas associated with his cognitive disability made it difficult for him to find paid work. Paired with his low self-confidence — which sometimes escalates into panic attacks — it was a bumpy road to paid employment.

Until he met with Amanda Meyers.

“I think it’s really important that everyone has a place in the community where they can show their strengths and abilities,” said Meyers, who is Kurbis-Edwards’ employment specialist at WorkBC.

Amanda Meyers provides Brion Kurbis-Edwards with job coaching, teaching him his workplace responsibilities. (CBC News/Tristan Le Rudulier)

Seven months after meeting Meyers, Kurbis-Edwards was hired by the facilities management company Dexterra at Lonsdale Quay.

“Amanda helped me,” said Kurbis-Edwards. “She helped me find my job.”

In Canada, the employment rate for people with disabilities varies greatly depending on the severity of the condition, with 76 per cent of people with mild disabilities finding employment, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent numbers. But that figure drops to 31 per cent if the disability is severe.

The path to employment

When Kurbis-Edwards first met with Meyers, she says he was shy and reserved.

“I think that’s just because he faced a lot of challenges getting into the employment market,” Meyers said.

The first task was to identify what type of settings and work would be a good fit for him. 

That part was easy — he loves football and has a season’s pass for the BC Lions. Now he volunteers with the team, handing out programs. 

“I love the touchdowns,” Kurbis-Edwards said.

Along with his paid job, Brion Kurbis-Edwards also volunteers with the BC Lions. (Submitted by Amanda Meyers)

At the same time, he began trial shifts with Dexterra, where he was eventually hired.

“Now, he’s more confident than ever and his sense of humour is really coming out,” Meyers said.

“That’s what I really love to see, when someone really finds something that’s meaningful for them.”

As part of the job training, Meyers coaches Kurbis-Edwards on-site. She takes him step-by-step through his responsibilities. As he becomes more comfortable and confident, Meyers will “fade out” so he no longer relies on her and can work independently.

She says this helps develop a sense of confidence and belonging.

Inclusive hiring a benefit, not a burden

In today’s digital era, Meyers says the job market presents a number of hurdles for people with disabilities. Most jobs are listed online and followed up by an in-person interview, which, she says, is a process that sets up people with disabilities for failure.

“Our clients are better when they are able to show their abilities,” Meyers said.

Along with the difficulties of the traditional hiring process, she says there’s a stigma surrounding people with disabilities; there’s a preconceived notion that they are a burden for the employer, which she says couldn’t be further from the truth. 

“Inclusive hiring is really beneficial for the employer and the individual. We customize jobs to fill specific needs,” said Meyers, adding that, when it’s a good fit, employees with disabilities tend to stay in their jobs longer.

“Companies don’t have to re-hire and re-train employees every month.”

Tina Hustins, who is Kurbis-Edwards’ boss at Dexterra, agrees.

Brion Kurbis-Edwards jokes around with his boss Tina Hustins as they work at the Lonsdale Quay Market. (CBC News/Tristan Le Rudulier)

She says his hard work, eagerness to learn and happy attitude make him a valuable hire.

“I’m ecstatic that I’m seeing him progress. You’re giving someone a chance to see that they can do what other people do,” said Hustins.

“Everybody deserves a shot.”

19Feb

B.C. Budget 2019: Government offers only modest new spending

by admin

VICTORIA — B.C.’s NDP government delivered a stand-pat budget Tuesday that offered little new spending on its priority housing and child care agendas, but did unveil modest funds for student loans and clean energy incentives.

Finance Minister Carole James tabled a $58-billion 2019/20 spending plan for the fiscal year starting April 1, with a $274 million surplus. There are no new tax increases beyond those already announced last year on high income earners, corporations, luxury homes and the carbon tax.

However, there is new small-scale spending, such as $31 million this year to eliminate interest rates on student loans — a move government estimates will save an average undergrad student with $11,200 in loans roughly $2,300 in interest.

