COVID-19 Updates

Information last updated: May 11, 2020

As personal isolation and “physical distancing” reduce opportunities for Albertans to get together in person, go to work and school, and maintain their daily routines we hope you, your family and friends, have the support and resources required to stay safe, healthy and comfortable. This is also a good time to think about those in our communities who may need some extra help with daily tasks, or even a friendly phone call or message.

At Inclusion Alberta, we are continuing to ensure that each and every family gets the support they require during this unprecedented time in our history. We recently wrote a letter providing some updates and examples of how we are supporting individuals and families during this time.

If you are experiencing more than minor routine disruptions during COVID-19 precautions, including unnecessary changes to any funding or supports, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at our main office in Edmonton. You can contact us by phone, 780-451-3055 or toll-free 1-800-252-7556, or email, mail@inclusionalberta.org.

Update April 21, 2020: Inclusion Alberta remains committed to families during COVID-19

Dear Friends,

At Inclusion Alberta we are continuing to ensure that each and every family gets the support they require during this unprecedented time in our history. This is a difficult time for everyone but can be especially challenging for those families who have a loved one with a developmental disability. We wanted to take a moment to connect with you and share just a few examples of how we continue to support individuals and families during this time.

For those students who are attending Inclusive Post-Secondary Education, our team continues to support their participation in remote delivery of classes and has come up with creative ways of ensuring students are staying socially connected to classmates virtually, a critical element to emotional well-being in this new age of physical distancing. In a few instances where students have more complex needs that depend upon physical support, Inclusion Alberta staff are providing that support when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

Our Inclusive Education consultants are partnering with families and schools to ensure appropriate planning for children with disabilities and their inclusion in ongoing learning through remote delivery, as well as staying socially connected to their classmates through virtual means wherever possible.

For those individuals employed through our Rotary Employment Partnership, several individuals continue to work, some of whom have been offered more hours as they are working in areas essential to all Albertans, such as maintaining our food supply chain. For those who are not able to work at this time, our Employment Coordinators are providing resources to help establish a healthy routine, ensure each person has a plan for a meaningful day, are considering and accessing opportunities for professional development, and that they have access to any support they require at this time. We continue to connect with job seekers on our wait list in preparation for when companies are once again in a position to hire.

Our advocacy team continues to meet with families each and every day, as we work to secure the supports and services they require in these particularly challenging times, and we are in constant communication with multiple government ministries in an effort to ensure the unique needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are represented. In the weeks to come, it will be critical that families who have family members with developmental disabilities know they are not alone as they navigate the changing landscape and the new demands they are encountering. Inclusion Alberta is committed to ensuring families have the support they need now and hope for the future.

Keep well and please keep in touch.

Warm regards,
Inclusion Alberta

For the latest details on COVID-19 in Alberta, please visit the provincial government’s dedicated web page, which is being regularly updated with health and other information: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx

The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) has created a list of resources and information which will be helpful to those with developmental disabilities and their families. This can be found at the CACL’s website: https://cacl.ca/coviddisability/

Plain Language Resources:

Community and Social Services created a plain language pamphlet for frequently asked questions on COVID-19 for individuals with developmental disabilities. You can read or download that PDF here. 

The Green Mountain Self-Advocates have developed a plain language booklet for self-advocates, families, and their support staff, which we have updated to include Alberta information, such as calling Healthlink at 8-1-1. You can read or download that PDF from here on our website.

People First of Canada have also developed a plain language information sheet for self-advocates, based on Public Health Canada’s recommendations. That PDF is also available through our website.

Inclusive Education Resources:

Our inclusive education consultants created a slides for a May 12, 2020 presentation titled, “Learning at Home with Inclusion Alberta”. Presentation available here. 

Our inclusive education consultants have also produced a list of resources which may be of interest and help for parents at home with students in K-12 age groups. This PDF is viewable online or can be downloaded.

