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


Your New Normal Workbook – with corrected link  – New!

ImagineAbility Food Service – 

Need/Have Staff to be Deployed

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

UPDATE 1:45pm May 14

Today Abilities participated in a meeting with the Minister of Finance to make recommendations on eligibility criteria for a potential financial initiative related to COVID 19.

There were 14 others representing other sectors, the vast majority outside of social services.

We strongly advocated on behalf of DSP’s for financial recognition of their hard work and commitment. With such vast representation at the meeting, we are hopeful that DSP’s will receive the recognition they deserve, should an initiative be announced. We look forward to hearing more.

UPDATE 10:45am May 14

We continue to launch the DSP wage and essential worker status campaign.

  • Following the Winnipeg Free Press ad last week, a number of rural papers have published the same letter to the Premier
  • Yesterday we launched the video and have sent it to the Premier, Minister of Finance, Minister of Families, Deputy Minister, Assistant Deputy Minister and some CLDS colleagues.
  • All MLA’s province wide have been sent a copy of the newspaper ad with a request to support the campaign
  • You will start to see billboards popping up in 11 communities around Manitoba on the long weekend. We will share the locations of all billboards as we finalize the details
  • In Winnipeg, you will see 50 transit buses featuring the campaign
  • We are finalizing plans with Global TV for an ad to run for 2 weeks towards the end of the month.

We will be participating in a call with the Minister of Finance from 11-1 today to discuss a Manitoba Risk Recognition Program. Details to follow.

UPDATE 6pm May 7

Make a point of picking up the Free Press tomorrow as we publicly launch our campaign for a wage premium for DSP’s. Members of Abilities have been emailed the campaign elements and timing of each aspect. 

UPDATE 4:30pm May 6

Abilities Manitoba is working in partnership with a number of groups to launch a wage campaign for DSP’s to include newspaper ads, TV and billboards. We are working with Disability Matters Vote, Barrier Free Manitoba, Family Advocacy Network, Inclusion Winnipeg and awaiting news from 3 other potential partners. 

As an initial step, we submitted a letter to the Premier and the Minister on May 4 calling on them to raise wages for DSP’s during COVID 19. Their hard work and complex skill set deserves recognition! 

We recognize that your costs as an agency have increased in the past few months and you may be feeling uncertain, financially. If you are able to, we would welcome donations to support the costs of this campaign which will be province wide starting with an open letter to the Premier in the Winnipeg Free Press and other community newspapers.

We hope you are doing well – Abilities continues to meet virtually and often – both the staff team and the Board of Directors.

Be well and stay safe!

UPDATE 6pm April 29

My apologies for the delay in posting – we’ve hit a bit of lull in terms of new information – and also recognize that agencies are anxiously awaiting new information on a number of topics.

Despite that Abilities truly has been hard at work — all employees on deck and four board meetings in April — kudos to all!

We had a meeting with CLDS today and covered a number of issues:

The Shared Health Directive around working in a single work place is NOT applicable in our sector. This applies only to personal care homes. It is still possible for someone to be employed in a personal care home and also in our sector; they cannot however work in 2 personal care homes.

We’ve heard from many day services who have tremendous concerns about the proposed funding model and encourage you to reach out to CLDS. We have shared the feedback we’ve received to date and will continue to represent your interests. Recognizing that most agencies can anticipate a significant cut, the Province has welcomed those agencies to contact them to work this through and have asked agencies to complete the template. Today CLDS shared they want to be flexible and want to see all day services remain viable. Please connect with CLDS to ensure stability in funding.

Shared Health has published a directive on extended use of masks, which will be utilized in our sector. CLDS is preparing a communication and the directive can be found at: https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/extended-use-of-face-masks.pdf

Current action items from CLDS include:

  • more interactive online platforms for communicating and meeting with agencies.
  • will follow up on eligibility for 2 week isolation pay
  • Communications about:
    • single work place directive for PCH’s
    • interim criminal record checks
    • potential of loosening visitor restrictions
  • Consider requests to fund deployed day services staff as full time if they were employed full time pre-COVID.
  • Consider keeping benefit funding in place so employees who have been laid off can retain benefits and reduce barriers when they return to work.
  • Ensuring in person First Aid training that may be starting has protocols in place to ensure safety.

UPDATE 5pm April 21

The Board of Abilities met with Deputy Minister John Leggat and Assistant Deputy Minister Catherine Gates this afternoon. We used the letter we sent to our Executive Director members yesterday as the guide for discussion. The letter outlined three broad areas of concern with points under each.

