Service providers react to provincial disability program review

By Scott Roblin
January 22, 2018 - 5:04pm Updated: January 23, 2018 - 4:37pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB – The provincial government will be reviewing a program affecting thousands of Albertans with developmental disabilities.

On Friday, the government announcing they’ll be conducting a review of the Persons with Developmental Disabilities program to look at ways of improving the delivery of services to Albertans.

Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir said in conversation with residents over the last few years, he’s heard arguments to revisit the system.

“There were still concerns with respect to accessibility of this program,” said Sabir. “With respect to outcomes, with respect to engagement with families and communities. And, there was a desire that maybe we need to have a look at this program and see how we can improve.”

The CORE Association in Medicine Hat helps provide employment, housing, and other supports to those struggling with developmental disabilities in the city.

They said it’s news they’ve waited on for 15 years, but are hoping that both programming and funding is addressed by the review.

According to CORE, they receive less than one percent of the province’s $853 million budget for the PDD program every year.

This equated to around $6.2 million in funding for the Medicine Hat organization in 2017.

Executive Director Rita Bessant said there’s an apparent lack of transparency when it comes to funding.

“It doesn’t come to people that provide direct service,” said Bessant. “There are a lot of high paying positions that we feel are not required.”

That statement was refuted by Sabir, who said only a small portion of the budget goes back into the pockets of government officials.

“I would say that 95 percent of that budget goes to community agencies, because this program is delivered by the non-profit sector.”

Just under 12,000 Albertans use services funded by the PDD program, with almost half of those people ranging in age from 18 to 34.

This review comes 15 months after the government released a report on how legislation can be used to help those suffering from developmental disabilities live more safely.

From that study involving input from over 2,000 Albertans, it was recommended that legislators adopt a more ‘holistic’ strategy.

Bessant said CORE wasn’t consulted during that study and said it’s vital that the proper stakeholders have their voices heard during this review.

“Please don’t do this research with accountants or politicians,” she said. “Use families, go to the individuals and the front line staff that provide the direct services.”

According to the Alberta government however, they extended invites to CORE and other local groups in the region to participate on March 8, 2016.

Bessant added this funding and program is critical, with some people in their care needing around the clock attention.

The province has not yet released a timeline for when the review will be completed.

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