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Stakeholders blast Community Services on broken promises to persons with disabilities

by Robert Devet

Lois Miller of the Community Homes Action Group, addresses a press conference at Province House. She says that Community Services is not at all delivering on earlier promises to persons with disabilities. Photo Robert Devet
Lois Miller of the Community Homes Action Group, addresses a press conference at Province House. She says that Community Services is not at all delivering on earlier promises to persons with disabilities. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - Promises that things would finally get better for people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers appear once again to have been broken.

That’s what caregivers, family members, workers in the field, and self advocates from everywhere in the province  told the Community Homes Action Group (CHAG). CHAG consists of concerned citizens with varied backgrounds who want to draw attention to the lack of community-based living options for people living with developmental and physical disabilities.  

This morning CHAG made its findings public at a press conference held at Province House. Today, not coincidentally, is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  

The latest  promises go back to September of 2013, when the NDP government made an announcement that many people living with disabilities had fought for.

Large institutions would be phased out, and care and funding would become more tailored to individuals. Community Services also promised to be more open and inclusive in its planning and policy making.

Community Services minister Joanne Bernard has always said that she is committed to implementing the recommendations of the so-called “roadmap”, the document that commits the government to closing large institutions, increase focus on community-based living opportunities, improve employment opportunities, and allow for more individualized (and less patronizing) decision-making.   

Some time after the announcement was made things slowed down. And then slowed down even more.

So it is not surprising that feedback from stakeholders to CHAG is extremely harsh. Government execution on all the major roadmap objectives is deemed poor, meaning that it was scored a 1 out of 10 possible points..

For instance, 79 percent of the 168 respondents deemed progress on person-directed planning poor. 90 percent said that the department did poorly on providing community-based housing, 85 percent said the same about reducing reliance on institutions. 82 percent called progress on increasing employment opportunities poor.

Feedback is typically fact-based. For instance, the wait list for community-based assisted living arrangements has actually increased since the publication of the roadmap.

More telling and often more heart wrenching than the report card numbers are the comments interspersed throughout the CHAG report.

On the promise of person-directed planning: “We don’t see where people have choices that are not government-forced or mandated. If people had choices they would not live in institutions.”

Or on wait lists.

“My son has been on the wait list for 20 years. How can this be?”

“My son attempted to kill himself last night and I am so angry and frustrated and sad. I feel like we are disposable.”

Or this one.

“My son died while waiting for appropriate care.”

Click here for more articles on the roadmap and related issues.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 


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