Alberta’s Social Policy: Ensure Your Voice is Heard by Aug. 31, 2012

June 25, 2012

 

June 22, 2012

Dear AACL Friends and Associates,

RE: Alberta’s Social Policy: Ensure Your Voice is Heard by Aug. 31, 2012

The Alberta government is in the midst of developing a Social Policy Framework  that will guide its future social policy agenda. This Social policy Framework will address such issues as child poverty and poverty in general, housing, employment, disability-related supports and services and other social issues facing Albertans today.

As this framework will impact policies and programs that support children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families, it is vitally important that families and individuals with developmental disabilities and their friends and allies participate in every aspect of the consultation process now underway.

You can begin by checking out all the information posted at http://socialpolicy.alberta.ca/

It is a simple process to register and create an account under the User Login banner.

You can participate and add your voice by completing the online survey, contributing to the blog and online discussion and adding to the information contained in the WIKI (a WIKI is a simple online tool that offers a definition or description, in this case of the social policy framework, to which others can contribute).

The Social Policy website contains a host of information from a working paper and discussion guide to resources including how to hold your own consultation process. If you are a non-profit organization or associated with one, the organization can apply for a grant of $750 to bring people together to share and contribute their views on the Social Policy Framework that Alberta should be adopting.

The Social Policy Framework is intended to address the interests of all Albertans but it is important to remember how often when policies refer to “ALL” and however well intentioned, this is rarely inclusive of individuals with disabilities and their families; or for that matter even all individuals with disabilities. For example, parents of children with disabilities do not have the same rights to choose the educational placement of their children as is true for all other parents or for their children without disabilities. In fact, only some individuals with disabilities in Alberta are entitled to supports on the basis of their disability but certainly not all are entitled. Adults with developmental disabilities do not have the same opportunitie  to continue their education in comparison to all adults without disabilities. Teenagers with disabilities to not have comparable opportunities to work after school or on weekends in relation to all teens without disabilities and in spite of the fact that paid after school work is one of the most powerful avenues to employment after high school.

Similarly, whenever reference is made to an “inclusive Alberta” this has rarely meant the full inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities in the mainstream of community and societal life (e.g., in accessing a post-secondary education, gaining employment, receiving a quality education in a regular classroom).

Access to disability-related needed supports is not universal or readily accessible. Families may be eligible for supports for their children with disabilities only to find out when they turn age 18, irrespective of need or disability, their children may not be eligible for supports or funding.

AACL is recommending you consider the following when responding to the Social Policy Framework consultation:

1) Universal Disability Supports should be an overarching consideration – currently access to disability-related supports (e.g., personal supports, support staff, equipment, etc.) is fragmented and limited. Comprehensive supports to enable a life comparable to Albertans without disabilities is neither universally or seamlessly available across age or type of disability. Now that Alberta has created a department of Human Services, with responsibility for many disability-related supports for children and adults, it is time to move to an approach whereby every Albertan with disabilities, their families and communities is entitled to the supports and funding that enables a meaningful and inclusive life across the lifespan. This would also require Alberta to ensure those working in the disability field are properly qualified. AACL will be joining Alberta’s disability community in advocating for universal access to disability-related supports.

2) Ensure wherever the social policy framework references a social issue that the response is inclusive of accommodating and benefiting Albertans with developmental and other disabilities.

For example:

Housing – Albertans with developmental disabilities and limited incomes need access to the kind of financial programs (e.g., interest free loans, down payment supports, etc.) available in other parts of the world that allow people with disabilities to purchase accessible and affordable housing. It is not enough to only provide low cost social housing that sometimes creates ghetto-like housing for marginalized individuals.

Eliminating Poverty – this requires individuals with developmental disabilities to have access to vastly improved opportunities for meaningful employment at decent wages through partnerships with the business community and to being included in post-secondary education. Parents of children with disabilities require ready access to supports, such as childcare and in-home supports, to enable those parents who wish to seek employment or return to work.

Safer Communities – it is an established fact that inclusion reduces the risk of harm to individuals with developmental disabilities. This requires true belonging within formal and informal aspects of community life (e.g., children with disabilities participating in regular recreation activities with supports and adaptations as needed; adults with developmental disabilities becoming participating members of community organizations; facilitating and enabling friendships between individuals with and without disabilities).

Stronger Families – reducing the bureaucratic hurdles families and individuals sometimes face in securing needed supports, from equipment to support staff; ensuring parents with disabilities have access to supports so that families can remain intact and children can grow up at home.

This approach to participating in the Social Policy Framework will help to ensure the needs of Albertans with disabilities and their families will be integral to the framework. These are examples only and not meant to be exhaustive or inclusive of every idea.

We welcome your feedback and learning about your experiences in contributing to the Social Policy Framework.

Sincerely,

ALBERTA ASSOCIATION FOR COMMUNITY LIVING

Bruce Uditsky, CEO