Daily COVID-19 related Updates

ABILITIES MEMBERS: If you are not receiving email updates from us, please check your spam filters. Emails are likely being routed to junk.

We are committed to providing daily updates on news and information that would be helpful as we all deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find more resources and access to an online forum as well at https://abilitiesmanitoba.org/covid19-forum-and-resources/ Stay safe! #WeAreBetterTogether


Need Pandemic related supplies

Have Pandemic related supplies to offer

Need/Have Staff – Individual or Organization

Orientation for Re-Deployed Staff – Video version or Printable version

UPDATE 4:30pm March 27

We are awaiting the approval of protocols from Public Health and anticipate that we can share them with you on Monday. The three protocols cover no symptoms, symptoms and positive COVID19 result and will help guide people, families, staff and agencies.

Agencies have been contacted around the distribution of masks. Abilities continues to also try and source for agencies as we are aware of concerns that agencies need access to more.

On Monday we will be emailing agencies that only provide day services. We will share a letter with those agencies that you can share with your staff to help ease concerns around being deployed to work residentially.

Supplies: We are setting up a supply hub and have orders in for hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray. The hand sanitizer is still 7-10 days away from delivery and the disinfectant spray is anticipated before that. We continue to source other items and do have a small amount of supplies on hand for agencies. We will first reach out to people who have identified the need through the need supplies link above. Our supply hub will have pick-up hours and we have plans in place to transport around the province.

UPDATE 7PM March 26 

Stay strong folks! Your commitment to people is beyond admirable. Today’s update…

  • We’ve posted a video orientation for people starting to provide residential supports. It is located above at the top of this page and also here.
  • Recognizing that folks in supported independent living (SIL) may need additional supports to understand COVID19, practice social distancing, maintain well being and obtain needed groceries and supplies we are hearing that people are needing additional supports. If this is the case for people you support, please submit requests through the CSW. Thanks to all who are going the extra mile to reach out to people supported in SIL as they may be particularly vulnerable now, Similarly, any requests to increase hours for anyone who is currently in need can be done through the CSW. We understand some agencies have been approached already about this.
  • The Province has sourced masks that will soon be distributed through Regional Offices or for pick up at 114 Garry St. by appointment. They will contact agencies to communicate the process. They also have limited quantities of gloves, toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Please, take only what you require immediately. Supply chains appear to be loosening up and we anticipate this will continue to get easier.
  • We are close to complete on getting protocols out to you. They will explain protocols for people with no symptoms, symptoms and confirmed positive results as well as proper use of personal protective equipment.
  • We continue a number of discussions with CLDS to help mitigate instability and resolve presenting challenges. The President of the Board and myself meet every second day with CLDS with emails and calls in between. These are unprecedented times for all. 

Update 7:30pm March 25

So many moving parts! I had hoped to provide an earlier update. 

First off, I’m in total awe of how everyone is stepping up and doing whatever they can – not only for our sector, but for your own networks and communities. This is surely what will get us through this difficult time.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): We expect the province to soon announce plans for availability and distribution of PPE. Abilities continues to also try to source this for distribution. Please continue to use the links above to let us know your needs. We do have access to a distribution depot in Winnipeg and access to a trucking company to get products and supplies to you. My sense is that every day more becomes available for purchase.

Support Plans: We absolutely recognize how challenged residential agencies are now in responding to COVID19. As you are likely preparing to welcome new staff to provide supports, wherever possible please ask staff to ensure support plans are up to date. This is hard, if we can provide info to new, incoming staff that helps someone on the receiving end of supports, please do this wherever possible.

To our Abilities Members: If you are concerned about immediate financial challenges please email me at margo@abilitiesmanitoba.org or phone me at (204) 890-6751.

UPDATE 12:30pm March 24

We have found another source of personal protective equipment (PPE) at https://www.focusenet.com/

Available supplies include masks, hand sanitizer, goggles, gloves and thermometers.

Please be aware the the use of PPE is not needed unless symptoms appear or in the event of testing positive for COVID-19. We are working to set up a distribution hub for PPE and have a trucking company on board who is willing to transport goods to agencies on their regular runs. I love how people rally together in times of need! It also sounds like CLDS may also have access soon and I will update as info becomes available.

