A Red Deer family says Alberta’s income support system is failing those who need help the most.
Tove Campbell said her 19-year-old daughter was recently prescribed four medications, and it’s been a tremendously difficult process to access support with government offices closed during the pandemic.
On Friday, when many of the pandemic restrictions were lifted, those offices still weren’t open, she said.
“We had to wait months and months to even access a psychiatrist for her. Then we get prescriptions and we have to fight to try and get somebody to pay for it,” Campbell said.
She said her daughter was lucky that her family could help her complete the necessary online forms to apply for income support, but what about others who have no one to turn to and need antibiotics for infections, or diabetic supplies.
“Some people have tremendous mental health (issues). They can’t advocate for themselves, and they are left with nothing. I really feel sorry for people who have nobody to speak for them.”
She said emergency assistance was available to pay for a one-month medication supply for her daughter, but even that took time to access.
“When you call the emergency number, you’re told somebody will get back to you in five to seven days. That’s a long time when you’re in an emergency situation.
“This is a huge community problem,” Campbell said.
Rob Williams, press secretary for Community and Social Services, said the pandemic forced the province to temporarily close Alberta Supports Centres to in-person visits.
“Now that stage 3 of Alberta’s Open For Summer plan has arrived, we are developing a plan to resume in-person services. Until such time, any client with emergency needs can call the 24/7 Income Support Contact Centre at 1-866-644-5135,” Williams said.
He said since offering services remotely, staff have been able to deliver financial supports on the phone and online more effectively and consistently. For example, clients in larger centres could previously wait up to three weeks for an income support assessment, but are now connected to a worker to begin their assessment within five days of the first call. Emergencies are assigned on the same day.