COVID-19 response risks leaving people with disabilities, caregivers behind, warns Inclusion BC

NEW WESTMINSTER, BC, March 19, 2020 – As governments and communities struggle to respond to BC’s rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis, Inclusion BC warns of growing concerns that people with intellectual disabilities are being left behind, along with the families and community agencies who support them.

“It is fundamental to our Canadian values that we do not leave vulnerable people behind in a crisis,” said Inclusion BC, Executive Director, Karla Verschoor.

Inclusion BC is a federation of community agencies, families and individuals that works collaboratively with government and community partners to support the inclusion of children, youth, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

“We’re urging every government (provincial, federal, municipal and Indigenous) and community agency, every business and non-profit, and every community initiative to consider and accommodate the unique needs of people with intellectual disabilities and their families as we all work together to help Canadians through this crisis,” Verschoor said.

Inclusion BC is urging heightened awareness and consideration of the unique needs of this particularly vulnerable group in all emergency planning and responses. Targeted actions are also urgently needed to remove barriers and ensure safety.

“We’re hearing concerns about barriers that are preventing people with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers from being able to comply with public health advice to stay safe and healthy,” Verschoor noted

“Without forethought, planning and accommodations to ensure universal accessibility, people with intellectual disabilities already face barriers to accessing social programs like healthcare, income supports, and public education in their everyday lives,” Verschoor noted. These barriers are heightened in emergency situations.

“Growing strains on existing services, including school closures and staffing challenges, will present added risks for these vulnerable individuals and families, with potentially dire consequences if we don’t start planning and implementing contingency measures now to ensure that critical supports are in place and can be adapted to meet shifting and urgent needs.”

Proposed measures include:

  • Accessibility & Inclusion: Explicit consideration of the unique needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities in all COVID-19 planning and response, including communication barriers and accessibility of emergency measures intended to help all Canadians, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
    • BC’s Centre for Disease Control’s COVID19 resources should explicitly include people with intellectual disabilities in its list of vulnerable populations.
    • All COVID19 public health messaging should include plain-language versions.
    • Specialized BC Helpline with the expertise to answer questions and provide supports addressing the specific needs of people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
  • Emergency supports to ensure security for individuals and extra support for family caregivers who have to step in to replace cancelled school and community programs
    • Use emergency federal funding to support family caregivers who need to fill in for cancelled school and community support programs or to comply with public health policies intended to minimize risks of infection and transmission.
    • Avoid any interruption to Persons With Disabilities (PWD) monthly payments. Sus-pend all administrative holds, e.g. due to paperwork errors or potential eligibility for federal EI or emergency benefit payments.
    • For families of school-age children and youth with extra support needs, additional supports are urgently needed for critical home and nursing care, medical supplies, mental health, trauma, and family violence supports. (See BCEdAccess Recommendations)
  • Community supports: Help agencies that deliver community support programs maintain and adapt their services to changing needs while ensuring the safety of staff and the individuals and families whom they support.
    • Designate staff who deliver critical Community Living BC and MCFD support programs for people with intellectual disabilities and their families as essential services workers.
    • Work with agencies and employee groups to allow temporary flexibility to reassign staff to meet urgent needs while keeping everyone safe as those change and evolve.
  • Social connectedness: Provide emergency technology funding to help community service agencies adapt to work-from-home and at-home service delivery policies.
    • Funding for computer tablets and Internet service to permit people with intellectual disabilities to access supports and services remotely where possible.

“Inclusion means identifying and removing barriers facing those with intellectual disability; it requires consideration of their unique support needs in universal planning and providing additional supports and accommodations where necessary,” Verschoor noted.

“Now, more than ever, we are calling on everyone in BC to demonstrate our province’s commitment to inclusion by ensuring that we leave no one out and no one behind.”

“We all have a role to play in advancing solutions collaboratively and we want to acknowledge and thank all those working formally and informally to help our fellow British Columbians,” Verschoor said.

Inclusion BC has been working intensively with the government, our members and others to identify and address the urgent needs of people with intellectual disabilities in BC’s COVID-19 response. We will continue to reach out and utilize the full capacity of our provincial movement as BC ad-justs to this evolving threat

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Media Contact
Dawn Steele
Inclusion BC Communications
604 374-1530

Advocacy Support:
Call (toll free) 1-844-488-4321

Inclusion BC
Inclusion BC is a non-profit federation working with partners to build community and to enhance the lives of children, youth, adults with intellectual disabilities and their families by supporting abilities, promoting action and advancing rights, responsibilities and social justice. Our vision is a world where we all belong.

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