It’s also time to call on the relationships you have to access what is needed. Do Dentists in your community have PPE supplies they can share with you? What about day cares? 

The province has also launched a website to ask for help and to offer help. it can be found at: https://helpnextdoormb.ca/ Help out where you can and ask for help where you need it!

UPDATE 8pm March 23

Employers, particularly day services have a number of questions right now about continued employment through redeployment, lay offs, refusal to work etc. People First HR has stepped in to assist us and have provided this information around lay offs at: HR_On_Call_Abilities_MB[1]. We ask that wherever humanly possible staff redeploy to fill residential shifts. They also have an HR phone in option for questions and offer a non-profit rate of $60 per month. 

UPDATE 5pm March 23

We are working with Sysco Canada currently – they sell groceries and supplies and are working hard to source gloves, masks and hand sanitizer on our behalf. They deliver across Manitoba and are available if you want to contact Cherise at greechan.cherise@wpg.sysco.ca  Please identify ONE person from your organization to be their contact and let Cherise know who that is. This will make things easier and efficient. 

We are also working with distilleries on your behalf to try and source hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray. They are overwhelmed with calls and ask that they work through Abilities to manage requests. You can complete the supply request above and we will keep you posted,

We’ve added a sample contract for day and residential agencies to reference as staff are deployed to new settings. It’s in the staff deployment area.

We are working on creating a video to walk through the orientation we shared last week and anticipate that being available to you this week. In the meantime you can use the written version. A few suggestions for Day services:

  • gather information on staff availability as shifts will be needed to be filled 24 hours per day.
  • if your staff are worried about providing different supports as it is unfamiliar, approach a residential agency and see about having staff go visit to understand what residential services may look like. While they may not work in that particular home, it would provide a good intro and may help quell anxiety and encourage them to assist in filling shifts.

We continue work on safety protocols and are working at this as quickly as we can. We will share the information as soon as we are able.

Take good care!

UPDATE 1pm March 21

We have created an orientation for staff being deployed to different organizations in the hopes that it saves some time and frees your organization up a bit to focus where you need to. Orientation

We have started a petition to obtain Essential Worker status for direct support staff. Please sign and distribute. We’ve also posted it on Facebook and Twitter. Link to petition.

UPDATE 5pm March 20:

I spoke with the Deputy Minister and assured him that our sector is working together to get through this. I asked him to assist in lifting barriers so we can best accomplish the tasks at hand. He along with ADM Catherine Gates and the team at 114 Garry Street applaud agencies for stepping up and rising to this challenge.

  • Critical Services: CLDS is drafting a letter and will share it with agencies, MGEU, CUPE and UFCW to assist with the deployment of staff.
  • Day Services Staff deployed to residential settings will receive the rate of pay they have at their home organizations.
  • Staff in our sector are eligible to access the Childcare hotline for essential workers. That number is 1-888-213-4754 or 204-945-0776.
  • The expectation is that day services will deploy staff where needed and will maintain funding while doing so. I assured him that organizations are stepping up and we’ve launched a matching tool online.
  • Lifting/loosening of First Aid, CPR, and record checks: This is approved and we can expect to see communication with interim parameters.
  • Access to funds for emergency costs: While they are unable to make a full commitment on what will be available, he acknowledged that these are exceptional circumstances. Agencies are encouraged to submit receipts and requests and they will make an effort to fast track these.
  • Protocols for COVID-19: Abilities is working on some documents for agencies and the Deputy Minister will submit these to Pubic Health and fast track their approval for distribution. Today he put in a request for a video tutorial and booklet to be created for our sector. In addition to the items listed on the 10am update, we are looking at best practices in the absence of PPE.
  •  We are hoping to find a nursing resource available in our sector to assist with assessments. More info on that as it develops.
  • Agencies can expect another communication from CLDS by Monday.

UPDATE 2:30pm March 20:

I wish I had more firm information I could share….