Stability in funding

Maintaining a stable and agile work force

Communications from the Province

Regarding stability in funding:

Day Services: we shared great concern over funding cuts to day services and we reported the vast impacts day services will be seeing. They told us that they’d like day services to reach out as their intent is not to destabilize. We discussed fixed costs and loss of income and John Leggat reported they want to work with agencies to figure out fixed costs.

Residential Services: discussion focused on increased cost and coverage of costs to residential providers. Agencies are asked to approach the department with increased costs to seek approval for funding.

Coverage of incurred PPE expenses: A few agencies have been informed that any PPE they purchased will not be funded. We’ve asked for agencies to be funded for purchases ordered up until April 13 when the Department first communicated about arrival and distribution of PPE. They have asked us for a financial forecast of these costs. 

Request to agencies: Please send in your PPE expenditures to include:

  • a list of PPE items and related costs
  • the date the items were ordered
  • number of staff by service area (shift staffed homes, home share, day program etc)

This will assist us in gathering information for the Department to review.

We did not have time to speak to the other items related to stability in the workforce and communications from the Province, unfortunately. ADM Catherine Gates committed to following up on these items. 

I also wanted to report that orders for CLDS supplies can be done through residential care licensing. For rural and northern the contact is Lorna and in Winnipeg the contact is Cecilia. For day services deploying staff to home share or family situations, PPE can be ordered through this avenue. If staff are deployed to residential settings, the residential agency will provide PPE.

The teleconference to discuss the package sent to day services around redeployment will be held on Friday at 10am. We await further information on registration and an opportunity to provide questions in advance.

The Board is drafting a follow up letter to highlight the areas of concern around a wage premium and communications from the Department.

UPDATE 7:15pm April 14

PPE for deployed day services staff: CLDS has confirmed that day services staff who are deployed to residential services can expect to access personal protective equipment (PPE) at the organization they are deployed to.

UPDATE 5:30pm April 14

This morning’s CBC article about cutting non essential services created a lot of concern. I spoke with Assistant Deputy Minister Catherine Gates about this and she reported that she doesn’t see anything shifting away from what has already been communicated to agencies. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-funding-service-providers-1.5531194

PPE is starting to flow and Branden and Leslie will be making runs around Manitoba. Yolly is busy prepping packages to head North and you can expect hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, masks and other essentials as per your orders. We’ve heard that the shipment of gowns and masks has arrived in Canada and is at customs currently. We will communicate plans for distribution as this becomes available.

Dr. Brent Roussin and Deputy Minister John Leggat hosted a session this afternoon on PPE and answered some questions people submitted. Other questions will be followed up on and we look forward to seeing this information.

Day services have been awaiting the arrival of documents to plan for staff deployment to residential services. The due date of April 17 is being pushed back as I understand, as the documents have not yet been circulated.

Abilities is preparing a letter to submit to the Minister and will send a template letter for agencies to adapt for their purposes. Once ready, we will share our letter to the Minister with you.

UPDATE 4:30pm April 9

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brent Roussin will be holding a conference call to review protocols on Tuesday, April 14 at 3pm. Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3679328051998798603

Folks in Winnipeg: Changes to Transit routes:

Spring Service Change Coming April 12 – Operation begins on the Southwest Transitway

A reminder to passengers that Winnipeg Transit routes in southwest Winnipeg are changing April 12, when service on the BLUE rapid transit line begins, utilizing the Southwest Transitway.

All Winnipeg Transit passengers are advised to use the Navigo trip planner to explore routes and schedules that will be in effect as of April 12.

UPDATE 10:30am April 9

CBC News Article:


COVID Impacts: Survey
Last week Manitoba Federation of Non-profit Organizations sent a letter to our Premier on behalf of organizations to advocate for non-profit needs surrounding COVID 19. This week they are collecting information on what the non-profit sector needs most to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Please take a few minutes to answer the survey. The data collected will be reported to the provincial government and be publicly available.
Submissions are confidential and the survey will be open until April 15.


UPDATE 6pm April 7

Safety Protocols:

As you are aware, we’ve been working to develop and gain approval on some safety protocols for DSPs on how to stay safe as they support people in their homes during this pandemic.