“We were very pleased to see that coming in the budget,” said Noah Berson, chairperson of the Alliance of B.C. Students.

It applies to all existing student loans as well, effective immediately.

“The past government racked up surpluses simply for the case of surpluses while not investing in people,” said James. “We are looking for a balanced approach … while also making sure we invest in people who help build that strong economy.”

The budget offered only $9 million in new spending for child care in the coming year, which is on top of $1 billion announced in the last budget spread over three years.

The hold-the-line spending meant the current hybrid system of subsidies and 53 pilot locations for $10-a-day child care won’t be significantly expanded in the coming year, according to ministry officials. Nor was there any signal when full $10-a-day child care — a key NDP election promise from 2017 — may become a reality.

James said there’s still $366 million in child care funding occurring this year from her previous announcements, even if it was not re-announced in this budget.

“Lets remember the child care plan is phased in over time,” she said. “Over the next year you’ll see the minister and ministry doing evaluation of the prototype of $10-a-day and looking at how we expand those.”

Child care advocate Sharon Gregson said she still believes the government is on track by increasing funding incrementally every year despite not making a big deal of re-announcing it. She said she expects the pilot locations and subsidies to increase this year, even if government doesn’t.

“They’ve got room within this funding envelope to do that,” said Gregson. “Now we want to make sure they are spending the money the right way.”

Housing affordability also held to its $7-billion spending plan over 10 years, with a $9 million increase in the budget for “incremental housing initiatives” and more homeless modular housing.

There was no sign of the $400 annual renters rebate promised by the NDP in the 2017 election, which is opposed by the NDP’s power-sharing partners, the B.C. Greens.

“It is something we’re working on with our Green colleagues,” said James. Government is creating a provincially backed rent bank for those who fall behind on their rent and need help to avoid eviction.

James announced a new “Child Opportunity Benefit” as a key new budget promise that would provide up to $1,600 a year for a child, through monthly deposits to families on an income-tested scale.

“We really want to make sure we have the opportunity for every child to thrive and provide more help to families in raising those children,” she said.

“So I’m very proud that budget 2019 introduces the child opportunity benefit. This really is a historic investment, and puts dollars in the pocket of middle class families.”

But the program does not actually start until October 2020 — meaning it is not even part of the coming fiscal year.

Related

Therefore, there’s no money set aside to fund the program in the coming year, and no cheques in the mail for almost 20 months. James said that’s because it takes a year’s notice for B.C. to get the Canada Revenue Agency to agree to help with the administration of the program.

James reiterated the elimination of Medical Services Plan premiums this year — which are replaced with an Employer Health Tax — combined with future credits like the child benefit could be considered in one of the largest middle-class tax breaks in provincial history.

The government’s ambitious plan to promote clean electricity use to hit its pollution-reduction targets, called CleanBC, received $902 million over three years in the budget.

The money will fund already-existing climate action tax credit cheques, as well extend for a year the current $6,000 point-of-sale rebate on electric vehicles, $2,000 to replace a fossil fuel burning furnace with an electric heat pump and $1,000 to upgrade windows and doors to be better insulated.

Some programs, such as electric vehicles subsidies, have been so popular in the past that they’ve run out of money and had to be topped up by government during the year, said James.

The government had set up expectations of a fully funded poverty reduction plan to be unveiled this year.

However, there was almost no mention of such a plan in the budget.

Instead, the budget outlined a $50 monthly increase to disability and income assistance levels — which advocates have already said are so low they need a major spike in order to provide a livable foundation for the poor.

“We know more needs to be done to make income and disability assistance more accessible,” said James.

“You’ll hear more about this as the poverty plan comes forward in the spring with more specifics.”

That disappointed advocates like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which said the $50 monthly increase was insufficient.

“I think we could have done more,” said senior economist Iglika Ivanova. “I think we definitely have the fiscal capacity.”

She said she can see the outlines of a poverty reduction plan on the horizon, but that the new child benefit tax program won’t help as much as government claimed.

