WIN facing $400,000 reduction
PDD service providers dealing with $9 million in budget cuts
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 06:00 am
Over the next five weeks, the Westlock Independence Network could lose as much as $408,332 during provincial funding cuts as part of a $9 million hit to Persons with Developmental Disabilities’ Northeast service providers.
Service contracts are expected to be signed as early as July 1, but WIN executive director Greg Morris says it’s the biggest cut he’s ever seen from PDD and still has some questions about the transition process for his clients.
“It’s a moving target, this chart is moving (and) it’s changed many times,” said Morris.
“How do you make the cuts until you know, because it’s not just one overall cut. For example, we’ll say it’s $400,000 and we were able to meet that, and there’s some people who weren’t cut at all, but the cuts are individual.”
The reduction aims to meet targeted provincial budget reductions and encourage people with developmental disabilities to work towards a higher level of independence by joining community groups or finding jobs.
During a May 8 meeting at the Westlock Ramada, roughly 60 parents, guardians and caregivers gathered in a meeting room to get the news.
PDD CEO Dale Drummond said the action stems from criticisms about a lack of consistency in programming and funding needs.
He noted an applicant could apply for assistance in one corner of the province and get a new result after relocating without a change in support level needs.
As a result of the criticism, PDD is changing the evaluation process in hopes of finding a province-wide approach for people with developmental disabilities. The level of support needed by each person will be determined by a new test, known as the Supports Intensity Scale (SIS), which is used to measure the level of support and funding each disabled adult might need.
“I think it’s the right direction to go, let’s just not do it overnight,” Morris added. “We have (five) weeks before this is supposed to be in effect and we don’t know what the amount is per person yet.”
In addition, Morris noted there are inaccuracies in the SIS tool and different processes for funding.
After placing calls to Edmonton-based organizations, Morris discovered some service providers are being offered a percentage instead of a dollar figure like his organization so it’s unclear how PDD will plan to have a consistent approach across the province.
“The other regions, we’ve been in contact with, say the Edmonton region was being given a percentage cut,” he said. “We’re given a dollar figure based on each person’s individual funding, they’re given an overall percentage. I’ve heard anywhere from 13 to 18 per cent. Why are they taking different approaches?”
According to a recent PDD release to service providers across the region, the Northeast individual allocation grid indicates major cuts across the board except for one group of people — some programming will be reduced by 50 per cent.
There is a slight increase for annual funding for people that have extraordinary support needs. According to the PDD Northeast individual allocation grid released in April, individuals will lose on average $37,668
However, Morris said PDD direct options and family managed groups are not being affected by the funding cuts yet.
“No enhancements means that the Northeast PDD region is not using the same process as previous years,” said PDD spokesperson Cheryl Chichak. “In previous years, individuals would ask for an enhancement because they were requesting more service — now the process for getting a larger funding allocation is based on a demonstrated change in needs reflected in their SIS results. The Northeast region is moving forward with a balanced budget as of July 1.
“At the moment, spending exceeds the budget, so adjustments have to be made before July 1 in order to balance the budget at year end.”
There are seven tiers in the system, each numbered 1-7, ranging from low support needs; low to moderate support needs; low to moderate support needs with medium behaviour; moderate to high support needs; high support needs; extraordinary medical support needs; and extraordinary support needs.
“Nobody wants to see their son or daughter with a number rating, I suppose, but it’s semantics,” Morris said, adding a SIS cannot be appealed but one can appeal the numbers attached to it.
“And we know what our total cut is, we do not really know what the projected is per person or the real numbers those total cuts were based on and this chart, we don’t have any information of what this is based on, those numbers.”
WJS Canada is working with Persons with Developmental Disabilities’ Northeast Service Providers to determine which steps to take in the Westlock area, according to WJS Canada’s executive director Sally Walker.
“We have a number of programs throughout northern Alberta and some of our programs are within the Northeast region and they’re the only ones who have (been) given reduction numbers so far,” Walker added. “This is a very difficult situation, as you can appreciate, because we do not want to frighten our clients or our staff right now and we’re working with PDD to ensure that the numbers are accurate because as I say, these are targeted amounts. And so we’re working with PDD to ensure that the needs of our clients are met.”
When asked about the funding cuts in town, Walker chose not to release that information, although she noted some people were being hit harder than others because of group homes ranging from two clients to four.
“Our first and foremost obligation is to make sure that everyone is safe. So we’ve already started our discussions with PDD and we’re reviewing each one of our clients ends and looking for other options”
That concerns Morris.
“It’s impossible to tell you all of the effects right now because there’s going to be a ripple of effects,” he said.
“For example, we have one case where there are three gentlemen that live together. We believe they have similar needs and the way it works is, we put in a budget like a cost to operate this house for example is by the total cost divided by three.
“So, they’re all on the same budget and the SIS says that two of those people in that house have low needs and the other has high needs so if their funding gets cut, it effects them. It effects the first guy, it effects the second guy and it effects the third guy whose needs didn’t change because it takes each person’s funding times three.”