Tag Archives: PEI Human Rights

ada no words

We stand up for you

We stand up for you. If you are a person with a disability we will stand up to anyone to help you get what you need. It’s doesn’t matter what the disability is.

We’ve been doing it for years.

When the Canada Pension for disability needed reform. We were there advocating with others across the country.

When the Disability Tax Credit was being taken away, we fought to keep it there for you.

When the Province took $1 million dollars from the DSP, we stood up and said “Hey Mr. Premier where did that money go?” We’re standing up to Robert Ghiz to make him keep his promises.

We fought to get seniors on the DSP and to reform the abuses of the DSP. Along with the parents of autistic children, we were able to eliminate the hated FIM tool.

We’ve advocated to change the RRAP Disability, to get parking at UPEI, to get respect, for Human Rights. There are always more causes and more issues.

Sometimes others help and sometimes we go it alone. We are not afraid of the truth or anyone.

We stand up for you.

If you want to help, send us an email at Email Me disabilityalert@gmail.com.  We person can always use a helping hand.

Real needs aren’t being met islanders with disabilities

GUEST OPINION
MICHAEL LE CLAIR

When Pharaoh wanted to harass the Israelite slaves he told them to make bricks without straw. The expression “make bricks without straw” means to command getting a task done without appropriate resources.

Premier Robert Ghiz has told Islanders with disabilities to get their supports with less money, making their already difficult lives, more intolerable – in a sense, to make bricks without straw. Continue reading

Serious setback in a sensitive project

Our civil service never set out to break the Disability Support Program but officials will have to fix it anyway.

EDITORIAL STAFF
The Guardian

We have to assume that the people who set up the Disability Support Program set out with the best possible intentions; it’s too bad that it took a human rights ruling to set them looking for the best possible methods.

On the surface, the DSP sounds like an excellent, even revolutionary, approach to dealing with the needs of disabled Islanders. It replaced a patchwork of assistance plans with a concerted effort to meet the needs of P.E.I.’s physically and mentally challenged citizens, and it stopped the degrading and inadequate practice of forcing people who needed help to declare themselves unemployable and turn to social assistance.

The trouble with the DSP has been that too many disabled Islanders have found that this one-size-fits-all system doesn’t fit them well at all.

The problems began when parents of disabled children found that they were to be treated as dependents up to the age of 25 and that families would be held responsible for contributing to their costs of care. It took a vocal opposition of parents and supporters to get the government to acknowledge that adulthood should start at the same age whether a person is disabled or not.

But that setback failed to spark a real re-examination of the DSP.

Now the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission has essentially sent the entire DSP back to the drafting room by ruling that its core questionnaire unfairly favours support for physical disabilities over support for mental disabilities.

The trouble is that once they return to their work, the designers of a disability support structure have an unenviable job. How, frankly, does one assign a dollar value to the impact of a disability? A lecturer could be paralyzed from the neck down and not lose any earning power, while some musicians could end a lifelong career by losing a fingertip. Who is to say how each should be assisted and where to set the limit for that assistance?

One can only feel empathy for the people in charge of administering such a system. They see individuals and their families with aching needs and have to adress those needs within the cold reality of a taxpayer-funded support system. Faced with someone who needs a simple piece of equipment, the disability support worker’s job should be straightforward. Faced with a family who may need lifelong respite help to cope with the care of a child, the case worker has tougher calls to make.

The genius of the DSP was that it gave power to Islanders with disabilities and their caregivers by allowing them to pick the services they offered.

The problem with the DSP was that it attempted to use a simple formula to determine just how much money each claimant could get.

That problem isn’t going to go away. Government will still have to pay for services to the disabled and it will still have deserving people who go away unhappy when the money runs out.

The only way to deal with these heartaches is for disability workers to do what the DSP purported to do in the first place. They have to allocate support while listening to the disabled. And they have to do what the DSP failed to do in this case; they have to keep talking and be willing to change the system when it proves unacceptable.

