Last November, Community and Social Services said Albertans with developmental disabilities with overnight care have the right to live safely in the homes of their choice. However the right to choose where to live is again now under threat as minimum wage increases over the next three years from $ 11.20 to $ 15 per hour. While the disability sector is supportive to increase wages to the lowest paid workers, yet the Alberta government has left people with disabilities no means to pay their worker minimum wage to help them be safe overnight. “We are being forced into a deficit budget position.” Says Ryan Geake of the Calgary SCOPE Society.
Studies have shown people with disabilities are more than likely to be injured in a fall at home as much as the elderly and it is the leading cause of hospitalization and death. What will happen when Albertans with developmental disabilities are no longer able to pay their worker minimum wage to be in their home to be safe?
The Alberta government failing to provide funding without the miminum wage increase for overnight care goes against the recommendations made in the Supporting Safe and Inclusive Lives Report of the Persons with Developmental Disabilities Safety Standards Consultation 2016 "Staff wages should be increased to reflect higher education and training requirements implemented through a human resource plan."
A Public Health Agency Canada 2016 report states "Falls are a leading cause of overall injury costs in Canada. The total economic burden of falls is estimated at $6 billion annually (Parachute Canada, 2014). The direct health care costs for fall-related injuries are $2 billion annually. Health Status of Canada is already aware far too many Canadians living on low-income go without proper care who need it.
Why then, is the Alberta government wanting to add more stress and costs to an overwhelmed health care system? A government to say "It’s time to increase a minimum wage" and not do it themselves is irresponsible and potentially passing off the injury costs to health care. Minister Irfan Sabir said in April 2016 "Everyone deserves to live safely, and our government is committed to listening to Albertans and ensuring that the dignity of persons with developmental disabilities is upheld.”
A plan is needed. People who need overnight staff to stay safe to help to live with dignity in the homes of their choice. Putting people at risk is not the solution. The Alberta government needs to fulfills its promise to implement the recommendations of the safety standards. More dollars are needed to address the minimum wage increase to meet the safety needs of Albertans who have overnight staff to live with dignity.
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