June 20, 2017

We met with the Premier today to present him with artwork on Human Rights. Along with our partners at Barrier Free Manitoba, Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities and Canadian Mental Health Association we had a most productive and successful meeting. This meeting came as a result of the collective art installation compiled last December 3 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Several hundred people came together to celebrate International Day of Person’s with Disabilities and self-advocates spoke powerfully about their experiences in relation to the Charter of Human Rights.

Premeir Pallister spoke about people with disabilities and that they’d been largely ignored by the goverment for many years. He thanks all who work in community for their advocacy work and spoke of the critical need for advocacy. We are proud of our members and the work and advocacy they take on daily to contribute to a stronger province. A very successful day!

Pallister Facebook

Press Release April 5, 2017





Call to government to address the critical needs of vulnerable people in the upcoming budget.


Winnipeg, Manitoba (April 5, 2017) – Services to Manitobans with intellectual disabilities are at a critical impasse. Funding has not been adjusted for cost of living increases in six years; there’s a lack of standardized training and constant staff turnover. Manitobans with intellectual disabilities are calling on the government to demonstrate that they are important in this next budget.


“It takes time for my daughter to build a relationship and to trust. It’s this trusting relationship that allows her to feel safe. When she’s not feeling safe and supported her anxiety grows and when her anxiety grows her behaviour changes.  When she feels safe and protected she blossoms,” said Gloria Woloshyn, a concerned mom.


Families are waiting beyond ten years for residential services and only receive services in crisis situations. Staff that are doing complex work are getting paid the same as a server at a coffee shop and vulnerable people are seeing constant turnover in their support staff, leaving them at risk.


“There have been times where my daughter has built a good relationship only to have it gone.  It hurts to watch this over again and again. In many cases the relationship ends, not because the worker wants to leave, but because the worker cannot afford to stay.  My daughter is caught in the middle of this unhealthy circle and it’s really sad to watch,” said Gloria.
Over six-thousand adults with intellectual disabilities in Manitoba are affected by budget decisions made by the provincial government. Most are supported by non-profit, community agencies that fall under the Abilities Manitoba umbrella. These community agencies offer varied services including residential, employment, day, and respite supports.


“Family members are telling us they’re worried about funding. They’re afraid of cuts to front line services and that a system already fraught with problems will be further jeopardized.” said Margo Powell, Executive Director of Abilities Manitoba. This concern is compounded by the fact that funding has been flat-lined since 2011 which has resulted in many non-profit agencies being stretched further and further to deliver high quality supports.


Last April, at the Chamber of Commerce Leader’s debate, Premier Pallister was quoted as saying, “The best governments are always the ones that put the interests of vulnerable people first. I will do that as Premier.” We call on the provincial government to fulfill Premier Pallister’s words and show that Manitoba truly cares about people with intellectual disabilities and front line services critical to thousands of Manitoba families.



For more information please contact:


Jennifer Rodrigue

Our First (of Three) Priority Goals!

Better Front Line Outcomes

for Manitobans with intellectual disabilities and the workers who support them.


Quality is defined at the point of interaction between the staff member

and the person with a disability.”

John F. Kennedy Jr.


Adults with an intellectual disability are being supported by front line workers who are underpaid and lack standardized, consistent training. Further, Manitoba’s Community Living disAbility Services system lacks an effective measurement approach to ensure quality outcomes.



Community living is young in its history. The services offered were advocated for by parents and pieced together without a long-term plan. Community Living disAbility Services is reactive and crisis driven. Agencies have had to develop and deliver training for support workers in-house; requiring intensive resources. Chronically low staff wages and lack of standardized and consistent training have long been recognized as requiring attention. Most other sectors have consistent, comprehensive, standardized training available to front line workers. Coupled with these factors, there is no mechanism to measure quality outcomes within services, despite a significant investment from the province. The recommendations in this briefing note will ensure a proactive service that demonstrates value for the individuals receiving services.



Front line workers are required to work independently, solve quality of life issues and provide complex medical supports and intimate personal care. Staff are paid poorly and their training varies based on the agency. Non-standardized training and inadequate wages in a high responsibility position results in high turnover. Vulnerable adults can have up to 800 different care providers in their lifetime. Turnover means inconsistent care and very high administrative costs for human resources and training.


Additionally, the system needs a quality assurance framework to ensure value for money. The framework needs to be value-based and person-centered with measurable goals and tools for improvements.


The Vulnerable Persons Act, Accessibility for Manitobans Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities all support the need for appropriate training and supports for people with intellectual disabilities.


The success of the Building on Abilities initiative, which aims to ensure people get the supports they need to lead meaningful lives in welcoming communities utilizing a person-centred approach will ultimately depend on the quality of direct support received. Success will be significantly hampered unless the pervasive training and wage concerns are addressed.