Archive: P.E.I. flip-flops on disability age cut-off

Ed: Archive Articles important to the history of the DSP.

Last Updated: Friday, August 22, 2003 | 4:51 PM AT
CBC News

The provincial government is changing an age restriction some called discriminatory, a move that will recognize 18 year olds with disabilities as adults.

Health and Social Services Minister Jamie Ballem made the announcement Friday.

RELATED LINK: P.E.I. Disability Support Program
For the past two years, someone with disabilites, who was single and living with parents, was not considered an adult until the age of 25. As of Sept. 1, that age limit drops to 18.

Before the Tories overhauled the Disability Support Program two years ago, the age limit was 18.

As a result of the change, 12 complaints were filed with the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission, one of those by Linda Brazell. She’s not sure whether she’ll continue with her case.

The age cut-off has a bearing on the benefits a disabled person receives from the Disability Support Program. Before being considered an adult under the program, the parents’ income is factored into the benefits a disabled person could receive.

Minister Ballem said the decision is based on a consultant’s report that concludes there is no compelling reason to keep the cut-off at 25.

“The cost of this change will be approximately $700,000,” he said.

The change affects around 90 people with disbabilities.

At the news conference, another complainant asked if there would be compensation for the money families lost because of the age cut-off.

The minister said retroactivity is not an option.

Eastern Graphic

No wheelchair accessible bus available to transport Cardigan girl to school

Eastern Graphic, April 11, 2007  LORIE O’HALLORAN

The Eastern School District expects Mary Lou and Glenn Robertson, of Cardigan, to provide transportation for their daughter to get to school because she is in a wheelchair.

Ms Robertson said she spoke with Katherine MacKinnon, transportation coordinator for the Eastern School District, and was told the district has buses equipped for wheelchairs but none were available.

The Robertson’s daughter, 10- year-old Kailley, was recently transported to school in the Charlottetown-based Pat and the Elephant van but the family doesn’t know who arranged it.

Katherine MacKinnon, transportation coordinator for the Eastern School District said the Robertsons would not have to pay that bill but she said she couldn’t discuss their case further without reviewing their file.

Ms Robertson requested the service but was told the Eastern School District could not afford it. Ms Robertson said the school district suggested they find a friend to drive Kailley and they would pay this person $30 per week, but they wanted to do back ground and criminal checks on the person.

‘There aren’t too many people who would go through all that for $30 per week,” Ms Robertson said.

Kailley’s need for a wheelchair is temporary. She was issued the chair following a recent surgery.

Ms Robertson said when Kailley was eight months old doctors discovered she had dislocated hips and surgery was done to repair the problem. The child got an infection and was put in a body cast for two- and-a-half years.

Kailley will undergo another surgery in June to repair her hip and leg problem.

Her left leg is 20 per cent smaller than her right so doctors broke the growth plate in her right leg to allow her left one time to catch up.

When Kailley is 17 she must have a hip replacement because she has no socket for her hip bones. When she walks, her hip bones hit her pelvic bone.

What Kailley was born with is very rare, only one in a million children suffer from this, Ms Robertson said.

“No matter how many surgeries she goes through she will always have a disability.”

Ms Robertson said the Eastern School District needs to put some thing in place to solve this problem, not just for Kailley but for everyone.

Ms MacKinnon, said the district has three wheelchair accessible buses in Charlottetown but there are none in this area.

“That is something we will have to look at,” Ms MacKinnon said.

The Robertsons don’t feel it is their responsibility to provide transportation for Kailley to go to school and with the mountain of cuts made to the disability pro grams, they wonder how many more times they will have to deal with issues such as this.

“We heard about the cuts but didn’t realize how it would affect us, but now we know.”

Hansard April 3, Richard Brown Response

Speaker: The hon. Member from
Charlottetown-Kings Square.

Mr. R. Brown: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to notify all members of the Legislature today, the disability support group was passing out some fact sheets today and I think all members of the Legislature should read those fact sheets.