At this point we have a number of asks into the province that we are awaiting information on:

  • Loosening of First Aid, CPR and record check requirements – I expect some progress soon!
  • Funding stability for day service agencies while deploying staff to residential situations and details on funding including staff wages as they will vary between lending and receiving organization
  • A letter from CLDS defining the critical nature of supports provided and a request for health care designation temporarily. This could potentially provide access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and access to the child care hotline
  • We are trying to source PPE for our members and have asked the Province if they will pay should we be able to find it (some potential good leads here) We know agencies don’t mind paying however the most critical part is sourcing and distributing them and allowing you to focus where you need to
  • Guidance on the lack of PPE – best practices in the absence of PPE, back up plans if/when a shortage of staff occur.


MLA’s are meeting regarding the declared state of emergency. Now would be a great time to reach out and let them know of the challenges you are facing.

UPDATE 10am, March 20:

The staff deployment area on our website is live and can be accessed at: https://abilitiesmanitoba.org/sds/

We continue to work with the Province on ensuring agencies have what is needed to deploy staff. Unfortunately our essential worker legislation only covers government employees so we are looking at a number of different angles to address this. CLDS is working on a document that will assist and we are exploring the possibility of a temporary health care designation which may also assist in accessing PPE.

With the cancellation of First Aid and CPR we are working with the Province on a temporary work around to limit the impact of this barrier.

We are working on a protocol to share that is being developed by nurse consultants and will be vetted through Public Health and will include:

 1) what to do generally to keep staff and others safe during this outbreak

2) what to do when people show cold/flu symptoms but don’t have a diagnosis

3) what to do when people have COVID in the home.

We are reaching out to distilleries to try and access hand sanitizer and surface disinfectant and may have access to some next week. With the world wide shortage we are challenged by this and understand the critical importance of agencies having access to this.

UPDATE 1:30pm, March 19: 

  • Abilities has requested that the Province declare all employees in our sector as essential workers. This would provide the directive that all staff can be deployed to assist where needed. In conjunction we’ve asked that funding to Day Services remain in place so that they can assist in the deployment of their staff, pay them for shifts completed and provide oversight and coordination needed. There is a meeting this afternoon at the Department of Families in this regard and we will provide updates here as they are available.
  • The Department will send another communication prior to Monday that will include these anticipated items and direction:
    • Where necessary incident reports can be submitted by email.
    • People with completed and clear criminal record checks and child abuse registry checks can complete shifts even where those checks are more than 3 months old. Verification from a previous employer that they have checks on file will suffice in this emergency situation. Where checks cannot be applied for/obtained, CLDS is willing to change stances as this progresses and no other staff are available. Please keep Abilities apprised of your situations as you encounter this. We know some communities are not able to access the application process.
    • Sadly, no update on personal protective equipment. There is a national shortage. Abilities is in the process of reaching out to golf tournament contacts who work for distilleries to see if they may be able to assist in creating and getting hand sanitizer out to agencies. You may have seen a news story from Ontario yesterday: https://globalnews.ca/news/6697997/dixons-distiller-spirits-guelph-sanitizer-coronavirus/
  • Abilities is developing an online mechanism to identify needed shift coverage as well as available staff. We plan to have this go live tomorrow and it is available for all agencies and families in Manitoba. We also expect SMD’s Envoyy app to launch this weekend and see this as a good mechanism as well.
  • We are developing a short orientation that will be available on our website as staff head into other agencies and service types.
  • Agencies can anticipate a media release from the government tomorrow.

UPDATE 1:15pm, March 18: We’ve had two verbal discussions with the Province today and anticipate that they will be pivoting substantially from yesterday’s communication. We have expressed the deep need to communicate with agencies today and regularly thereafter as agencies feel an absence of their presence. On our end we continue to advocate on your behalf and are seeking daily updates on critical issues agencies are faced with. We are in contact with CLDS several times daily currently.

We are working in a few other critical areas as well:

  • reaching out to member agencies to check in with you and let you know we are here for you and available.
  • working on the website to accommodate postings of where staff are needed and where staff are available to help out to assist with the deployment of staff.
  • working on a brief webinar that would serve as an orientation when you bring in staff for coverage who are not your employees.

