Families respond to Minister's Public Statements on Funding Cuts to
Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

EDMONTON, Jan. 8 /CNW/ - Please see below for release and accompanying Letter to the Editor of Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal.

Letter to the Editor

Re: "Disabilities budget has increased, minister seeks to clarify," Dec. 22

Minister Jablonski's attempt to clarify the reduction of services to individuals with developmental disabilities, fails to note how different decisions might have averted the crisis entirely. Events now contradict some of the Minister's claims.

Of the $33 million increase to the Persons with Developmental Disabilities program (PDD), $24 million was allocated for community staff wages leaving only $9 million for service provision.

If a person with developmental disabilities, for example, turns age 18 mid-year, they only require PDD funded services for 6 months. However in the next fiscal year, they require 12 months of support, necessitating a full year of funding. PDD also requires additional funds to support new people who require supports for the first time.

The $9 million was inadequate to cover many costs, including the above noted annualized costs and increases in the number of new individuals. As such, waiting lists for PDD funded services increased and many individuals with developmental disabilities received less support than they needed. But expensive government operations continued and government staff received their bonuses and annual wage increases.

Of the remaining $24 million, the Ministry gave back $11.3 to Treasury to offset the government's overall deficit and distributed approximately $12.7 million as a one-time wage increase to community staff. Either of these two amounts could have covered PDD's shortfall but the government refused to consider reallocating these funds. Since wages are not being reduced the only way to claw back funds is to reduce services. And the amount of funds the government would like to retroactively recover is greater than the $9 million increase PDD received. In effect, PDD would have less funds for service provision this year than last year.

The almost $13 million given as a one time bonus was intended to help recruit and sustain staff as they are significantly underpaid relative to government staff. Given the fact some of these very same staff are now being laid off as agencies reduce services and the field looks very unattractive with more cuts looming, the government may have wasted $13 million.

Written correspondence from PDD to community agencies contradicts the Minister's assertion that most of the reduction can be found in administration. This correspondence not only notes services will be reduced; it requests agencies actually do so.

Some agencies in complying with this request, with PDD's approval, have arbitrarily reduced services without any consultation with families. This has been done although PDD contractually requires agencies to sign an agreement with families specifying what services will be provide and the process for changing services. Alberta Seniors and Community Supports deliberately chose to keep families in the dark and not communicate with them.

Failing to reallocate existing funds to prevent service reductions, ignoring contractually required written agreements, keeping families in the dark and telling the public agencies are being asked to find "administrative efficiencies" so as to not reduce services will be seen by many as a betrayal of public trust and responsibility when in truth PDD has requested cuts in services and these cuts are now being implemented.

Bruce Uditsky, CEO

Alberta Association for Community Living

Families respond to Minister's Public Statements on Funding Cuts to Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

The Alberta Association for Community Living (AACL) is an organization of thousands of families from across Alberta who have sons and daughters with developmental disabilities. Many of our sons and daughters receive supports and services funded by the Ministry of Seniors and Community Supports through its Persons with Developmental Disabilities program (PDD). Individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are being placed at risk by the current efforts of the Ministry to claw back funds in the last quarter of this fiscal year and by the projections of reduced funding for the next fiscal year.

Just prior to Christmas the Minister responsible for PDD, the Honourable Mary Anne Jablonski had a letter to the editors of the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal published which claimed that the required reduction in funding could be found through administrative efficiencies, implying a reduction in services was neither targeted nor necessary. Further the Minister argued that the requested reduction in funds was a result of the global economic recession, which implies the Department's fiscal and managerial decisions over the past year, had no bearing on the last minute effort to ;claw back funding.

We are releasing today a letter to the Editors of the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, written on behalf of and with the support of the thousands of families AACL represents, presenting a different sets of facts than those asserted by Minister Jablonski. In particular that the millions of dollars in reduced funding demanded by the Minister's Department will and has resulted in reductions in services. In fact, contrary to the Minister's letter to the Editor, the PDD program has both specifically requested, in writing, that agencies reduce services or acknowledges reductions in services will result from the reduction in funding.

Further that the Department could have averted the current fiscal crisis, which is causing fear and apprehension among families and individuals with developmental disabilities, if the Ministry of Seniors and Community Supports had acted proactively and thoughtfully given the financial and other resources under its control. The Department knew the financial picture of PDD well in advance but rather than address this through the usual stewardship of public funds took actions that helped to precipitate the current crisis. The Minister is, in effect, now asking families and individuals to incur risks of safety and well-being to compensate for the failure of her Department to effectively manage the resources for which it was responsible.

Stop the Cuts: Remove the Fear

SOURCE Alberta Association for Community Living

For further information: For further information: Bruce Uditsky, Chief Executive Officer, Alberta Association for Community Living (AACL), 11724 Kingsway, Edmonton, AB, T5G 0X5, Tel. (780) 451-3055 Ext. 228, Toll Free 1-800-252-7556, Fax (780) 453-5779, Cell (780) 940-4269, Email: buditsky@aacl.org, Website: http://www.aacl.org

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Alberta Association for Community Living

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