Family Alliance Ontario (FAO), with support from founding members, prepared a letter to address the unfolding crisis facing vulnerable people with disabilities and their families. As a member of FAO, Family Network Thames Valley is collaborating in sharing this information and ensuring that families have the opportunity to advocate. If you are concerned about the well being of your loved one and their access to adequate care in the event that they become seriously ill, please consider reading the following and adding your name to this letter.
Edit April 24, 2020: The deadline to submit signatures to this letter has passed, but we will continue to keep the letter posted here and will update this page with any responses from the government. If you are looking for ways to advocate or connect, please view our COVID-19 Resource Page.
April 17, 2020
Dear Hon. Premier Ford, Hon. Deputy Premier and Minister Elliott, and Hon. Minister Smith:
RE: COVID-19 Impact on Families Caring for Vulnerable People with Disabilities at Home
We, the undersigned, share grave concerns regarding Ontario's non-response to mitigate the impact of the major surge in COVID Pandemic on tens of thousands of Ontario families; many of whom are senior and/or themselves vulnerable, who are caring for a very vulnerable family member with a disability. As disability organizations, we write in particular to underscore the disproportionate and adverse impact that this continued non-response will have on people with disabilities and their families and to make recommendations.
The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting families in our communities caring for persons with disabilities at home: our communities are more vulnerable to the virus and are being severely impacted physically, emotionally and financially by the necessary emergency response measures, like physical distancing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) recommendations, which interfere with the supports they need for daily living or is simply impossible.
Ontario families are filling the gaps in disability supports for their loved ones. They have to step up and step away from other responsibilities and employment. These families are personally absorbing the costs of COVID-19. Families are terrified of what will happen if they themselves become infected and must self-quarantine. Panic is pervasive and severe mental health breakdowns are likely. Who will step in and provide that care?
Ontario must respect the human rights of all persons, including persons with disabilities and their families. Even though it is an emergency situation, the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be used as justification for discrimination. The rationing of scarce resources in both the health care and the Developmental Services system during this health crisis cannot be used as justification for discrimination.
To this end, we make the following specific recommendations:
1) People with disabilities and their families must have equitable access to Personal Protective Equipment and sanitation supplies to protect their families and the people who support them.
2) People with disabilities and their families must have immediate access to financial resources. Due to the mandated emergency measures families are losing long time support workers who must now choose between part time work with a family or full-time work with increased pay within long term care or a service agency.
3) Families need to be given the same consideration for COVID related expenses that are given to transfer payment agencies.
4) COVID is a crisis on its own: complicating that fact are the added challenges that families face when providing care without adequate assistance, resulting in significant increased risks. Families are watching their children regress which results in significant increased risks. Families have attested over time that freely given family to family support is essential.
5) Children and adults with disabilities must be allowed to have a family member or trusted support person accompany them when accessing all medical treatment including hospitals. In order to ensure direct assistance with challenging communication, behaviour and comprehension as well as unique medical challenges.
Every family is just one exposure away from a COVID crisis.