Alberta’s Social Policy Framework

October 12, 2012

Alberta’s Social Policy Framework is now in its next phase of development and ensuring the voice of families and individuals with developmental disabilities is heard and honoured is becoming critical.

In conclusion to the first stage of consultations, Alberta Human Services has produced a number of documents summing up the results. The summed results are contradictory with respect to the interests of individuals with disabilities. In terms of the importance Albertans attached to particular issues, “support for families of children with disabilities” ranked among the top 5 and ‘Albertans with disabilities will feel valued’ close to the top 10.

However, “meaningful employment for people with disabilities” was close to last and this is with an unemployment rate of close to 70% or more for individuals with developmental disabilities. In effect, it is akin to stating families should have support but they and their children should have no hope for a promising future. In this context valuing Albertans with disabilities is closer to the concepts of pity and charity than attaching the value of equal worth and consideration accorded to Albertans without disabilities.

In wanting to engage Albertans in the next phase of the consultative process, the government has produced a ‘Working Paper’ entitled “Let’s Turn Ideas into Action.” This Working Paper, which begins to shape Alberta’s future strategic directions, forms the basis for the next phase of public input that ends November 9. It is this paper’s limited and failed address of the pressing and longstanding desires of people with disabilities to be considered as valued Albertans that requires your immediate attention.

The Working Paper’s eight principles are laudable and reference: “promoting dignity”, “valuing diversity and inclusion”, “encouraging a focus on citizen’s needs” and “shifting efforts to preventative approaches” all of which can be readily applied to the aspirations, hopes and dreams of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. However, these principles are not translated into much needed provincial strategic directions.

The Working Paper lists 14 Strategic Directions with only one specific to individuals with disabilities: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Strategy (FASD). While there is a huge need for Alberta to better respond to individuals with FASD and their families, many of whom are not currently eligible for supports as adults which further exacerbates their vulnerabilities, there are many other adults with disabilities and their families who are similarly not eligible for the assistance.

The greatest oversight in the Working Paper is the failure to ensure that all Albertans, irrespective of the nature of their disabilities or their age, are entitled to the supports they require to live meaningful and inclusive lives, which includes every opportunity for employment for those who are able to work. A strategic direction of this scope would reflect an Alberta where individuals with disabilities were truly valued and would enable the noble principles upon which the Social Policy Framework rests to be actually realized.

In addition to ensuring Alberta adopts additional strategic directions that would make a real and valued difference in the lives of individuals with developmental and other disabilities, we need to ensure the existing strategic directions are truly inclusive of children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. For example, ending poverty and homelessness should include decent incomes and employment for individuals with disabilities and homes for adults with disabilities to live in not facilities. Early childhood development initiatives should ensure children with disabilities have ready access to quality inclusive early childhood programs and in-home specialized supports.

We are asking everyone who has an interest in the well-being of children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families to become engaged in this current phase of the Social Policy Framework consultation. Please exercise your voice in articulating the hopes and desires of individuals with disabilities and their families. The risk exists that Alberta will substantially invest the identified strategic directions and once again Albertans with disabilities will be left behind.

For more information in how you can participate, please go to Alberta Social Policy Framework:
www.socialpolicy.alberta.ca/