Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/9/2014 (2196 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Persons with intellectual disabilities are being placed at risk because those who provide services to them are poorly paid and inadequately trained.
That is the crux of a report released Thursday by a group representing agencies who provide supports to such vulnerable people.
It says with an average wage barely over $12 an hour, it's difficult for the sector to recruit and retain workers. Staff turnover is very high -- a big problem when building relationships and trust with clients is of paramount importance.
'My son can manage a lot of his daily functions somewhat on his own; (he) needs some checking, (he) needs some reminding. But there are many, many people with disabilities that are very dependent and very vulnerable'‐ Ed Barkman, speaking at a press conference Thursday
The provincial government recently announced $6 million -- over three years -- to subsidize wages to front-line workers, but that amount has been characterized as "a drop in the bucket."
Malinda Roberts, president of Abilities Manitoba, which commissioned the report, said government and the general community need to show they value those with intellectual disabilities.
"If we truly value people and see them as an equal member of our society -- which we need to -- we would then adequately resource the system that provides services to them," she said.
It's estimated there are 10,000 adults with intellectual disabilities in Manitoba. Demand for services is high. Too often, families who need support get it only if they're in crisis.
Ed Barkman, whose 25-year-old son Matthew has an intellectual disability, says his family is grateful for the support it has received, but others face long waits for help.
Many families receive "very minimal respite support and really struggle with the constant stress... (of) supporting a family member with a disability," he said.
Matthew holds a part-time job as a courtesy clerk at a Winnipeg grocery store and does volunteer work one day a week with Mennonite Central Committee, but is unable to live independently. Ed said his son will always need help with food preparation, shopping, money management, as well as supports at night to feel safe. When Matthew is not at work or volunteering, he is enrolled in a day program.
"My son can manage a lot of his daily functions somewhat on his own; (he) needs some checking, (he) needs some reminding. But there are many, many people with disabilities that are very dependent and very vulnerable," Barkman said.
The failure to pay front-line workers a living wage means caregivers can be young, inexperienced and lacking sufficient life experience to be responsible for someone who is very vulnerable, he said.
"It's not only an undesirable situation, it's in some cases a very dangerous situation," he said.
The report recommends the salary issue be addressed and training be standardized.
Roberts said more is required of workers who tend to persons with intellectual disabilities than simply providing help with bathing or ensuring medications are taken. Workers in the field also help clients develop relationships and help them contribute to the community.
Roberts said some front-line workers are paid starting wages as low as $11 an hour -- not much more than the minimum wage, which rises to $10.70 on Oct. 1.
"It's easier to work at Starbucks, it's easier to work at a gas station," she said.
Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said the NDP government has more than quadrupled funding to community-living programs in the past 15 years. She said the $6 million the province recently put on the table will help "stabilize salaries" in the sector.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.