Our inclusive education consultants have produced a series of resources for a presentation titled “Getting Ready for the Return of School” August 19, 2020 and can be found here:

Getting Ready for School Together (1)

COVID Toolkit for Teachers

Covid 19 Parent Toolkit

PPE Resources:

AHS – Putting on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

AHS – Taking off Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

As resources and funding are announced for those unable to work and staying home during COVID-19, we are asking the Government of Alberta to do all that it can for individuals with developmental disabilities, their families, and others who may be part of their support network. This includes working with the people and communities who need and depend on such services and funding.

On April 22, we met with the Minister of Community and Social Services and Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, along with representatives of Autism Society Alberta. Both organizations have been publicly advocating to help the Alberta Government better understand what is needed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic for individuals with developmental disabilities and autism, their families and support staff. You can read more about this meeting in our news updates.

There were commitments to address the need for protocols relevant to individuals living with families, in their own homes and small group living arrangements, and when someone with a developmental disability or autism requires hospitalization and support from family or staff. The Chief Medical Officer of Health also stated she was committed to seeing Albertans with disabilities being treated as equally-valued Albertans. The Minister spoke of plans to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to families and continuing to work with Inclusion Alberta and Autism Society Alberta to address ongoing needs and issues relative to COVID-19.

We wrote a brief update on this meeting with the Minister and Chief Medical Officer of Health. Read it in our news updates.

On April 8, we put out a media release that again reiterated the need for the provincial government to be equitable in its efforts to support Albertans with and without disabilities during this crisis, by recognizing the additional challenges faced by individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. While other provincial governments have increased disability funding and resources, the Alberta Government is forgetting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

You can see this media release in our news section.

On April 16, we shared a media release from the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) which called attention to the lack of government resources and responses for individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and those who provide support.

You can see our renewed call for the Alberta Government to act and the CACL’s media release in our news section.

Following the April holiday weekend, Alberta Health Services mandated masks for all staff and support workers. We shared this update in our FMS Updates.

Earlier in the public health emergency, we wrote to the Premier of Alberta and requested additional resources and flexibility be made available as may be deemed necessary by families and advocates. This is particularly important in areas of education, personal care, support staff and existing and requested funding through programs including PDD and FSCD.

You can read our full letter posted in our news section, or read it as a PDF.

We also asked that the Alberta government ease the access to employment insurance (EI) and/or implement other financial measures when employment is lost or at risk, and to ensure rapid AISH reinstatement is in place for any eligible individual who loses their employment during this time.

Our letter to the Minister of Community and Social Services, is also posted to our website, and available as a PDF.

March 31: We put out a media release to reiterate our requests that the Alberta Government ensure individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and those who provide supports and services receive truly substantive and supportive government action now. You can read the full media release in our news section.

March 30: We appreciate that Community and Social Services (CSS) is providing some flexibility in the use of Family Managed Services (FMS) funds but overall we find CSS’s response falls short.

Read more about the update from PDD and FMS, including a letter from deputy ministers of CSS, in our news update.

March 25: We are pleased to see that the Alberta’s department of Community and Social Services (CSS) has responded to our request for increased flexibility in how families can utilize their FSCD funding.

“… there is room for flexibility within existing FSCD agreements to make adjustments to help meet your needs during the COVID-19 crisis. FSCD staff will work with you and be as flexible as possible. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic you can utilize community aide hours within your agreement to support respite. Additionally, as there are no ‘typical school day/hours’ at this time with schools closed, you can utilize your existing FSCD agreement funding for respite and other FSCD services during the day. Please connect with your FSCD worker regarding how to make this happen and to discuss other ways to meet your current needs within your existing agreement.”

If you find FSCD is not being flexible with respect to your needs, please let us know.

Also please note this important commitment from CSS as well:

“If your FSCD agreement has lower expenditures in certain service areas that are only due to the COVID-19 situation, this will not impact decisions regarding your child’s FSCD support needs in future FSCD agreements.”

We are still seeking additional accommodations particularly with respect to adults with developmental disabilities, their families and those who provide them with support, which have yet to be forthcoming.