“No children and families on welfare will be lifted out of poverty by this child benefit,” she said. “It is not big enough.”

Other small-scale new spending initiatives in the budget include $74 million over three years for new mental health and addictions programs for children, and redirecting $297 million in gaming revenue to share with First Nations over three years.

James said there’s flexibility built into the budget for unanticipated spending, both in a $500 million forecast allowance as well as a $750 million contingency fund. There’s also $553 million set aside for bargaining mandates.

James said the provincial economy remains the healthiest in Canada, with forecasts of the Gross Domestic Product increased to 2.4 per cent in part due to the new Canada-United States-Mexico trade agreement.

“It’s a budget strong on the social side and quite weak on the economic development side,” said Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the B.C. Business Council. “It’s complacent. It says the relatively strong economy we’ve been operation on will continue. I’m not sure that’s necessarily true.”

Finlayson said James deserves credit for holding back on large spending initiatives and pressure within her party to spend big.

“The fiscal and economic projections I think are credible,” said Finlayson.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade gave the budget a “B-“ rating, calling it “a steady as we go budget” built on last year’s tax increases.

A cooling housing market is estimated to cut into property transfer tax revenue, lowing it from $2.2 billion to $1.9 billion. B.C. Housing starts are expected to drop almost 33 per cent by 2023, compared to the final year of the previous Liberal government.

However, the government does not necessarily think lower construction and sales will translate into lower prices for housing.

“The average home sale price in B.C. is expected to increase moderately over the forecast horizon,” read the budget.

James said she’s still pleased with what she sees.

“We’re finally starting to see some moderation,” she said of housing. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

But she said the government wants more “moderation” in prices

“I don’t think we’re at that stage to say housing is affordable particularly in our metro centres,” she said.

Paul Kershaw, of Generation Squeeze, said the housing measures “were resting on last year’s laurels” but the government deserved credit for at least trying to influence the market.

Kershaw said he wished government would act on incentivizing municipalities to approve more density in communities that would allow for more purpose-built rental housing.

The government has already introduced a speculation tax as well as surcharges on homes valued at more than $3 million, as part of a 30-point plan James said needs more time.

The budget predicts a stunning turnaround at the Insurance Corp. of B.C., which Attorney General David Eby has called a “dumpster fire” financially and is on track to lose $1.18 billion this year. ICBC’s finances should reverse to only a $50 million loss in the coming year, after government institutes a new $5,500 cap on pain and suffering claims for minor injuries as well as other legal reforms, according to the budget. By 2020/21 ICBC is predicted to be back in the black.

“All of us and I as finance minister feel some frustration that these change didn’t occur early and we’re faced with this kind of fiscal challenge in our budget,” James said of ICBC.

Health care spending, the single largest item in the annual budget, is budgeted to rise almost $1 billion to $20.8 billion, or roughly 36 per cent of all government spending. Some of that is for expanded cancer services and improved access to drugs, though much appears to be the simple growth in the cost of delivering health care services.

Elementary and secondary school funding is budgeted to grow $197 million. The government says it has hired more than 4,000 teachers and restored $423 million in extra funding annually to the system after the Supreme Court of Canada decision on class size and composition.

An increase in capital spending for transportation, health, schools and other infrastructure will also grow the total provincial debt from $67.9 billion to more than $82 billion in 2021/22, an increase of almost 21 per cent.

Almost four cents of every dollar of revenue is set to be used to pay for interest on debt. James said the debt-to-GDP ratio on taxpayer-supported debt — a key metric credit agencies use when awarding B.C. a AAA credit rating — remains affordable at an estimated 15 per cent.

“British Columbia is thriving,” said James. “We have a balanced budget across the fiscal track. We’re the only province with a AAA credit rating …

but we will never have a truly prosperous province unless everyone in British Columbia can share in that prosperity.”

[email protected]

twitter.com/robshaw_vansun




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23Jan

Post-pregnancy blues? Support helpline now offers counselling via text message

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A post-pregnancy support group is offering a new texting service to make getting help easier for new parents who might otherwise struggle to pick up the phone and call the helpline.