There are 19,000 Islanders that are considered disabled. This government is only helping 1,000 of them. I want to make it clear from the very first. I believe in the Disability Support Program. When the government did remove the people with disabilities out of the Social Assistance Program and set up the Disability Support Program that was a good move because there was a stigma associated with that, and we supported that, and I supported that move out.

I support the people that work in this program because they do a tremendous job. I know the frustrations that they’re having in this program because of the lack of funding.

The minister indicated in his statement that there was an over-budget or an over expenditure of expenses in that year. I would claim that the minister under budgeted for the people that have disabilities. There wasn’t an over-expenditure, Mr. Minister, there was an under-budget, and I strongly believe in that and I call upon you to increase that budget.

Also, the minister has indicated that we are a small province and can’t afford much. They had no problem passing $14 million out to seven people six weeks before the last election to keep their mouths shut. They have no problem spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on golf tournaments, no problem on big trips to Europe, and definitely no problem in taking limos around Montreal.

When it comes to their own expenses, the sky’s no limit. But when it comes to disability we hear about limits.

So I commend the work of the disability support group, especially Stephen Pate and Michael LeClair for their efforts here in getting this message out.

But on a short note, I ask this government, I demand of this government, and its backbenchers, you ask your Cabinet colleagues, you ask your other colleagues: Please, please, get out of the human rights hearing. You are forcing these people that you’re taking to court at the human rights hearing, you’re forcing these families to talk about their needs and their problems. I attended hearings over at the Human Rights Commission where this government is denying people access to disability support payments.

Some of you members should have attended some of those meetings at that human rights hearing where you saw families suffering day in and day out, and only getting $4 from the Disability Support Program.

Mr. Premier, I call upon you to take your lawyers, tell them to back off here, cancel that case, and work with these people.

Don’t go through the court, don’t make them suffer for 10 years like you made the people that you fired in 1996, because these families need help now. I beg you to look at this and call your lawyers and call your big shots off of this case because it’s disgusting what I had to hear over there, how your government is treating these people.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

An Hon. Member: Hear, hear!

They baked a cake, but he didn’t bite

RON RYDER
The Guardian

Disability Alert offered cake to the health minister Friday as it pressed him to commit to added funds in the controversial Disability Support Program.

But Chester Gillan wasn’t biting.

Gillan was joined by government staff and flanked by Liberal MLA Richard Brown and NDP Leader Dean Constable when he attended Disability Alert’s press conference, aimed at “celebrating” the first anniversary of what group founder Stephen Pate calls major cuts to support for Islanders with physical and intellectual challenges.

Government says there was no policy change behind the drop of DSP spending to $8.1 million last year from $8.6 million the year before. But Pate says there has to have been a conscious effort to control costs by refusing requests for assistance.

“If there is less money it’s a cutback. If there’s more money it’s an increase. I’m not going to play the semantics game. . . If the Disability Support Program had increased at around the level of every other program we would have received something like $9.1 million instead of the number that was in the budget,” he told the small crowd gathered at The Guild in Charlottetown.

He offered Gillan a bright blue cake decorated to mark the cut’s birthday, but the minister recommended they take the cake to the food bank instead.

Pate said he’d like to see restrictions removed from the Disability Support Program so that it can more flexibly meet Islanders’ needs. While seniors are currently served by programs outside the DSP, Pate said they should have recourse to disability support when those programs say no.

“By the time they reach the age of 65, one in three people will have a disability. By the time they reach 75, the number is one in two,” he said.

Gillan said disability supports are constantly being reviewed for fairness and effectiveness, but he wasn’t making any promises of new funding in the budget expected April 10.

“P.E.I. has been very responsive,” he said.

Gillan said the whole point of setting up the DSP in 2001 was to separate disability supports from government’s social assistance system. He said they have been working under the mission since and the dip in spending last year reflected changes in demand.

“I don’t think there has been any request that hasn’t been taken seriously or that has been callously disregarded,” he said.

The minister said services for the disabled don’t stop with the DSP. He said government supports some 29 non-governmental groups that work with disabled persons, while teaching assistance in the education system and various housing programs offer other services to people with physical and mental challenges.