Recommended Action and Financial Impact:

Work collaboratively with community stakeholders to:

  1. Professionalize the Community Living disAbility sector by implementing standardized training linked to compensation and a quality assurance system. Provide financial support to Abilities Manitoba to investigate and develop consistent training for direct support workers and a quality assurance framework. Significant progress can be made in both areas within one year at a cost of $293,440.00.
  2. Raise funding for wages to a level that respects the complexity and responsibility of the role of direct support workers. Increase overall funding for staff wages to agencies by 10% within your current term. This will address compression and excluded workers created by the wage enhancement fund and allow agencies who haven’t received a cost of living increase since 2011 to address wages. Ultimately it will provide greater stability and sustainability to a vulnerable population.


Ethical Considerations

Community Living disAbility Services is the only human service sector that lacks consistent, standardized training, does not pay at a level that encourages staff to make a career of their job and does not have a mechanism to measure quality outcomes. These all represent barriers to full participation for adults with intellectual disabilities.


The lack of action in these critical areas makes it appear that government funders and society places less value on the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

We Won’t Be Left Behind

Photos for the launch of Disability Matters: Vote 2016. Photos taken at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Thursday, December 3, 2016. FOR DISABILITY MATTERS: VOTE 2016
Photos for the launch of Disability Matters: Vote 2016. Photos taken at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Thursday, December 3, 2015. FOR DISABILITY MATTERS: VOTE 2016

Photos for the launch of Disability Matters: Vote 2016. Photos taken at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Thursday, December 3, 2016. FOR DISABILITY MATTERS: VOTE 2016

Photos for the launch of Disability Matters: Vote 2016. Photos taken at the Manitoba Legislative Building on Thursday, December 3, 2016. FOR DISABILITY MATTERS: VOTE 2016


December 3, 2015. For as long as I live, I won’t forget that day.

Sixteen hundred people from across Manitoba crammed into the Manitoba Legislative Building to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the launch of Disability Matters Vote 2016. One event. One reason. Rights.

Joining thousands of  celebrations occurring worldwide, we stood in solidarity of inclusion. We stood together to speak about the right to vote and to participate in all aspects of political and public life. We stood together in frustration. We stood together in hope.

The energy in the legislative building was incredible. Conversations buzzed, hundreds of webcasters joined, buttons and stickers circulated, signs bounced through the air, the sitting Cabinet was not amused, the media couldn’t get in: the building was at capacity and people flowed onto the steps outside. The elevators were beyond backed up trying to accommodate people using wheelchairs who waited patiently to access the event. There was a palpable excitement in the air. People crowded into corners, nooks and crannies and stood over railings, trying to hear and see the program above the audible excitement.

The message was clear – We have rights too. We won’t be left behind. Never before have we come together so strongly, so unified, so ready for change.  Never has there been a stronger sense of collective empowerment.

Those in attendance and many more went on to be the change makers of Disability Matters: Vote 2016. The campaign created a ripple across the province  connecting our provincial election to disability rights like never before. The focus was on basic human rights – employment, accessibility, access to services, dignified income and fair wages. Change happened. People with disabilities learned about their right to vote and exercised it. Many elected officials learned valuable, new information. We moved the needle forward on public awareness. We built new and stronger relationships. We collaborated. Most importantly, we saw what was possible when we came together. One unified voice: We all have the same rights.

We won’t be left behind.

Media Release International Day of Persons with Disabilities December 3, 2016



(MANITOBA December 3, 2016) On the heels of the Disability Matters: Vote 2016 campaign, Manitobans affected by disability are coming together again to celebrate the human rights won by  persons with disabilities and also to call for these rights to be truly respected.

Since the International Day was established by the United Nations in 1992, December 3rd has been a global day of reflection and rededication for over 1 billion persons with disabilities living in countries around the world.

Last year attendance at the event surprised organizers, surpassing the capacity at the Legislative Building with people crammed into every nook and cranny. This year they are ready with a bigger space and self-advocates bringing the message forward.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate people with disabilities and the rights we have won, but there’s no denying that we still have a long way to go,” said Malinda Roberts, co-spokesperson for the event. With disability discrimination having ranked as the No. 1 reason for human rights complaints in Manitoba in 2015, and for every year stretching all the way back to 2001 (click here to see the report), the event aims to highlight the issues facing people with disabilities so that our community can work together to achieve change.

“This International Day of recognition is an opportunity to bring these issues forward toward a better understanding of the challenges our community still faces. From accessing the right supports, to full inclusion in our community, to fair and equal employment, we have a long way to go,” said Allen Mankewich, event co-spokesperson.

The event takes place December 3, from 1 pm – 3 pm in the Bonnie & John Buhler Hall at the Canadian Human Rights Museum. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. Attendees will be invited to contribute to a collective art mural, listen to stories from self-advocates and be entertained by the Scott Tones, a folk cover band.


For More Information:
Jennifer Rodrigue


Abilities Manitoba Position Statement on Community Inclusion

Abilities Manitoba is a network of agencies that offer a variety of services (advocacy, day, employment, residential, and respite) to individuals with intellectual disabilities. We work together to advocate for funding and services on behalf of the people we support and their families.