As you can appreciate, information and protocols are changing as the situation has escalated here in the Province. This weekend, Shared Health Manitoba sent out new direction on the precautions and use of Personal Protective Equipment in health care settings. We have confirmed that these guidelines do apply to CLdS funded services. You can find this communication here: https://sharedhealthmb.ca/files/covid-19-provincial-ppe-guidelines.pdf

As a result we have updated our guidelines to supplement this direction. Our document provides some guidance on how to implement this direction specifically within someone’s home. We hope that you find it useful. You can find this document here:


We share your concerns about the sector’s ability to implement the direction provided by Shared Health Manitoba and continue to advocate strongly for adequate supplies of PPE from the Province. In the meantime, Abilities Manitoba has utilized a grant from The Winnipeg Foundation to assist in purchasing, delivery or shipping supplies to organizations across the Province. We will continue to share and coordinate opportunities for bulk supply ordering and vendor sources.

Redeployment of Staff:

As many day program/employment agencies prepare to deploy their staff into residential settings during the COVID-19 outbreak, we thought it might be helpful to hear about the experiences and process undertaken by ImagineAbility. You can find that story and resource here: https://abilitiesmanitoba.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Redeployment-process-one-organizations-story.pdf

Audra Penner, CEO of ImagineAbility is willing to answer any questions that you might have on what worked, what they learned and what they might do differently. You can reach Audra at apenner@imagineability.ca . There have been many positive stories emerging from the chaos of the pandemic and the opportunity for day program and residential staff to work alongside and gain insight into one another’s work has been one of them. Stay tuned as we share some of those positive stories in future updates.

DSP Appreciation videos and pictures: 

We are launching a campaign to be sure that Direct Support Professionals across the Province hear daily how much they are appreciated. The #EssentialToUs campaign will gather videos and pictures of appreciation from families, people supported, organizations and others and post them on our social media, website and other platforms to be sure that our heroes on the front line hear regularly that they are appreciated, honoured and celebrated. They need to know that we see them and that we are fighting for what they need. Please send any pictures or videos to leanne@abilitiesmanitoba.org . Note: If you are taking a video on your phone, turn it sideways (so that your phone is horizontal)… it looks better. 🙂

Making Homemade Masks:

Yesterday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer provided new guidance on the use of homemade, fabric masks. You can read further on this here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/non-medical-masks-covid-19-spread-1.5523321

Some organizations have asked about making masks and whether that would be useful. We are unclear on whether Manitoba will come out with a position on this. It is possible that using fabric masks for the people we support who display symptoms may be a more comfortable option than the disposable ones. Also if people we support insist on going out into the community, wearing a fabric mask may be something they would agree to do to be safer.

If you are considering making masks, you might consider the pattern and instructions offered up by the Unity Point Health Centre in Cedar Rapids called the Olson mask. More information could be found here: https://youtu.be/ZnVk12sFRkY  and https://bit.ly/UPHMask . Coffee filters could be used to insert into the pocket in the mask or vacuum HEPA filters. Some people have extended the pattern and/or the ear loops around the back of the head to tie behind the head instead of looping over the ears for more comfort and so that the mask fits various sizes of people.



UPDATE 7pm April 3 

I hope everyone has a chance to spend some time in the sun (and snow!) this weekend – take in some fresh air and find some balance, it’s so important!

We (President Audra Penner and Executive Director Margo Powell) continue to meet with CLDS (Catherine Gates, Sandi Dorbolo, Andrea Thibault-McNeil & Craig Wynands who attend as needed depending on topics) every second day and while our agenda does vary there are some standard items that we continue to address and provide updates on:

Protocols: We continue to await approval of Protocols specific to COVID19 and our sector. We are disappointed that we haven’t received them back from Public Health to share with you. We do understand that all are working tirelessly but also understand the great need for this information.

Personal Protective Equipment: updates on CLDS’ expected supplies and distribution plans and Abilities concurrent work to source PPE.

Wage Premiums/Hero Pay: We’ve asked them to implement this to recognize the amazing DSP’s who are stepping up when needed and have proposed a few ideas.

Staff Deployment Plans: the contents of plans agencies are expected to submit by April 17 recognizing that it will only provide a snap shot and a lengthy document/process is not ideal.

Staff Deployment: Joint updates on the incredible ways agencies are working together for the good of people and highlighting of issues, concerns and issues arising from deployment.

Transportation: Recognizing day services are utilizing transportation in new ways, and anticipating potential future changes, a request to reconsider cutting transportation dollars to day services who continue to use transportation.

Essential Worker Status: for a work force that is already underpaid and truly is essential.

Video Meeting between agencies and CLDS: ADM Catherine Gates suggested this and we think it’s a great idea! They can share some updates and have a Q & A session. CLDS is aiming to have the first session the week of April 20. At that point they expect to have further concrete info available on a number of topics.

