We reached out to all MLA’s running in the leadership races for the Liberal and NDP parties. Responses will be posted as received.
Dr. Jon Gerrard:
Section one: Better Outcomes
a/ Training: Are you aware that the minimum requirement for Direct Support staff is grade 10, First Aid and CPR?
The thought of someone who hasn’t even graduated high school being responsible for the care of a child with complex needs is unsettling. There needs to be a higher standard for education and training for someone who will be supporting individuals with complex needs. This is discussed in later questions in the context of the need to ensure care givers have some understanding of recent developments in neuroscience.
b/ Turnstile staff: Did you know that over the course of an adults’ lifetime, a person with disability could have over 700 Direct Support staff? Are you committed to significantly reducing this number by improving training standards and wages?
It is important to have a level of consistency in the support of individuals with complex needs, and in particular those with intellectual disabilities. In part this must come from improving training and wages. It may also come as a result of increased use of self-managed care plans. For example, I am aware of an individual in self-managed care who has had two very long term care-givers who have been with her each for more than 25 years. This level of consistency of certain caregivers has made an important difference in the quality of life she has achieved. Having over 700 Direct Support staff working with a person with complex needs over the course of that individual’s life time is of great concern, indeed it is unacceptable. It has the potential to open up the door to neglect and abuse. To prevent the high turnover there should be a provincial standard for training with a consistent curriculum across the province. Wages should be based on levels of training and experience. Self-managed care should be viewed as an important option.
c/ Wages: Many provinces pay wages significantly higher than paid in Manitoba. Our non-profit agencies are funded between $12.06 – $13.75 per hour for Direct Support wages. Do you support a higher wage for staff?
There needs to be incentive for staff to view this as a career rather than just a job. Higher wages that are above the poverty line are crucial to retain quality and dedicated staff. Yes, I support higher wages for staff.
d/ Vulnerable Persons Act (1996): The PCs brought in the Vulnerable Persons Act in 1996 and there has yet to be a full review of the Act since then. Do you support a review of the Act?
A lot has changed since 1996, and as with all legislation, revision is necessary to ensure it is up to date with what is current best practice. Within the legislation things such as the role of Substitute Decision Makers need to be revisited, as well as the role of the Public Guardian and Trustee.
Section two: Your vision
a/ Community versus Institution: What is your view of community-based services versus institutional services?
I strongly support de-institutionalization and community living. In this day and age we no longer need institutions as we have had them in the past. I see individuals with intellectual disabilities as living in the community and being a part of his community the same as any other person. However community based living needs to be better supported and there needs to be more options for individuals and families for what this looks like. In other words services should be more person centred.
b/ Improving services: Please tell our community if and how you would commit to improving services if you are successful as leader of your party and perhaps Premier of Manitoba?
There needs to be improved funding to ensure better wages and training for staff to make working with individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities a valued career. There needs to be a commitment to support Barrier Free Manitoba to ensure the Accessibility for Manitobans Act is fully implemented across the province. A review of current provincial government practices to ensure better access to services to families and people who require them is also needed. Better employment opportunities and fare wages for people with disabilities is also needed as are steps to help make this a provincial priority. These are steps that I commit to working toward if I am elected leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party.
c/ Vison: What vision do you have for persons with intellectual disabilities in Manitoba?
On July 1, I laid out my vision for accessibility for those with disabilities in Manitoba – https://jongerrardsreport.blogspot.ca/2017/07/being-able-to-participate-matters-lets.html In my opinion, people with intellectual disabilities should be viewed as equal and valued Manitobans with the same opportunities and access as everyone in the province.
In order to better understand the evolving science of neuroplasticity and its relation to learning and to the development of the brain I have read a number of books. Two of these have particular relevance to children with cerebral palsy and children with learning disabilities – Karen Pape’s book “The Boy Who Could Run but not Walk” and Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s book “The Woman who changed her brain.” Both of these show the remarkable potential of the human brain. Both books provide insight into why it is so important for those who care for children with intellectual disabilities to be well trained and to have continuing education as our knowledge of neuroscience improves. Both books also show why it is important to have, in Manitoba, a major focus on neuroscience research so that children and adults in our province can benefit as quickly as possible from advances in knowledge. My vision for persons with intellectual disabilities is to promote, support and to put in place the needed education, training and research in Manitoba to provide these advances to children and adults in our province.