Negotiating with PDD
Preparing to Negotiate with Regional PDD Staff
Based on decades of experience in supporting thousands of families, Inclusion Alberta finds that families who have access to a Family Managed Supports Resource Centre are in a far better position to plan for an inclusive life, determine needed supports and negotiate an FMS agreement with PDD than families who are on their own. On average twice as many families decide that FMS the best option for funding support when they can access the FMS Resource Centre.
Currently Inclusion Alberta is only funded to operate a resource centre in the Calgary and Grande Prairie regions. If you are interested in helping to advocate for additional community FMS resource centres, please contact Inclusion Alberta.
Arranging for FMS is a negotiation between the family and regional PDD staff. The family brings deep knowledge of the person’s vision and a plan to support a rich life in community. The family wants enough hours of support to implement the part of their plan that requires FMS paid staff. Regional staff bring their knowledge of the way FMS works in the region. Regional staff want to assure that the family understands and agrees to FMS requirements and that there are good reasons for the number of hours of support the family wants FMS to pay for.
FMS is administered through PDD Regional Offices (find yours here). Each region administers the same FMS policy, but there are differences in policy interpretation and differences in practice from one region to another.
The family’s meeting with regional PDD staff will be structured by the Regional Office’s interpretation of FMS requirements, which are a signed FMS Agreement and an approved Individual Support Plan (ISP). (A region might also require an Individual Service Agreement (ISA)). Regional staff will explain these documents, how the PDD process works, the region’s understanding of FMS and its requirements and operations. They often assist the family to fill out the ISP form.
The family can expect PDD staff to be respectful, effective in explaining the region’s interpretation of FMS, and capable in assisting them to complete PDD required tasks. At their best, regional staff will make the most of the flexibility built into FMS to make room in the ISP for the contribution the family wants from FMS funded staff. The family can also expect regional staff to test the reasons for the number of FMS hours the family requests and ask whether fewer hours could accomplish as much. The family should expect and prepare for these testing questions and not take offence or worry.
FMS is only one source of the support a person needs in order to benefit from immersion in their chosen community pathways. Negotiation with PDD focuses on the question of how many hours FMS funded staff provide to the person with developmental disabilities and what they will do to support an inclusive life.
Meetings with PDD are seldom unpleasant but they are not the place to make plans. The process works best when families have decided what they want from FMS and how they want to administer FMS funds before meeting with regional PDD staff to sign the FMS Administrator agreement and fill in the ISP.
Four steps prepare the family for negotiating with Regional PDD staff:
- Renew the vision and plan. Focus again on the community pathways that offer the person meaning and what it takes for the person to be immersed in the best those pathways can offer. This grounds the family positions in the negotiation and strengthens the family voice.
- Review the FMS Administrator Responsibilities and contact Regional PDD staff to answer any family questions about how the Regional Office interprets these requirements and the family’s options for meeting them.
- Read Common Misunderstandings to alert yourself to some unhelpful and erroneous interpretations of FMS that other families have sometimes encountered.
- Determine the family’s answers to the questions that will come up when meeting with PDD staff, including these:
- How many hours of support are necessary? The ISP process decides this. Regional staff can usually provide examples of well formed ISPs that families can use to think about the way their plan for FMS funded staff fits into their Region’s version of the ISP columns in the table below. This is the issue most likely to call for negotiation. PDD staff often answer this question by considering two aspects of a person’s situation. One, what goals and related activities will FMS funded workers support; how frequent are goal related activities and how long does supporting these activities typically take? Two, what types and degrees of impairment does the person experience? Families may encounter PDD staff who believe there is a direct relationship between necessary hours of support and perceived level of impairment. This can unfairly disadvantage less apparently impaired people. When this is a possibility, families need to have carefully considered their reasons and how to state them. PDD staff may raise questions about using other sources of support instead of FMS funds. It can help confidence and clarity to ask a family ally to listen to the reasons the family has settled on the number of staff member hours they want FMS funds to cover. Unresolved disagreement on the allocation of hours often leads PDD staff to refer the disagreement to regional supervisors and families to appeal. (Click here to view an introduction to the Appeal Process. Seek advice on the best approach to resolving the difference.)
- Will the FMS administrator ask for a higher hourly rate? Some families make a case for a higher hourly wage than the region customarily pays. This is usually because providing necessary support requires particular knowledge and skills that are unavailable at the going rate. This can be a complicated negotiation.
- Who will be the FMS Administrator? This person accepts responsibility to manage FMS funds and assure compliance with PDD policies. They cannot be paid for their work. Find a summary of responsibilities in the FMS Administrator Agreement HERE LINK.
- What type of support will the person receive through FMS? FMS funds can purchase support for home life, employment and community participation. Some families fund all of a person’s PDD funded supports through FMS. Others use a PDD funded agency for employment support or support for inclusive post-secondary education and use FMS to support life at home and community participation.
- Will the FMS Administrator employ staff directly? This is the most common arrangement by far. There are two other possibilities. The family can enter a contract with an approved service provider and pay the agency to provide support (very few service providers are interested in such agreements, so they are rare). The family can seek an exception and contract with self-employed staff (this arrangement has risks; families thinking about this option should seek advice from someone qualified in tax and labor law).
- Will the FMS administrator use a payroll service? Some families are comfortable managing payroll deductions but most Inclusion Alberta families use a payroll service. The service can be paid for by FMS. It takes responsibility for tax, CCP and EI deductions, and provides accurate records. PDD staff can identify payroll services familiar with FMS or the family can choose another payroll service that they prefer.