Abilities Manitoba supports individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate fully in their communities and to live as equal citizens. Based on principles of Abilities Manitoba, we believe all people can live and take part in their community with person-centred supports. Our member agencies are actively involved in supporting people in the most enabling community options. As an organization, we strongly support them in their work.


We are strong supporters of the Vulnerable Persons Act and are working to promote and protect the rights of individuals with intellectual disabilities to make independent or, as needed, supported decisions. Our members provide a wide range of community based services and as an organization we are working to strengthen the system.

Your Province Your Plan: Abilities Manitoba’s Budget Submission

The province has invited citizens to contribute to budget discussions through online and written submissions. Abilities Manitoba has made submissions by both mechanisms. The following is our written submission to Minister of Finance Cameron Friesen:

November 7, 2016


Office of the Minister of Finance

450 Broadway

Legislative Building

Winnipeg, MB

R3C 0V8


Dear Honourable Minister Friesen:


Subject:                       Your Province, Your Plan: Budget Submission


Please accept this submission to the pre-budget consultations on behalf of Abilities Manitoba, a network of seventy-seven agencies that exists to foster excellence in services for people with intellectual disabilities. We are writing to stress the importance of the Abilities community to the fabric of Manitoba, and to suggest that funding to community agencies be a priority for the Province.




In the past, the Progressive Conservative government has demonstrated great innovation and was a trailblazer in bringing in the Vulnerable Person’s legislation in 1996; a monumental step forward from previous legislation. The PC’s also implemented an individualized funding model called In the Company of Friends. This program put Manitoba on the map as an innovator. Under Progressive Conservative leadership, we look forward to continuing innovations that reflect a province that values people, diversity and inclusion.




Approximately 6125 Manitoban adults with intellectual disabilities are affected by budget decisions made by the Province of Manitoba. Most are supported by non-profit, community agencies. These organizations offer varied services including employment, day, residential, supported independent living, crisis and respite supports.




There have been significant injections of funds into the Department of Families for new entrants and critical situations. Despite these injections, funding is not keeping pace with the current and upcoming needs within Community Living disAbility Services. This is a challenge that will have to be overcome.


The increased funds have also failed to address the existing and pervasive issues within Community Living disAbility Services. The solutions implemented have for the most part represented band-aid fixes. As a result, many non-profit agencies are being stretched further and further to deliver high quality supports without the full financial support to accomplish this.




These issues impact thousands of adults with intellectual disabilities and require immediate attention.


  1. Lack of cost of living increases: The provincial funding agencies receive has failed to keep pace with cost of living increases, despite significant increases to utilities, groceries and general cost of living. Agencies have not seen any increase to their core funding since 2011 when they received only a 1% increase. This funding shortage directly impacts the quality of life, health and well-being of a vulnerable segment of our population.


  1. Poorly funded wages and lack of standardized training for direct support workers: Staffing is funded at a rate much lower than most other caring professions in our province. People who provide direct support to adults with intellectual disabilities have chronically low wages and lack standardized training – despite complex skill requirements. Agencies experience turnover rates between 33-50% annually, requiring a vast human resource investment. Even more tragic is that over the course of their lifetime, a person with an intellectual disability will experience an average of 800 support staff coming in and out of their lives. This issue has been pervasive for decades now, with vast consequences.


A wage enhancement fund was implemented a few years ago to raise starting wages for some direct support workers. This has resulted in even greater recruitment and retention issues for those not included in the fund. The effects of compression and low staff morale of long term employees is creating great difficulty for those included in the fund. Agencies continue to face the consequences of recruitment and retention issues. A long term, sustainable solution to address low wages and lack of standardized training is needed.


  1. Access to services: People have to wait years to access services and only gain access when there is a crisis experienced within their family. Some people and their families are waiting as long as 15 years to access needed services. Further, there is no current list of people waiting for services, or the length of time they have been waiting. Families are being stretched to the breaking point in the current system without any mechanism to measure the number of people waiting to access services or the length of their wait.


  1. Quality Assurance: We currently have no mechanism to measure the quality of supports people receive and how content people are with the services they receive. With the significant investment made by the Province and the thousands of people impacted by services, a mechanism of quality assurance is needed.

Agencies provide services that are critical in the lives of thousands of Manitobans and their families. We desire a future filled with innovation, where people with intellectual disabilities are leading full and inclusive lives. We need our government to continue to demonstrate through the Manitoba budget that this is a priority within our province. These are front line services that are critical to Manitoba families and this is an investment that is urgently needed.


Last April, at the Chamber of Commerce Leader’s debate, Premier Pallister was quoted as saying, “The best governments are always the one’s that put the interests of vulnerable people first. I will do that as Premier.” We call on you to fulfill Premier Pallister’s words and show that Manitoba truly cares about people with intellectual disabilities and front line services critical to thousands of Manitoba families.





Margo Powell

Executive Director

Abilities Manitoba