The Pacific Post Partum Support Society, based in the Lower Mainland, has been running a phone line help service for 45 years to help mothers, fathers and other caregivers through difficult times.

“Picking up the phone and actually talking to somebody can be challenging,” said society director Sheila Duffy. “Basically, we’re just making that the first point of contact easier.”

The society, a peer support and community-based program, offers telephone counseling and weekly support groups. They currently receive about 5,000 calls from British Columbians in need each year.

Postpartum depression can show up within the first year after birth and can last months or even years. (Michael Zamora/Associated Press)

‘We all need support’

An estimated one in six women and one in 10 men experience feelings of depression or anxiety when a new child arrives, according to the society.

“You don’t have to have a diagnosis of postpartum depression  [to reach out]. You could be just having a hard day and need to talk to somebody,” she told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC’s The Early Edition.

“Regardless of the severity, we all need support.”

Duffy said she hopes a texting option will reduce some of the barriers to seeking help whether that’s because of the degree of anonymity texting gives or simply its accessibility.

“You could be anywhere — you could be sitting in a coffee shop or you could be in the living room with a bunch of other people — and be able to get support,” she said.

In a pilot project, the society found that many of the people who initially reached out by texting later ended up talking to someone on the phone and receiving additional help.

“But even if it’s just through texts, it’s amazing how it’s possible to support somebody and to actually feel supported.” Duffy added.

For now, the texting lines will be monitored two days a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but Duffy anticipates the project to grow with more funding.

The phone lines continue to be open Monday to Friday. Call or text 604-255-7999 to reach the society. 

A post-pregnancy support group is offering a new texting service to make getting help easier for new parents who might otherwise struggle to pick up the phone and call the helpline. 6:59


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15Oct

‘Silver Economy’ offers business opportunities, SFU aging expert says

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SFU gerontology professor Andrew Sixsmith is scientific director of AGE-WELL.


PROVINCE

Scientists using digital games to help seniors stay socially connected were happy to see immediate results when they organized a Wii bowling tournament at 14 senior centres across Canada.

Not only were the participants connecting with each other for the weekly virtual games broadcast but “massive numbers of people would come out every week to cheer them on,” said SFU gerontology Prof. David Kaufman.

“It helps bring people together,” he said.

Using technology to help improve the lives of Canada’s aging population is the theme of the AGE-WELL2018 conference in Vancouver on Tuesday through Thursday.

AGE-WELL is a national network of centres of excellence researching how technology can increase the physical, cognitive and emotional well-being of seniors.

“There are two priorities: Great science and real-world impact,” said SFU gerontology Prof. Andrew Sixsmith, scientific director of AGE-WELL. “We want to create things that will have social benefits.”

Some of the products and services being showcased at the three-day conference include self-driving wheelchairs and a Geek Squad-style IT network to help seniors develop computer skills so they can access services and information online.

Canada’s aging baby boomers are generally more tech-savvy and have more money than their parents did, which is setting the stage for business opportunities in the “silver economy,” said Sixsmith.

“There are lots of opportunities for Canadian businesses to tap into that market,” especially in the areas of health and wellness and financial management and services.

But he said there is a “digital divide” among seniors between those with online accessibility and those without, especially those in rural areas or with low incomes.

“The federal government should be doing more to ensure equal access,” he said.

Kaufman’s research around digital games for seniors shows that compared to the individualistic shooting games popular with younger people, seniors prefer slow-paced action based on board games they are familiar with that is also tied to gaining knowledge.

For instance, a digital tic-tac-toe game requires players to answer a question based on a theme such as nutrition or making a will before they can put down an X, he said.

He said that helps provide cognitive benefits for the seniors.

Digital storytelling has also proved popular.

Workshops are held in seniors homes to train seniors how to put together their life stories on video using photos, audio and text, and then invite their families and friends to a showing.

“They’re leaving a legacy that’s more than just money or a house,” said Kaufman.

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