On October 5, 2016 the Winnipeg Free Press published an editorial, “Pallister should focus on Families”. The article highlighted a number of areas requiring the attention of the newly elected Progressive Conservative government. While the areas addressed were certainly valid and do require attention, we were disappointed to note that Community Living disAbility Services was not addressed or even mentioned in the article. In response to this, Abilities Manitoba submitted the following letter to the editor which was published on October 11:
Your editorial entitled Pallister should focus on families published October 5 laid out a number of areas within the Ministry of Families that require attention. The editorial missed a significant portion of the portfolio – services to individuals with intellectual disabilities. This area also requires substantial attention by the Ministry of Families.
Approximately 6125 Manitoban adults with intellectual disabilities are affected by policy and funding decisions made by the Ministry of Families. Most are supported by non-profit community agencies. The provincial funding these 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.
Additionally, 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 mandated training. Agencies experience turnover rates between 33-50% annually, requiring a huge 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 in their life. This issue has been pervasive for decades now, with vast consequences. Surely, as a province we can do better.
Finally, people are having 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.
These are services that are critical to Manitoba families. The Ministry of Families does indeed have a large task; one that needs to include people with intellectual disabilities. This is an investment that is urgently needed.