Brown said Pate may get his wish for more promises of support, at least during the election season. He said the long-term stability might change if the Tories are elected again.

“I was very disappointed, during the human rights hearings on support for people with autism, to see parents testifying about the need for help and have government lawyers cross-examining them,” he said.

Constable said he doesn’t think that government should be counting pennies when it comes to disability programs.

“We need to increase funding because we believe that disabled people have the same right as anybody else to be out in the community and live an active life,” he said.

Brandon Ennis

Montague family appeals DSP treatment to Human Rights

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.

Brandon Ennis

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. Continue reading

The situation of special needs children

By John Eldon Green, The Guardian Guest Opinion

The Guardian editorial on autistic children (‘MPs duck the challenge of autism. March 5, 2007) could very well have been written about any set of children on PEl, with likely the same results — political indifference. Within the political spectrum of this province and country, there is no natural band containing children. They can only get onto the political agenda by exception, and then only through sustained action by parents who have the energy and skill to keep attention focused on children with special needs.

Some politicians, such as the premier of Ontario in a recent statement, are given to show concern by focusing on the elimination of child poverty – ‘child poverty’ being less acceptable than the ordinary run of poverty. Child poverty is always the result of parental poverty, concerning which the political system in Canada has little interest, as the Ontario premier made clear.

When I became deputy minister of Social Services in 1971, 1 inherited a scandalous situation whereby the welfare assistance administration held itself apart from the child welfare program of the same department. Welfare was very political, child welfare not at all. On March 31, 1971, there were 429 children in the care of the director of child welfare. By 1981, we had reduced this num her to 225, a nearly 50 per cent reduction in what had been an annually increasing number. Over the next 20 years, that decline continued, on a par with the decline in live births hitting 203 in March 1993.

This record was accomplished by assigning the two programs to the director of child welfare for management, by improving assistance for families on the economic fringes, by focusing on other forms of family support, and by making it possible for young women to reach a decision to rear their own children, as nature had surely intended.

The world changed for vulnerable Island children with ‘health reform’ in 1994-95, when child welfare and social assistance programs were separated, and social services became very subordinate to health. Between then and 2005, the number of live births on P.E.I. has decreased by 25 per cent while the number of children in care has increased by 40 per cent (283 in March 2005,) and still growing. Why the silence of the minister of Health and Social Services in the face of this social epidemic?

With the decision to separate the social services programs once again, professional staff were limited to child welfare and soft family support, while non-professional staff were assigned to welfare assistance, turning the clock back 25 years. A related factor was that federal cost- sharing for social assistance payments ended in 1993, replaced by a funding approach which did not ear mark federal payments for any specific purpose; that is, the money was up for grabs.

In short order, the P.E.1. government began bleeding money from social assistance and assigning it to health purposes — at first about 15 per cent of the social assistance budget ($7 million) and now perhaps more. What other province-wide group of Islanders has ever had to take a 15 per cent reduction in annual income at one time, a reduction, by the wav, which was never announced publicly, perhaps not even known until now?

It is worth noting that provincial civil servants sent a Liberal government into perdition in 1996 for a 7.5 per cent salary cut.
Social assistance management and staff have been commended by successive ministers for their success in reducing social assistance expenditures, without consideration as to how those reductions were achieved.

The objective of the social assistance administration should not be to suppress demand, but to meet survival needs of individuals and families in appropriate fashion. Foster care becomes the social safety valve only where parents are unable to cope.
Foster care is a program where foster families must receive a generous retainer even when they have no children in care, plus actual payments when children are in care. By comparison, social assistance is a bargain in situations where children are not at risk.

Considering government indifference to the issue of children in care, one wonders what chance there is that children with autism, a broad spectrum condition, will be given consideration among the pre-election offerings. Maybe, but if so, will children whose families are simply extremely poor get the same level of political attention?

John Eldon Green was deputy minister of Social Services during 1971-1981.