Project aims to smooth way for parents of disabled

Alberta families trying to get help for their disabled children will face less red tape and obstacles thanks to a provincial government pilot project that aims to provide more seamless service delivery through the transition to adulthood.

Alberta families trying to get help for their disabled children will face less red tape and obstacles thanks to a provincial government pilot project that aims to provide more seamless service delivery through the transition to adulthood.

Red Deer MLAs Mary Anne Jablonski and Cal Dallas, in the midst of a cabinet tour of Alberta on Tuesday, spoke at Red Deer’s Provincial Building about a successful Alberta Supports pilot program that’s now being expanded.

The pilot was started by the provincial government in 2010 with 23 families who have disabled children between 14 and 17 years of age.

While these disabled teenagers had been signed up for appropriate child-based government programs, they must reapply for similar adults programs after turning 18, said Jablonski.

She noted this re-application process was a big hurdle as families were forced to visit various government departments and repeat their case histories to different staff workers. Most parents of severely disabled children also have to apply for guardianship once their kids become adults, and register them for disability pensions.

“It’s frustrating enough to have a child with disabilities . . . we don’t need to make their life any more difficult,” said Jablonski.

The pilot program simplified the process by creating a single entry-point for parents who are applying for adult programs for their children.

This worked well for Central Albertans Kerri and Darryl Wilkie.

The couple had to apply for Alberta Supports services for their daughter Stephanie after moving to Alberta from Ottawa just over four years ago and were not relishing the idea of having to “navigate” through different departments and case workers once again, now that their 17-year-old daughter is approaching adulthood.

But the pilot project brought the services to the Wilkies instead. Darryl said representatives of eight agencies sat down with them to discuss the needs of their daughter, who has a rare neurological disease that causes seizures.

As a result, “customizing” services for Stephanie took far less time and no waits, either in person on the phone.

“Before, we had to go to various organizations or look up information on websites . . . this time they called us,” said Kerri, who liked meeting with various agency staff in person.

Dallas and Jablonski are pleased that the pilot program, designed to simplify the process and enable families to become more involved and informed, was so successful.

The MLAs hope it will soon be implemented provincewide by Human Services Minister Dave Hancock.

A single-access approach is already available for other Alberta Supports services for children through to seniors. For information on Alberta’s social programs, call 1-877-644-9992.

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