First Aid/CPR and Checks: we appreciate that CLDS has lifted some of the barriers around checks and First Aid/CPR, and want to plan for the next step, as staffing is already an issue in rural Manitoba. 

We also always have issues arising on both sides and a number of standing topics including critical day services, block funding details and much more. We will continue to update you as information becomes available. 

Abilities is making a supply run to our rural agencies next week! Once the hand sanitizer arrives, we are planning to keep filling the online requests for supplies and get things out to our rural folk! We will be filling orders and delivering to Gimli, and a tour of south western Manitoba to multiple communities. For Flin Flon and Swan River we will get your deliveries to you via Canada Post. Thanks to our road trippin’ heroes Branden and Leslie who get to spread supply joy to our valuable rural agencies! Shout out to Paul Moore at ImagineAbility for prepping orders and to Yolly Tang for managing orders and pick ups. Need Supplies?

Be well all and from whatever perspective you read this from – self advocate, agency, staff, direct support professional, family, civil servant — THANK YOU!

UPDATE 6pm April 2

We’ve found a source for Masks  and Protective suits and plan to do a collective order. The deadline for submission of orders is Monday, April 6 at Noon.

Masks: $40 per box of 50 plus tax. Approximate delivery date of April 15.

Gowns: Approximately $15/gown however final pricing depends on how large the order is. Working hard on a 10 day time span for delivery.

Send orders to admin@abilitiesmanitoba.org
by Noon April 6. Abilities will place bulk order and ensure distribution 


UPDATE 7pm  April 1

Days slip by way too fast for all right now! I hope you are well!

  • Inclusion Winnipeg is working with Carey Lai of Leila Pharmacy to offer a webinar Friday at 10am on COVID-19. It will also be recorded and available after. Register at info@inclusionwinnipeg.org.  
  • We are currently in discussions with CLDS about items including: PPE access, staff deployment, essential worker status, wage premiums/hero pay, hiring work-arounds (checks & first aid/CPR), block funding for day services, worst case scenarios, transportation dollars, video conferencing Q & A sessions with agencies and much more. We will continue to post updates!
  • We’ve been asked by the province to document what is happening, how we are responding and what is needed. We aim to provide this info within one week along with recommendations.

Thanks to all of you Every Day Heroes! You are amazing! Please reach out as you need to – we are here to support you!

UPDATE 5pm March 31

We are learning that some day services are choosing not to deploy staff to work residentially. We ask that you reconsider this for the following reasons:

  • We advocated substantially to see funding continue uninterrupted to give day services the time to plan for redeployment. Plans to change day funding were substantially earlier. We assured CLDS that agencies would work together to get staff arrangements in place but agencies needed time to make it happen. Help us prove that community can solve problems when given the latitude to do so. 
  • Funding arrangements for day agencies that deploy staff are significantly better for those who are deploying staff.
  • We ask that you consider what you would need were you in the situation that residential agencies find themselves.  This is not about individual agencies – this is about working collectively as a sector for the well being of ALL people funded by CLDS. We must band together.

Please, please reconsider.

Protocols: We did receive the protocols back from Public Health yesterday however have concerns about some information that was removed or changed. We understand you need these as quickly as possible and will distribute them to you as soon as we can.

Minister of Families Heather Stefanson phoned us yesterday to express her gratitude to all the agencies for their hard work and commitment. She asked me to pass along her gratitude.

UPDATE 5pm March 30

The province has announced the closure of all non-critical services in a news release today. Services in our sector have been deemed critical as per item 53 in Schedule A: BG-PHA – COVID-19-PR

We continue to work on getting approval to distribute protocols and are very close!! We are challenged, like you by a number of things including accessing the personal protective equipment required for each protocol in addition to the PPE required on a regular basis irregardless of COVID-19.

Our hearts are warm with the many ways agencies are ensuring the folks they support can access loved ones. Sometimes in new and different ways, but connecting none the less. We are concerned about people who, like all of us are trying to make sense of what is happening and acknowledge how critical our connections to loved ones are. Hats off to agencies trying new and different ways to connect people when in person visits are not always an option.

Agencies experiencing a loss of 30% or more in revenue should be eligible to receive a federal grant to recover losses. More info at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-covid19-business-supports-1.5514558

We continue to reach out and welcome you to connect with us as well. We are all faced with new challenges and unprecedented times. Thanks for your commitment — we will emerge on the other side.

