Friday morning I watched Alberta Human Services manager Dave Hancock take his best shot at doing damage control on Global TV’s Morning News regarding the Redford government cuts to services for people with disabilities. He talked about how cutting $42 million from the funding for persons with developmental disabilities (PDD) would benefit program users by giving them more opportunities to be part of the “community”. As often as he used the word, I’m not sure Mr. Hancock understands what “community” means.
Community is when you sit with your physically disabled neighbors and listen to three representatives from Alberta Health Services tell you that the block funding for your support services program has been eliminated in favour of a cookie-cutter, zone designed, profit-driven, privatized, service delivery system. I Googled the name of the agency we were told would take over our care by the end of July. I looked at a site called “Rate Your Employer – Revera”. It was not pleasant reading.
I live in the Abby Road Housing Cooperative. It is truly a community in that it is a cooperative whose members are responsible for the running and upkeep of the building as well as the co-op bylaws; has an age range of residents from elementary school to early 90s; able and disabled members. Of the 50 apartments in the building, 23 are adapted for people with physical disabilities. I am one of them.
Abby Road was the brainchild of six physically disabled individuals whose creativity, ingenuity, hard work and perseverance imagined a home that would support their independence. They instituted a support services program for the disabled residents in the co-op so that they received the assistance they needed to live full lives whether they went to school, had jobs or volunteered in the community. Such a place was a first in Alberta and Canada. It has existed since 1988.
Over the past 25 years, Abby Road’s successful model led to the creation of two other similar projects in Edmonton: Art Space Co-Op and Creekside Condominiums. These two communities also had their support services programs eliminated this week.
Allison Redford has asked that we “trust” her government’s wholesale cuts. Trust is when you are at your most vulnerable and another person takes on the sensitive work of helping you accomplish the most intimate details of your personal care. Caregivers, who have worked with us for years, believe in the value of what they do every day and we value them.
With Abby Road, Art Space and Creekside, the Redford government has an opportunity to build on a successful, well-established concept for delivering services to those who are physically challenged as well as support their caregivers. Premier Redford should try trusting us.