Special needs worries grow
Sylvan Lake-area parents of developmentally disabled adults and children found out they are not alone when it comes to the difficulties of getting the help their family members need.
A meeting Sunday of Sylvan Lake Special Needs Support Group attracted 21 people and included parents from Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Blackfalds, Rimbey, Eckville and Sylvan Lake.
Usually the meetings, which have been held monthly since last October, attract half a dozen people.
“If we keep getting these kinds of responses we may have to change our name to Alberta Special Needs Support Group with the turnouts we’re getting,” said Sandra McLeod, spokesperson for the group, on Tuesday.
“It was amazing. Obviously these parents are not being heard.”
The group, that is open to everyone, meets the second Sunday of each month at 7 p.m. at Sylvan Lake and Area Community Partners’ Association Building, 4936 50th Ave.
At the latest meeting, parents discussed the lack of available support workers due to low salaries, and insufficient information from the province on existing supports for people with special needs.
“The bottom line is these parents are picking up the slack in the province of Alberta and not being recognized at all for it and some are going without services for their kids,” McLeod said.
“Some of these families are really strapped. There’s no one to take (adult children) to their jobs, their community projects. The quality of life is really poor for them.”
And parents worry about what may happen in the future. Some special needs adults are cut off AISH at age 65 and put on Old Age Pension, which is much less than AISH, she said.
“They’re sitting ducks when we’re gone,” McLeod said.
Members of the group intend to start a letter writing campaign to Frank Oberle, Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Kerry Towle, who attended the meeting, said there’s a real lack of consistency in the availability of services.
The Wildrose MLA said families suffer unless they complain loudly and not everyone has that ability.
Families are also bullied to go with agency care, she said.
“There seems to be this real culture of ensuring the family is not the best caregiver for the client. This is just silly. It’s unimaginable that we would not even consider utilizing the family supports that already exist.”