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Disability advocacy group survey reveals lack of improvement in disability services

Government receives failing grade from people in the disability community

Dr. Paula Hutchinson presented the survey findings at Province House on Thursday.
Dr. Paula Hutchinson presented the survey findings at Province House on Thursday.   Rebecca Brown

The province is failing people with intellectual disabilities, says a report card by a community group that advocates on their behalf.

On Thursday, the Community Homes Action Group (CHAG) released its findings from a province-wide survey. The five-question survey was sent out in August to members of the intellectual disability community. The goal was to find out how their situation has improved since the provincial government developed a ten-year plan, called the Roadmap, in 2013 to better serve Nova Scotians with disabilities.

“Frankly, I had hoped that we would have some [decent results], but unfortunately they weren’t, they were all worse,” said Lois Miller, co-chair of CHAG, about the poor scores respondents gave in the survey.

A total of 168 people responded to the survey based on what the group says was promised in the Roadmap. At least one person from each county responded to the survey.

Dr. Paula Hutchinson, lead researcher for the project, says that after two years, she feels the Roadmap has gone off the road.

“The responses were primarily negative and at times desperate,” said Hutchinson. “Those who responded clearly indicated they did not assess the government’s actions as effective in the five areas addressed in the survey.”

John Cox says it would mean the world to him to get more support from the government.
John Cox says it would mean the world to him to get more support from the government.   Rebecca Brown

John Cox, an audience member and someone who has an intellectual disability, was very emotional at the event, saying he feels the government has failed him.

“Nothing has improved, nothing has changed,” he said.

Cox would like to see F’s on the report card rather than displaying the findings using pie charts.

Cox says there are many obstacles for people living in the community with a disability. He says getting a bus pass, for example, requires attending 12 doctor’s appointments, getting a doctor’s note and submitting an application for the pass to his social worker.

“The only people who don’t want to sit at our table is the government,” said Cox about his experience dealing with the Department of Community Services.

The department maintains that they are strongly committed to transforming the Disabilities Support Program to become more person-directed, accessible and flexible.
“We appreciate the feedback this report card presents to us. We also want people with disabilities in Nova Scotia to have the opportunity to live independently in the community,” wrote media relations advisor Heather Fairbairn in an email.
The transformation will take time, says the department, promising that they will stop permanent placements in larger facilities as of June 2016.
Community services minister Joanne Bernard has also committed to bringing new legislation forward in 2018.