We also ask Day Programs that have closed or are closing to identify if they have any personal protective equipment or toilet paper that can be distributed to areas where it is needed.

UPDATE 11pm, March 17: We have approached the Province with an appeal to reconsider the decision that day services supporting 50 or fewer people continue to operate. We do this in light of how swiftly COVID-19 is progressing and in recognizing that we work with a number of people who have compromised immune systems and are high risk.

The closure of schools and day cares for a demographic that is considered lower risk highlights the need to take swift action in our sector. Visitation restrictions have been implemented in long term care facilities, a demographic that falls within a similar high risk. When we examine the trends experienced in other provinces in recent days, we feel strongly that we need to act quickly and take precautions wherever possible. 

We fully support agencies as you make difficult decisions about what is in the best interests of your organization. We know some day services have had to make the difficult choice to close. We appreciate that you are exercising caution and consideration in making these tremendously difficult decisions. You know the people you support and you are keeping them in the forefront as you make decisions in these trying times.

We applaud the efforts of residential supports to launch plans to manage through this historical time. We ask day services with available staff resources to be ready and available to deploy to residential and respite supports. We are working on plans to make this as easy as possible to navigate.

We are amazed by the efforts of all services to prepare and respond. We stand with you. We are here to support you and welcome you to reach out.   More than ever we need to come together and support one another through this. I know that we can do this together!  -Margo.

UPDATE 6pm, March 17

After a phone call with CLDS I can offer the following updates:

Potential impacts to Day Program funding: At this time there is no directive from central government to change/reduce funding to agencies.

Deploying staff where needed: We are working with CLDS on some ideas to deploy staff from day services to either residential or respite services. They are looking at a model where CSW’s could approve respite for people who have returned to their family for the time being. We’ve asked them to also look at a model that is community lead and matches staff with people they know where possible. They are most open to this and had a similar discussion. We are looking at ways Abilities can set up a forum or means to connect and match staff where needed province wide.

We’ve also asked them to look at an interim work around for criminal record checks where it will be needed. They will look at this and let us know. Ideally agencies can work together to fill staffing needs and pull together as needed. A contract should be possible where the day agency vouches for the qualifications of staff going in which would avoid the issue of criminal checks.

Agencies should check their liability insurance around the clause of sharing of staff during an emergency situation. SPA’s do allow for this (Section 18) and they are looking into their responsibilities to provide a directive that agencies can proceed.

Incident reports: They are looking at an interim plan for submission of incident reports where access to a fax is an issue. I expect more information on this tomorrow.

Funding for overtime and 2 week self-isolation period: CLDS will discuss and make us aware of plans as they are available.

Testing: discussed concerns about testing for individuals, inability of some to wait long periods for testing and the possibility of drive through testing. Again, they will update us as information becomes available.

Access to child care hotline for health care workers: Announced by the Province today – we’ve asked if staff in our sector can be included in this. This request has been sent up for consideration and we await a response.

Personal Protective Equipment: See 4pm update

We plan to have daily contact with CLDS in the coming days and will post updates as soon as we get them.

Stay safe and be well! Remember to take care of yourself in this challenging time!  – Margo

UPDATE 4pm, March 17:

I had a phone discussion with Assistant Deputy Minister Catherine Gates regarding 2 key issues:

Day Services staying open to 50 or fewer people

  • They consulted with Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Roussin to inform this decision.
  • They are concerned about mass closures and the impacts on residential and other supports.
  • They are asking agencies to support people in smaller, scaled back models where possible and where not possible to make staff available to be deployed to residential or respite services.

As we are seeing across Canada, this situation can change very quickly and thus advice will change. We’d recommend agencies be poised to move to gatherings of 10 or fewer people and stay abreast of the situation in Manitoba and Canada. 

We share your concern that many people have compromised immune systems and thus are at an increased risk.


Access to Personal Protective Equipment

  • They are aware of the significant need for agencies to access needed supplies. Catherine has been advocating for information and solutions. As our Health Care system responds to this crisis, she has not been able to obtain this information yet, but has a plan in place to get further information if that isn’t received by tomorrow morning. She recognizes the critical need agencies face in obtaining needed supplies.

