I believe in orderly and reasonable negotiation and following proper channels and so I was reluctant to write this letter to the editor, but I have already written (then) Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard and have spoken personally with premiers Selinger and Doer about a serious issue — all with little result!
What prompted me to write this letter are comments made recently by Premier Greg Selinger and Ms. Howard (now finance minister) concerning the Canadian census. They claim the last census missed 18,000 Manitobans.
We agencies providing shelter and care for people living with intellectual challenges know all too well what it’s like to have a sector of Manitoba’s population “overlooked!”
I speak on behalf of hundreds of people — faceless and voiceless Manitobans — whose needs are being overlooked in this province.
Because of underfunding by the province, agencies are forced to operate “mini institutions” providing only the very basic of care to their residents and in many cases are unable to provide the enhanced living standards that everyone in this province deserves.
Some agencies are understaffed, putting residents at risk and burning out employees at the same time.
Being able to offer starting wages barely above minimum and asking their staff members to perform duties often found only in hospitals, group home doors have become revolving doors, resulting in high staff turnover and a staff in constant training mode.
While group homes are funded to provide a starting wage barely above minimum wage, many fast-food outlets in Brandon maintain a starting wage of close to $16 an hour.
Ironically, the government determines the level of care required for agency residents, but has failed to provide the funds necessary to do it.
Things have become so desperate that some agencies, in an attempt to offer staff a fair wage, have re-mortgaged their facilities and opened lines of credit, both non-sustainable solutions to a very serious problem.
One southwestern Manitoba agency is perilously close to closing its homes and selling its assets to avoid financial liability.
So, while not prone to writing letters like this, I cannot in good conscience continue to let these faceless, voiceless Manitobans continue to go unnoticed and their needs unmet.
I would ask if the conscience of the Government of Manitoba can allow this to continue?
Bill Turner, chair
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 20, 2013