More than 800 serious events found at Saskatchewan group homes for disabled

·3 min read

REGINA — Saskatchewan's auditor says about half of adults with intellectual disabilities who are living in private group homes have experienced a serious event from physical and emotional abuse to mishandling of medicine

Tara Clemett said such occurrences rose 12 per cent in 2020-21 from the previous year and, in some cases, there's no evidence the Ministry of Social Services followed up on investigations.

The homes reported 859 serious incidents among 1,600 adults who were provided housing, meals and care.

"This is what really the homes are self-reporting to the ministry. That's why it's important the ministry periodically do inspections beyond site to see what else is happening," Clemett said.

The auditor's report, tabled at the Saskatchewan legislature Wednesday, shows the homes receive most of $174 million in ministry funding. About $111 million is allocated to the homes, which are either in a group setting or family-living environment.

Despite that, serious issues in the delivery of care persist,Clemett said.

She said the ministry does not do any analysis to identify any ongoing issues, nor does it monitor whether homes bring in recommendations following a serious event.

"Do we need to provide further support or (are) there issues we need to be looking at closely? That's what we're trying to articulate they do better," Clemett said.

Social Services Minister Lori Carr said the government will do better reporting incidents, but didn't provide details.

The auditor's report says most cases were related to unexpected illness and medication abuse, including missed doses, wrong medicine given or overmedicating residents.

Some 34 cases involved missing or wandering people. One individual was seriously injured after being immersed in hot water, says the report.

It adds there were 58 COVID-19 outbreaks at 15 homes, partially contributing to the increase of serious events reported this year.

The group homes are all privately operated, but funded by the Ministry of Social Services. They typically house between one and five residents with an average age of 46.

The auditor's report suggests the government has failed to ensure quality of life for residents.

In 2019, the province shut down Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw, Sask., a government-owned home for adults living with intellectual disabilities. That resulted in moving of 150 residents into the community. At the time, the government committed to a "Saskatchewan-made, person-centred approach" to shape residents' dreams and aspirations while living in the community.

If they wanted to take part in certain activities or had specific goals, it was up to the homes to help.

But the auditor's report says there has been little followup and 70 per cent of plans the auditor assessed did not meet expectations.

The audit also found that the ministry had no direct contact with 63 per cent of residents in the homes in the past two years.

Carr blamed the pandemic for lack of followup, but the NDP Opposition critic for social services said there is chronic problem regarding oversight.

"I want to emphasize they have the third-largest budget after health and education. Their spending is increasing across the boar, yet we're seeing worse outcomes in ... these group homes," said Meara Conway.

"It points to serious issues within this ministry and the public should be very concerned from a social perspective as well as a fiscal one."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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