Further updates to follow after my 4:30pm discussion.

UPDATE  12:45pm, March 17:

I continue to work with CLdS on a number of issues and am awaiting more information to share with members. Unfortunately, at this time I have no new information. I have a call scheduled at 4:30pm today and will post updates after.

We are aware that some day services have closed, are planning to close or making arrangements for parts of their programs to be paused.

Areas we are seeking info from CLDS include:

  • The role of government in the closure of day services. (as mentioned above some have made the call to close)
  • Access to personal protective equipment
  • Funding availability for day services that are shut down, overtime and 2 week isolation period
  • Testing options for people with compromised immune systems and the feasibility of drive through testing
  • An interim plan for submission of incident reports where a fax machine cannot be accessed.
  • Redeployment of staff from day services to residential including interim work arounds for record checks or the possibility of agencies contracting directly with day services to provide additional staffing.

We are adding to the resource listing daily and thank those agencies that are submitting their examples of communication and plans as it is helpful for others to see. Thanks! Together we will navigate this!

Stay tuned for updates. -Margo

COVID19 Forum and Resources

Photo of someone washing their hands
Washing your hands and avoiding touching your face is one of the main things you can do to protect yourself.

In an effort to provide help and assistance to all those organizations working to prepare for and deal with the impacts of the COVID19 pandemic, we have put together a listing of resources which we will continue to add to and update. We have also created a forum where you can post questions and information with each other. If you have resources to share with others, please link them in the forum and/or email to them to leanne@abilitiesmanitoba.org #WeAreBetterTogether

For access to the discussion forum:  https://abilitiesmanitoba.org/forum/covid-19/

For access to the resource listing: 


For daily updates on sector impacts from COVID-19, check our home page regularly. 

We are looking for YOU!

Image description: Woman looking directly into the camera through binocolars

If you are curious about people, passionate about quality services and have always put people at ease, we are looking for you!

As part of the upcoming Personal Outcome Measures pilot project we are hiring two people!  The successful candidates will be trained as Certified Interviewers/Trainers in the use of Personal Outcome Measures and will spend a year interviewing people with intellectual disabilities along with those that love and support them. We think this is a pretty cool opportunity! Find out more in the Quality Specialist Posting. Closes November 19th, 2019. 

Pilot Project launches with release of Expression of Interest

Each journey starts with a single step! We hope you will join us on this new journey!

Image description: Toddler standing at the bottom of a large staircase, looking down.

We are so pleased to release the Expression of Interest to all service providers funded by CLdS within Manitoba for participation in an upcoming pilot project. This pilot will evaluate the use of Personal Outcome Measures as an effective outcome measurement tool within Manitoba. Communication will be sent out over the next couple of days directly to each organization to ensure that all service providers are given the opportunity to participate! 

It is exciting to be moving forward to this next Phase of the Quality Framework project work. More information about the Phase one of the Quality Framework can be found in the Final Report .


Quick Quality Framework Update

After a whirlwind tour of Manitoba, all the Quality Framework presentations are now complete! A huge thank you to those that came out to a session. The conversations were hugely valuable in informing next steps and shape the way forward. Watch for a summary of the feedback we heard as we visited different communities soon! 

The pilot project will now start in November, with hiring and selection of organizations beginning in September. The project will include working with 5-6 organizations to utilize Personal Outcome Measures over the course of a year. Watch for an expression of interest coming out in late summer! 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Leanne at 204-791-9319 or qa@abilitiesmanitoba.org


The Quality Framework Project is going back on the road!

Quality Framework for Community Living DisABILITY Services

Community Consultation Plan

In October 2017, the Department of Families and Abilities Manitoba entered into a partnership to improve how we understand and measure quality of life and the services provided by Community Living DisABILITY Service (CLDS) funded agencies. To help with the development of a quality framework, we asked the following questions:

    1. What does a good life look like? What outcomes are present when people with disabilities (or any of us) are living a good life?
    2. How do we know when people are living a good life? How do we measure or discover this in a consistent way?
    3. What do we need to do to support people to live a good life?  What standards need to be met to ensure this is the case?
    4. What tools will help service providers improve their services or help people in the best way possible? How do we continue to build capacity and encourage growth for all service providers?

