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
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.
PC INNOVATIONS: VULNERABLE PERSON’S ACT (1996) and INDIVIDUALIZED FUNDING
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.
ISSUES & SOLUTIONS
These issues impact thousands of adults with intellectual disabilities and require immediate attention.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.