Recently there were some Letters to the Editor in the Winnipeg Free Press about a recent report from KPMG to the Manitoba Government regarding funding for people with developmental disabilities. They are shared below.
Disability services crucial, published on October 14
Re: Report urges services for disabled adults be income-tested (Oct. 7) This article speaks about the provincial government’s perception of the growing and supposedly unsustainable numbers of intellectually disabled persons in our province.
None of Manitoba’s vulnerable population has made a choice to be in the position that they are in.
The Building on Abilities Supports Intensity Scale (SIS) is a process adopted by the Manitoba government and is being sold as the fair and equitable redistribution of funds to help the more vulnerable of the intellectually disabled adults to obtain more assistance than the less vulnerable.
This is quite simply a method to cut necessary funding to the Manitobans who need it the most.
The province of Alberta tried to institute the SIS, but it was revoked because the Alberta government chose to listen to the people and families who would be most adversely affected by the implementation of the SIS.
Our people to whom services would be cut will be further marginalized and pushed to the back burner once again.
The services that are provided have been hard won, and more are required if equal citizenship for the intellectually disabled is to be realized.
I understand that the government is up against the rigours of budget reduction and it is not a popular position to be in, but as a family member of an intellectually disabled adult woman, I am asking the province to find a better way to trim money from the budget rather than cutting funding to the people who need it the most.
Report sparks pointed questions, published on October 16
The province of Manitoba recently released the report by KPMG, which has made alarming suggestions that could have profound and damaging effects on the thousands of individuals in Manitoba who have an intellectual disability, as well as their families. Although the government says not to worry as the report is only “advice,” some of the content is hauntingly similar to messages the community has been hearing from departmental staff for some time.
The most egregious recommendation is the suggestion the department revisit what is meant by the principle that individuals with disabilities be supported “to live and participate fully in the community.” We would welcome such a discussion on one hand, as the funding available does not currently provide adequate support. But in the context of the report, it is clearly a call to provide less, and is a chilling prospect for affected individuals and families.
The American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities says this on the topic: “Community living and participation means being able to live where and with whom you choose; work and earn a living wage, participate in meaningful community activities based on personal interests; have relationships with friends, family and significant others; be physically and emotionally healthy, be able to worship where and with whom you choose; have opportunities to learn and grow and make informed choices, and carry out the responsibilities of citizenship such as paying taxes and voting.”
We assume the department has some respect for the association as they have imported an expensive and complex funding model developed by it called the support intensity scale. However, there is no evidence provided by the government that the association funding model as they intend to use it will support the association’s definition of community living and participation. Indeed the message has been the opposite.
Coupled with the KPMG suggestion, which presumably the department has had for some time, these messages strike at the heart of the community living movement and threaten to reverse decades of progress for some of our most marginalized citizens. Are these the people on whose backs the government wants to balance its budget?
Service providers and advocates in the community have been engaged with the department for months now and yet still do not know the plan for much of the system. Recent events create a need for there to be concrete and meaningful discussion on this and many other outstanding questions. We remain optimistic that once government revisits this question and engages fully with the community they will abandon the regressive path they seem to be on.
Stuart Strijack, Chair
Community Living Manitoba