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People with disabilities need more support amid COVID-19 outbreak: advocate

In this illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP-CDC via AP, File

A local advocate is calling on the province to improve support for people with disabilities amid COVID-19 pandemic

Family, friends of individuals needing care are worried their loved ones aren't getting the support they need

Social services have been instructed to continue to providing care

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The province has not shown a commitment to protecting people with disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak, according to one advocate.

Local disability rights leader Al Etmanski says he has been in contact with families and individuals who rely on services regulated by Community Living BC.

“They’re worried that their sons and daughters are not being supported in their homes or in their places of residence,” he says.

He explains there’s been a slow response to help people with disabilities and they need more support, saying staff should be moved from other programs to help.

He says some service providers are following guidelines and cancelling programs.

“Service providers, essentially, have already taken the initiative. Many of them have already begun to deploy their staff to ensure that they’re supporting people in the family home, if they’re with family or if they’re living outside the family home,” he says.

“It’s just not happening universally and it’s not happening fast enough.”

Without a strong enough mandate from the province to service-providers, Etmanski has doubts about the current standard of care.

“There’s nothing that I have seen that gives me any confidence that they are paying attention to the needs of people with disabilities.”

Social service organizations have been instructed to continue providing service while still practising social distancing, and keeping up high cleaning standards.

But Etmanski explains some service providers fail to maintain necessary social distancing, and he says some social workers have had trouble accessing medical equipment they need.

While the provincial health officer has not said to shut down day programs, Etmanski argues it needs to happen right away and staff should instead be used where they are needed urgently in people’s homes and residential programs.

A statement from CLBC says the health and safety of staff, service providers and individuals is a top priority.

“We are following the advice of the Provincial Health Officer and health professionals and communicating that outward,” the statement reads. “The PHO does not recommend suspending social services, and instead encourages social service organizations to continue providing their important services, and consider adapting them as much as possible to support: Social distancing (i.e., having space of 2 metres, or two arm lengths, between individuals); Hand washing facilities; Minimum twice daily cleaning of high contact surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, faucet handles, computer keyboards, light switches etc.)”

With files from Martin MacMahon