AACL’s Position on Alberta’s Budget as it Impacts Individuals with Developmental Disabilities and their Families
AACL Position on Alberta’s Budget as it Impacts Individuals with Developmental Disabilities and their Families
The following promises from Premier Prentice and the Alberta government are about to be put to the test given falling oil prices and the need for government to reduce its spending.
“As long as I am Premier I will continue to defend the rights of Alberta’s most vulnerable and most disadvantaged citizens.”
September 19, 2104 Premier Jim Prentice
“Your government is also working to ensure children, low-income Albertans, and others who are vulnerable, are protected.”
Speech from the Throne. November 17, 2014, Third Session of the Twenty-Eighth Legislature, Delivered by His HonourCol. (Ret’d) The Honourable Donald S. Ethell, OC OMM AOE MSC CD LLD Lieutenant Governor of Alberta
Over the next few weeks the Alberta government will be making difficult decisions as to how to reduce the budget given the very significant shortfall in oil revenues. Everyone who cares about the well-being of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families should make every effort to attend one of the MLA or opposition party meetings where the budget will be discussed to ensure, as the Premier has promised, that he and his government will protect vulnerable and disadvantaged Albertans. Information on these public presentations can be found at http://www.alberta.ca/budget-speaking-tour.cfm
In addition and more importantly, those who care should make every effort to meet personally with their MLA to ensure decisions impact individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to the minimum degree possible, if at all. Even a 0% increase or a small increase in funding translates into a cut in services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, with longer waiting lists and more limited options for those needing support for the first time or needing additional support.
In past financial challenges we have seen too many school districts unfairly and inequitably sacrifice the education of students with special needs. We would like to remind families that the law is clear in stating school districts are responsible for ensuring children with disabilities have the supports needed to access an appropriate education. If there are reductions or limits in educational funding, school districts cannot discriminate against children with disabilities in how those reductions are applied. Reductions in funding to be considered first are those that have the least impact on students and teachers and beyond that must be shared equitably. The worth of a child with developmental disabilities is of no less value than any other child and neither is there education.
In considering any possible reductions, AACL believes government should adhere to its own principles in that supports and services should be outcomes based, in other words supports and services should directly contribute to enabling children and adults with developmental disabilities to have a meaningful life. In this regard funding reductions must start with those operations or activities that have the least impact in enabling a meaningful and inclusive life and are the furthest removed from providing direct support to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.
We are therefore proposing, based on the above principles, that the following operations or activities, as examples, be eliminated or cut before any reductions are made in direct supports. We appreciate not everyone will agree with the specific items listed below, but almost everyone will agree with this basic principle.
1) Supports Intensity Scale (SIS): the government has expended an inordinate amount of funds, administered by government staff who are paid more than those who provide direct supports and for which more government staff had to be hired, to assess almost 10,000 individuals with little to no return on this continuing investment in time and money. In spite of SIS’s claims and government’s belief in those claims, there simply is no substantive evidence that SIS results in an improvement in individual lives and certainly not in the lives of the vast majority of the thousands of individuals assessed. Right now we have the bizarre situation of government saying there is enough funding and government staff to assess an individual only to tell them and their families there is insufficient funding for supports. Before reducing any supports to individuals and their families, government should halt the use of SIS and reduce its staff accordingly.
2) Safety Standards (Licensing regulations): No one disputes the need for people to be safe in their own homes but in an overreaction to serious but isolated and very limited breaches in adequate safety and care, government is threatening the sanctity of the homes of individuals with developmental disabilities by turning them into facilities; in effect institutionalizing community living. Research shows that a safe life comes from having an inclusive life, a real home and a well-educated workforce. An investment in these would do far more to secure individuals and their well-being than invading the privacy of people’s homes. A safe home is more likely to be achieved by respecting the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities than abrogating them in the name of safety. Before reducing any supports to individuals and their families, government should treat individuals with developmental disabilities with respect and dignity rather than expend funds to enter their homes with overzealous regulatory requirements and inspectors.
3) Government staff: Before reducing any supports to individuals and their families, government should substantially reduce or eliminate any of its staffing positions that do not directly contribute to individuals with developmental disabilities having access to needed supports or a good life in community.