Alberta's "False" Promise: Government implements drastic cuts to adults with
developmental disabilities

CALGARY, Dec. 16 /CNW/ - A month after Premier Stelmach publicly stated his government will "look after the vulnerable" (November 6, 2009); Alberta Seniors and Community Supports is implementing, without any public announcement or consultation with families, drastic and immediate cuts in funding, services and supports to adults with developmental disabilities. The government is sending a lasting arctic chill into the lives of some of Alberta's most vulnerable individuals and their families.

With $17 billion in cash reserves and billions more in the Heritage fund, why strike fear into the hearts of families; why put adults with developmental disabilities at risk, when a tiny portion of these reserves would ensure the safety and security of individuals with developmental disabilities? Earlier this year Alberta Seniors and Community Supports returned $10 million of funds, designated for the Persons with Developmental Disabilities program, to Treasury to help reduce the government's deficit. Now it wants to take another $10 million by reducing desperately needed supports and services. If the Department had held onto that $10 million or reallocated other funds it had at is disposal, these last minute drastic cuts would not be needed and lives would not be risked.

The Department was aware of the fiscal challenges it faced early in the year yet it waited until the last quarter to demand a rush of cuts, thereby quadrupling the impact and negating any decent planning that might minimize harm. To add insult to injury this Department reallocated its limited resources to assess the needs of 9200 individuals, rather than meet those very same needs. A caring and thoughtful government would have reallocated its limited resources to ensure continuing supports in a time of economic constraints.

Wendy McDonald, AACL President and the parent of a child with developmental disabilities, stated, "Families who have sons and daughters with developmental disabilities did not realize, when Premier Stelmach claimed to abide by the principles of "transparency", "decency, the importance of family and community" (November 6, 2009), he was excluding us. Nor did families realize that the government's new emphasis on communication did not apply to us as deliberate decisions were made to keep families in the dark on these cuts and other changes that limit access to needed supports."

On behalf of the almost 10,000 individuals with developmental disabilities and their families whose lives are being jeopardized, we call upon the Premier to simply keep his word. We should be celebrating the holidays and enjoying family rather than living in fear of the New Year.

    
                       Stop the Cuts: Remove the Fear



    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         Alberta's "False" Promise:
       Government implements drastic cuts to adults with developmental
                                 disabilities

                                 BACKGROUND

    1) Within the last two weeks most Alberta Seniors and Community Supports
    Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) regional boards, of which
    there are six, have quietly communicated that they will be requiring 4th
    quarter cuts to be made in order to balance their budgets at year-end.
    These cuts were "announced" literally at the same time Minister Jablonski
    was touring the Province to promote her priorities for PDD. Neither the
    Ministry nor the Minister announced the cuts. The Minister has
    acknowledged the cuts but done no more than that.

    No departmental announcement on the cuts is planned and no departmental
    communication strategy for advising families and individuals with
    developmental disabilities is planned. Regions are choosing how to inform
    agencies of the cuts and not all are involving families or involving
    families to the degree they should be. No region has a plan to
    communicate with all affected individuals or families. Government is
    relying on agencies to communicate that cuts are going to be made.

    2) The cuts vary from region to region, with some possibly being absorbed
    with little impact and others having substantive impact. Some cuts will
    come from PDD operations itself and where possible, from some under
    utilization of some services, however the most of the cuts will have to
    come from the services provided to individuals with developmental
    disabilities. As the Department has made no announcement on the cuts we
    can only estimate the total to be cut from the cuts being made by each
    region. We estimate these cuts to total approximately $10 million but we
    cannot be absolutely certain of the actual figure.

