Ed. The Disability Support Scandal is about money but the bottom line is the impact on people, Islanders with disabilities and their supporting families. This is one of those stories.
By April Ennis, Montague PEI
The Disability Support Program discriminates against my two autistic children. The DSP does not provide respite care, pre-school IBI, and forces me to become a small business employer which adds another level of stress. These are services and supports it provides for other autistic individuals.
Brandon, my oldest son, was diagnosed with Autism in January of 2006 and Benjamin, my second son, was diagnosed with autism in December of 2006. DSP offers funding to families for respite care. Respite is a break from the 7 day 24 hours a day care an autistic child requires.
I have been turned down twice because my son is under 6 years old. I did not see in the DSP policies an age restriction for this funding. In fact, other families across PEI are currently receiving funds for respite care for their preschool children. So why is their a double standard?
Is it because I live in Kings County? There is a lack of consistency for services across PEI. Anyone who is looking after an autistic child knows respite for the caregiver is essential. After Benjamin’s diagnosis I reapplied for respite. I thought they would understand the stress my family was under, but I was turned down again. I did not appeal this decision. The appeal process would have been fair as it is not done by an independent committee.
Benjamin is currently on the waitlist for treatment in the Preschool IBI Service. While he is on this waitlist, DSP will not fund therapy. We provide treatment for him outside of the government therapy program. He could sit on this waitlist from 10 months to 2 years. It takes a year to get an autism assessment and then you may have to wait another 2 years for treatment, a child may enter the school system with no early intervention.
Considering that the first 5 years of a child’s life is a critical time for brain development, this treatment is important to the outcome of a child affected by autism.
To add to the stress of having two children with autism, I was forced by DSP policies to become an employer of the people who provide treatment. There is no dedicated post-secondary training program for this tutor position on PEI. So what does the government do to help? It provides a three and a half day workshop for parents and hired staff and then throws them into on-the-job training with weekly supervision.
DSP can fund $10/hour for a maximum of 20 hours per week for a tutor to provide therapy with my son. This wage has not changed in ten years. I have to look after payroll and cover all costs associated like CPP, EI, vacation pay, worker’s compensation, and statutory holidays. I asked the DSP to fund all of my employer contributions, but they turned me down stating that it has been a business practice 2002 to only provide the EI and CPP costs. Where do they think I am going to come up with the extra money to pay for that?
Families are told that they need to contract services. However, the Canada Revenue Agency ruled that my children’s autism tutor is an employee not a contractor. I need help to cover all employers’ contributions so I appealed the DSP decision and stated my case on March 6th. I have 45 long days to wait for a decision.
I have asked for help but was turned down. I filed a human rights complaint against the Department of Social Services and Seniors. Brandon was discriminated against on the basis of disability and age on being turned down for respite services. The province failed to reasonably accommodate the needs of Benjamin who is being discriminated against on the basis of his disability and provision of timely service for treatment.