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 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: 



Your New Normal Workbook 

ImagineAbility Food Service – 

Need/Have Staff to be Deployed

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

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 .


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…”

The Possibility Post – Connection, Curiousity, Clarity

roadtripMuch has occurred over the past month and we are excited to begin our ‘road trip’ around the province to connect with people with disabilities, their families and service providers.

To recap… what exactly are we doing?

Through a partnership with the the Department of Families (Community Living disAbility Services, Abilities) and the broader community of people who receive services, their families and their service providers we intend to discover and develop four things:

  1. What does a good life look like? (What outcomes are present when the 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 help people to live a good life.  What standards need to be met to ensure this is the case?
  4. Tools that 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.

Continue reading “The Possibility Post – Connection, Curiousity, Clarity”

The Possibility Post – What’s in a name?

The other day, someone asked me… “So why do you call the blog, The Possibility Post?” In this blog, I plan to explore concepts related to quality services and supports … about how everyone can live a good life shaped by their own interests, dreams and goals in the community.

The inspiration for the name of the blog came from two of the great minds that have written widely in the field of disability for decades. Several years ago I stumbled upon this essay written by John O’Brien and Beth Mount and it has stuck with me ever since.. John and Beth remind us that an essential part of our work is to constantly ask “What else is possible?” … to stretch and grow, to gently nudge, encourage and walk with those that we support towards that positive and possiblecropped future.

Over my career, John O’Brien has continued to shape my thinking about working for people with intellectual disabilities. His commentary on the Five Valued Experiences along with his guidance to service providers on the Five Accomplishment acts as a guiding North Star for all of us to reach for. To learn more: click here

As we think about establishing a quality framework Continue reading “The Possibility Post – What’s in a name?”

The Possibility Post – Start Where You Are!

b2ap3_large_December-28-M_20170511-000504_1Dieter F. Uchtdorf said “The perfect place to begin, is right where you are!” .. and indeed how can we do anything but? The important thing is that we start!

This month marks yet another new beginning for Abilities Manitoba as we’ve signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Province to embark on the creation of a quality assurance framework for services provided to people who are funded through the Community Living disAbility Services. Abilities and our government partners have been talking about a means to measure and increase quality within the disability service sector for decades and we are very excited to begin.

The Possibility Post will be a regular forum and feature on this site as we do this work. Check back here regularly for updates, resources, musings and motivation related to best practice and a quality framework in providing meaningful, person centred services to citizens in Manitoba.

To start I thought I would share my first brief presentation to the Abilities Manitoba membership on November 15th in case you missed it!

I am tremendously excited to undertake this hugely important task and gain great confidence by the fact that while I have a lead role, I will be regularly (and I do mean regularly) rely on the collective wisdom and talent that lies in this room and as well as elsewhere in the province.

As Margo identified, we have entered into an agreement with the Province to develop a quality assurance framework, performance standards, and measurement tools for services being delivered to CLdS funded service providers. In addition, we will begin to gather or create and make available capacity building resources to help service providers meet these standards and continue to develop their services. Finally we will make recommendations on implementation options for the quality framework including articulating the risks and benefits of any particular option.

We will work with Health in Common who has already begun some of this work to first hear from people who receive our services, along with their families and service providers across the province. We want to and need to hear about what is currently being done by service providers to understand and evaluate the quality of their services, what would help, what worries people about this work and what people hope for. We will also review and learn from what other areas in Canada and the World have done in this area.

The focus of this work will be on quality. Quality as defined by the person receiving it. It will be not only focus on doing things right but on seeking first to understand what the right thing is. My bias will be that this is most often learned by having good meaningful conversations with people who receive support and their families to understand if the support being provided is even what they wish. Where traditional conversations may not be possible, the discovery process must be more creative and purposeful in order to gain this insight.

We will do this work in partnership with the Province in the form of an advisory committee and working group that will include representatives from member agencies both urban and rural. While not everyone can contribute through the working group, there will be multiple opportunities for people to be engaged with this work and contribute or provide feedback should they choose.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not end by thanking first the Abilities Board for the opportunity to contribute to this project and secondly to my employer, St.Amant and more specifically John, for his support and flexibility to make this opportunity a possibility for me personally as well as the commitment it shows to the work of Abilities Manitoba and to people with disabilities in the Province.

If you have questions, concerns, a burning desire to contribute earlier rather than later, I encourage you to get in touch! Until next time….
Leanne Fenez
QA Lead
Abilities Manitoba