Disabled Albertans ignored by NDP government, says Edmonton mother
'This government is continuously shuffling people around, continuously ignoring people'
An Edmonton mother of two women with disabilities says policy recommendations designed to help Albertans with developmental disabilities have been forgotten by the NDP government.
Leah McRorie said the province has failed to follow its own advice on the Program for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD), a program that provides personalized resources for those with severe disabilities such as housing and employment supports.
"This government is continuously shuffling people around, continuously ignoring people," McRorie said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
"There are several hundred people that I'm aware of that are in crisis, isolated and going without supports and it's devastating."
"People with disabilities have become an afterthought." - Leah McRorie
McRorie has two grown daughters who live with mental disabilities.
Earlier this year, due to a family emergency, she needed additional support to care for her daughter.
She requested five hours of supplemental care under the PDD program. Her request for assistance was rejected.
It's an example of a system in crisis, McRorie said.
She said Alberta Human Services has failed to deliver on a promised overhaul of the PDD program and the people it's designed to help are suffering the consequences.
"People with disabilities have become an afterthought and ignored," McRorie said. "I think the minister is in over his head.
In December 2015, Alberta Human Services undertook a province-wide consultation on the PDD system.
The survey of more than 2,000 people, led by Minister Irfan Sabir, resulted in 11 recommendations to improve services and accessibility, which were released in October 2016.
Since then, little has changed for clients and their families who rely on the program to live, work and find independence in the community, McRorie said.
The delays are unacceptable, she said.
"The review was completed and the recommendations have sat on the minister's desk for over a year now. We've heard nothing. Crickets. Silence.
"I think the only progress the minister has made is when he's been pushed into corner."
McRorie's frustration is shared by Amy Park, a coordinator at the Self Advocacy Federation, an Alberta-based action group for people with disabilities.
I think this is a true let down and true betrayal of people's trust in the government.- Amy Park, Self Advocacy Federation
Park said the system has remained largely unchanged since the report was tabled, and the community is angry at the false sense of hope created by the promised improvements.
"It's very frustrating," Park said.
"I think a lot of people with disabilities were very excited when the proposal of the PDD review came out and I think this is a true let down and true betrayal of people's trust in the government."
Minister rejects criticism
In an interview with Radio Canada in Edmonton, Sabir denied that his department has sat idle.
"There are 11 recommendations that are all substantial and we believe there are recommendations that can be implemented in the very short term that will benefit the community.
"We are prioritizing our work, prioritizing the recommendations that can be implemented right away, so the community doesn't have to wait for another review."
Sabir pointed to a change in the program made in 2016 when Alberta Human Services repealed a series of proposed home-safety regulations for persons with developmental disabilities after public consultations determined the rules were too restrictive and expensive.
The changes were introduced after a human rights complaint.
One of the key recommendations of the government-led consultation was a comprehensive review of PDD and McRorie wants to see the government deliver on it.
The current piecemeal approach is not working, she said.
"That first recommendation will fix all the others. To review PDD would make such a difference in everything," she said.
"Right now, we're picking and choosing little bits and pieces at a time of what to take out and replace, and in the meantime people are sitting on wait lists and they're in crisis.
"The review is going to take longer than this government has left."