Members of Sylvan Lake Special Needs Support Group, unhappy with the lack of support being given to them by the provincial government’s Persons with Developmental Disabilities program (PDD), met Sunday evening to address the situation.
“Many parents and caregivers there expressed their concerns that they are not being recognized as caregivers for their family members by PDD,” said spokesperson Sandra McLeod.
“Many of them are being turned down for services and hours for their sons and daughters, and families are not being told what services are available to them.”
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle attended the meeting, which also hosted caregivers and parents from Blackfalds, Lacombe, Edmonton, Red Deer, Rimbey and Eckville.
Towle will present the views expressed to Frank Oberle, associate minister of services for persons with disabilities, when the two meet next week.
“Nobody from the Human Services could or would attend, which was unfortunate after numerous tries,” said McLeod, who praised Towle for her insistence on attending the meeting.
“She went above and beyond to get there.”
Other items discussed at the meeting included the issues of low wages, staffing shortfalls and frequent high-volume turnover, inconsistent information given to families, the lack of qualified staff and training for staff, and inconsistent services that vary from one family to another.
One Sylvan Lake mother expressed her frustration with staffing shortages.
“One day you have staff, the next day you don’t and you may not get another aide for weeks or months,” she said. “This isn’t a project you can put on a shelf and forget about for weeks at a time. They are human beings who deserve to have a life outside of their homes.”
McLeod said the group hopes Towle’s meeting with Oberle will result in families being recognized by PDD as caregivers.
“These families need to be recognized as a paid support home,” she said. “Since institutions shut down, it’s been a huge problem for families. The government is expecting these families to make do, and that’s not good enough.”
Sylvan Lake Special Needs Support Group meets the second Sunday of every month at 7 p.m. in Sylvan Lake Community Partners office. The next meeting is Apr. 14.
The group recently became an independent organization, and offers support, advocacy and information to families of those with special needs.
“Originally, we were a wing of a provider, but we have pulled ourselves away and we are a standalone, independent entity,” said McLeod. “That way, we speak for all families from Central Alberta towns, we speak as one voice, and we don’t represent a provider.
“We do not have a board and a chair and a structure like that. We are there to let parents in and speak, and we’ve taken the government bureaucracy right out of our meeting.”
Information on coming meetings is available on the Sylvan Lake Special Needs Support Group’s Facebook page.