You can read the letter from CSS Assistant Deputy Ministers in our news section, or as a PDF.

We are also supporting our national organization, the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), with every hope that the combined efforts of disability organizations will lead to the Government of Canada adding additional measures to its COVID-19 actions specific to individuals with disabilities, their families and the organizations that support them.

On April 9, we shared a letter signed by 62 such groups seeking a commitment from governments across the country and their health service that the equality rights of individuals with disabilities will be assured during this pandemic public health crisis.

On March 25, we shared a letter from 34 national disability organizations to the Government of Canada requesting it urgenctly address the unique vulnerabilities of people with disabilities and their families during the COVID-19 crisis.

See what’s being requested and recommended in the full letter posted to our website, or download the PDF.

 

The governments of Alberta and Canada continue to announce assistance for people who are self-isolating or medically unable to work during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Government of Alberta has announced a program to provide temporary financial support to adult Albertans who cannot go to work because they meet the provincial government’s criteria for self-isolation. This program also includes people who are the sole caregiver for a dependent who must self-isolate because they meet the public health criteria, and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while they are self-isolated. The money should be available the week of March 23, to help Albertans make ends meet until federal supports start on April 1. An online application will be made available on alberta.ca.

Albertans can also defer their electricity and natural gas utility payments for residential, farm and small commercial customers for 90 days. Nobody can have their service cut off during this time. You may need to contact your utility provider.

There will be a six-month, interest-free hold on all student loan payments. And ATB Financial and Alberta credit unions are offering deferrals on loans and mortgages to customers affected by COVID-19.

For more information on what will be made available to Albertans, please visit the provincial government’s website: https://www.alberta.ca/covid-19-supports-for-albertans.aspx

The Government of Canada has announced changes to Employment Insurance (EI) and other temporary measures during the virus outbreak. Visit their website for more details, or to apply for assistance: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html

Inclusion Alberta during COVID-19

We are adapting our operations to best serve individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and our staff during this public health emergency.

Beginning Thursday, March 19, our main office in Edmonton is closed to the public. As of Tuesday, March 17, our Calgary office was completely closed due to the local state of emergency in that city. Staff members in both cities continue to work remotely and you can connect with them by phone or email.

We are asking all staff members across Alberta to limit external meetings at this time, and utilize video and phone conferencing and email wherever possible. Staff exhibiting cold and flu-like symptoms, or living with someone experiencing the same, will be working from home only.

Staff working at other locations around the province, including at post-secondary institutions, may not be on-site according to their usual schedules. Please call ahead or check with the staff member you’ve been in contact with to confirm if they are available to meet, and where, and the best way to connect with them. We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause.

Inclusion Alberta office availability may change but we remain committed to those individuals with developmental disabilities and families who need us.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and our desire to protect the health of our donors and staff alike, we are no longer doing home pick-ups of clothing and small household items.

If you are able, we would appreciate if you could hold onto your donations until such time that we are able to resume service. Everyone who has requested a pick up through our donation team, at donations@inclusionalberta.org, will be contacted once home pick-ups are being scheduled again.

Our donation bins do remain open if you would like to drop off your items. You can find locations of the bins by heading to our page for clothing and household donations.

As per Alberta Health Services direction to limit gatherings of large groups, we are cancelling this year’s Family Conference.

If you are a registered Family Conference 2020 participant, we would like you to know that you will receive a full refund. We will be providing refunds through our PayPal account, and we ask that registrants please watch for an email confirmation of the refund to their payment card.

If you paid by cheque or other arrangements, we will be working to issue you a refund as quickly as possible.

If you have made hotel reservations, please contact the hotel directly to cancel your reservation.

We appreciate your patience during this process. We’ve never had to cancel an event of this magnitude before and we will do everything we can to respond as soon as humanly possible.

If you have any questions about refunds, you can contact us by phone, 780-451-3055 or toll-free 1-800-252-7556, or email, mail@inclusionalberta.org.