Minister ignores caregivers as she decides fate of vulnerable citizens
EDMONTON – Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney is refusing to meet front-line caregivers before making a dangerous decision about the future of people with disabilities in Calgary and Edmonton.
“The minister and the UCP government are poised to make a decision that will put the lives of people with severe disabilities at risk,” says Kevin Barry, vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents more than 95,000 workers.
“To do this without talking to the front-line caregivers, the people who know the most about needs of these most vulnerable Albertans, is unforgivable. Following today’s news that the government is planning cuts to Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH), this shows a pattern of bullying and cruelty towards people they perceive as weak.”
The Alberta government is looking for alternative ways to deliver the services to more than 200 people with disabilities, adults and children, in Calgary and Edmonton. Those alternatives could result in their care being handed over to corporations seeking to profit from their care and might result in them being moved from homes where they have lived for years or decades.
The review would impact a number of homes, including Scenic Bow in Calgary, as well as Rosecrest, Hardisty, Woodvale and others in Edmonton.
“These residents have complex medical needs and require round-the-clock care,” says Barry. “Many are non-verbal. Some of the staff have cared for residents for many years and think of them as family. They love them and care for them. We saw in 2013 at the Michener Centre in Red Deer that these moves can cost lives.”
Several AUPE members have asked to meet Sawhney in the last few weeks but have been told she is unable to do so. While the government is consulting with the union over matters including finances and staffing levels, there is no place in that forum to talk about people.
“This must not be a decision based on money,” says Barry. “This is about people, the most vulnerable people in Alberta. The minister should stop hiding and meet these caregivers face to face to hear their perspective.
“She should have the courage explain to them why the government is considering moving the residents when the risk is so high, especially in the middle of a surging pandemic. She needs to look these caregivers in the eye tell them why she thinks the great care they provided for many years isn’t good enough and why they deserve to lose their jobs after decades of caring for and loving people with disabilities.”
Kevin Barry is available for interviews.
For more information, contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, 403-831-4394.