Inclusion Alberta says though it is pleased the province is bringing financial relief for people with developmental disabilities and their families, it is concerned there is no commitment to help those who are on waitlists and are not getting any support.
Premier Danielle Smith announced on Nov. 22 that families with children who have a combined income of less than $180,000 will get $600 over the course of six months. She also said the province will provide the same money to people who receive assured income for the severely handicapped (AISH) and the support will be reindexed to keep pace with inflation.
“We are appreciative that there has been attention brought to the potential to index AISH and the $600 payment will go a long way but nonetheless there is still more to be done,” said Dave Lawson, executive director of Inclusion Lethbridge. “We are connected to many families in the south here and all of them will excited to hear that this is being addressed, but nonetheless there are many that are struggling that have been denied or that are still on a waitlist to get supports for their son or daughter with a disability so there’s still much to be done.”
Lawson estimated a few thousand Lethbridge residents will be impacted by the announcement, but said he would have liked to see the province address the waitlist for people needing support. He said he knows many families in the area who are told their situation is not critical because they are not doing harm to themselves or others.
“We see urgent and critical as much more important than that when it comes to citizens with developmental disabilities. I think that their full participation, meaningful engagement in the community is more important than anything else and when supports are reduced or denied and people are left to sort of languish on their own with few supports, then we miss out as a society and a community because the potential for people with developmental disabilities to contribute to communities is greater than it seems to be that they are being given credit for,” he said.
He added he believes there needs to be something done to make sure people’s lives are not put on hold while waiting for support, especially when they are transitioning from youth to adulthood. Frontline support workers are something he would like to see addressed, which can help people get support sooner.
“We are not saying that these people just need to be engulfed in services, what these frontline staff are doing is helping these people be engaged in the community economically, socially — all those sorts of ways that make us all better and without attention to that, we as a society is deprived of the contribution of adults with developmental disabilities.”
Inclusion Alberta also criticized the announcement from the province for not including the family support for children with disabilities program and said the province has left many families anxiously waiting for clarification.