    3) As the cuts are being imposed in the fourth quarter, there is little
    opportunity to plan well and in a way that would best minimize the
    anticipated negative impacts. In addition as the 'claw back' of funds is
    occurring in the fourth quarter, a 2% annual cut can result in close to
    an 8% cut in the final quarter, resulting in far more significant impacts
    then would be true if the cuts had been managed earlier in the year,
    which would have allowed for sufficient time to plan and make
    adjustments. The largest impact to-date might be in Northeast Alberta
    where they announced the cuts earlier in the year although this was not
    considered an official announcement and no action was taken at that time.
    NE PDD advised service providers in their region that the cut would be
    just over 4% for the year, while some other regions have now announced
    between 2 -2.5%.

    4) While the Ministry will claim these reductions are necessary either
    because of the global recession and/or excessive spending on PDD's part,
    neither comment is accurate. These cuts would have been unnecessary if
    the Department had better managed its resources and made more prudent
    decisions.

    PDD knew it had a budgetary shortfall at the beginning of the fiscal year
    as it was not provided with sufficient funds to address annualized costs
    or sufficient funds to address either new individuals applying for PDD
    supports or others whose progressive conditions would require additional
    support. Other cost pressures included the increase in minimum wage that
    affected primarily PDD funded staff who provide overnight supervision, as
    well, as the pressure of government wage increases.

    Literally almost all of the increase awarded to PDD for this fiscal year
    was allocated to salaries for community (non-government staff), with the
    continuing intent of narrowing the gap between government and community
    salaries and reducing high staff turnover rates.

    In effect knowing this shortfall early in the year, PDD could have made
    adjustments at that time thereby lessening any negative impacts to the
    degree possible as cuts could possibly be absorbed somewhat or at least
    there would be time for planning so as to minimize risk. PDD could have
    made other decisions such as reducing government staff or transferring
    existing government services to community, which would have eliminated
    potential deficits for years to come.

    The Department could have reallocated the funds allotted for wage
    adjustments. Instead, PDD chose, of the $24 million it received for wage
    increases, to allocate one-time only funds of $14 million and return the
    unused $10 million to Treasury. If PDD had kept the $10 million it could
    have used these funds to offset the projected deficit and no cuts would
    be needed. Now PDD wants to add another $10 million to the PDD designated
    funds it returned to Treasury, in effect removing $20 million from
    services individuals with developmental disabilities require.

    As staff turnover rates had dramatically reduced because of the overall
    economic downturn, PDD could have considered allocating the $14 million
    it had on supports and services rather than providing one time only
    dollars only to community employees. As government staff received an
    annual and ongoing increase for doing the same work as community staff,
    the gap between government and community employees has now grown larger.

    Put another way, given the cuts, some community staff may have gotten a
    small one time only increase only to be told now, they no longer have a
    job or a job with the same hours. And in turn individuals with
    developmental disabilities will have less support.

    5) PDD did reallocate approximately 20 existing positions to implement a
    new assessment tool (Supports Intensity Scale - SIS) to be eventually
    administered to all of the approximately 9200 individuals served by PDD.
    The purpose of SIS is to determine the support needs of individuals and
    thus corresponding costs in an attempt to ensure better allocation of
    resources. However, when this Tool was tested it essentially verified
    that the existing system was very accurate in its current allotment of
    resources.

    Now there will be 20 plus government staff implementing a tool (one of
    the Minister's priorities) to advise people on the supports they need
    only to tell them these same supports are unavailable due to the cuts.
    Government funds exist to pay these 20 plus government employees for
    unneeded assessments of individual needs that then cannot be met.
    Further, PDD's waiting lists are growing and while many new individuals
    only get some minimal assistance, few are getting what they really
    require. It would be far wiser to postpone this reassessment plan and
    reallocate those resources to actually help people rather than conduct
    meaningless assessments.

    6) It appears individuals and their families are to absorb the pain of
    these funding cuts without any meaningful consultation or even
    information and incur risks that increase with rushed and inadequate
    planning as a consequence of poor government decisions and planning.
    

SOURCE Alberta Association for Community Living

For further information: For further information: Bruce Uditsky, Chief Executive Officer, Phone: (780) 940-4269, Email: buditsky@aacl.org

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Alberta Association for Community Living

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