In the winter of 2018, we visited communities throughout the Province to gather perspectives on these questions. At that time, we promised to return to these communities to share what we learned and how we hope to move forward together.  We are doing this in June!

Want to learn more?

  • Attend a presentation near where you live. We will be visiting seven different areas of the Province to share our results with people receiving services, their families and service providers. Locations and dates of sessions are here: Schedule of Quality Framework Presentations . Registration is free at abilitiesmanitoba.org/events . Just click on the date and presentation that’s right for you!
  • Read the final report. A report on what we learned and how we hope to move forward is available by following the following link: Quality Framework Final Report
  • Review and comment on the Leading Practice Guidelines. You can read the draft Leading Practice Guidelines and provide input at the following link: Leading Practice Guidelines

Need help to register? Require ASL translation or other accommodations? Call Leanne at 204-791-9319 or Email: qa@abilitiesmanitoba.org

Note: Registrations will be taken until the maximum number of participants for each presentation has been reached. If your plans change and you are no longer able to make the meeting, please let us know so that others wishing to attend can be notified.

Leading Practice Guidelines released for review and feedback

Thank you for interest in the Leading Practice Guidelines. The guidelines reflect the current understanding on best practice in service delivery. They were developed through a partnership with Abilities Manitoba and the Department of Families. Continue reading “Leading Practice Guidelines released for review and feedback”

The Possibility Post: What We Heard

It has been one full year since work on the Quality Assurance Framework has begun and we are excited to share an update on the information we gathered from stakeholders across the Province.

We began the project by going out to talk to people with disabilities, their families and service providers through a variety of methods.  Focus groups and surveys were done in order to tell people across the province about the quality assurance project and to get their feedback.

We visited seven different areas of the Province (Selkirk, Steinbach, Winnipeg, Dauphin, Brandon, Thompson, and Winkler)

We asked two main questions:

  1. What is a good life?
  2. What do people need from their paid services to support that good life?

We held focus groups with each group separately to make sure that people felt able to freely share their thoughts and ideas.  We limited the number of people who attended each group in order to make sure that the size stayed easy to facilitate and small enough to have good conversations.

For those that did not wish to or were not able to attend, we offered the opportunity to send in answers to the two questions in writing or online.

All information received from focus groups and surveys was reviewed by Health in Common who developed a detailed report of the findings. We then took that report and summarized it into a plain language version that you can find here: What We Heard Summary

We offered those that attended focus groups an opportunity to sign up to receive a copy of what we learned. This report is being emailed or mailed out to those that requested this shortly.

What we heard will shape the development of the framework, outcomes, and standards. We appreciated the time, energy and candor that was shared with us. This work will be better informed because you took the time to share your thoughts!

Keep watching here for new Possibility Post updates to keep up with what is happening and when you can have input once again!

The Possibility Post: Where the rubber hits the road to quality!

People jumping behind the words "It's not what we have, but who we have" By Winnie the PoohThis week is Direct Support Professional (DSP) Week and in pausing to honour the important and impactful work of DSPs in our Province, we reflect on their considerable contribution to the quality of life of the people they serve every day.

John F. Kennedy Jr., wrote, “Quality is defined at the point of interaction between the staff member and the individual with a disability.” Indeed, Direct Support Professionals define quality in every personal interaction they have each day. People with developmental disabilities work to fully contribute as valued members of their communities. The availability of qualified, competent, and stable Direct Support Professionals plays an important role in supporting people to accomplish these goals. To be successful, it is critical that DSPs have the competence, confidence, and ethical decision-making skills with the guidance necessary to provide quality support.

Continue reading “The Possibility Post: Where the rubber hits the road to quality!”

The Possibility Post: To Listen…

Over the past couple of months, we have embarked on a Province wide road trip to talk to people with disabilities, their families and the people who provide services to them. It has been a rich and profound experience to have people share their hopes, ideas and stories with us as we have gone to the different regions of the Province.
Continue reading “The Possibility Post: To Listen…”