Pronounced Deterioration of Living Conditions for People with Disabilities

Reprinted below is a position paper by Amélie Duranleau, Executive Director of the Société québécoise de la déficience intellectuelle, Lili Plourde, Executive Director of the Fédération québécoise de l'autisme and Sylvie Tremblay, Executive Director of the Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers which was published in Le Devoir on October 1.

In recent years, access to housing for people with an intellectual disability, a physical disability or an autism diagnosis has deteriorated. As the pandemic revealed, the situation was already critical. Whether due to a lack of funds, an organizational problem or a lack of political interest, people with disabilities who are housed in the health and social services network have seen their living conditions deteriorate considerably.

These people, most of whom are vulnerable, and their families, are faced with a shortage of places in alternative living environments and an almost total lack of political interest. There is virtually no support from the Ministry of Health and Social Services or the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for the creation of community-managed living environments, which only increases the pressure on existing living environments. Yet the federal government has committed significant funds to the construction of housing resources for people with disabilities. What has happened to this money?

Worse still, for several years now, the Société québécoise de la déficience intellectuelle has been noticing a resurgence of institutions in the province. Of course, they no longer resemble the ones popularized in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: they are smaller, the deprivations of freedom are less obvious, but people are still locked up, their rights are violated and they have no control over their lives. Services are limited and living conditions are often inadequate. It should be noted that the rampant privatization of housing resources has not helped either, as working conditions are often deplorable.

For its part, the Fédération québécoise de l'autisme has been pointing out for many years the serious dysfunctions of the health and social services network, particularly in terms of housing. In 2019, it had also painted a picture of the living environments for autistic adults other than the family home. Beyond these observations, a series of recommendations were made to improve these living environments and to guarantee a sufficient number of adapted places with reasonable waiting times.

The Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (RPCU) adds that as users of the health and social services network, we have fundamental rights recognized by the Act respecting health services and social services (LSSSS), including the right to receive the care required by our condition and the right to accommodation.

The articles published recently prove that there is a real urgency to review the existing models and to adopt mechanisms to control and verify the quality of these living environments. These mechanisms existed less than 15 years ago and were abandoned as the system was reformed. It is important to restore them as soon as possible. Why not generalize this possibility to all living environments?

Ultimately, investing more money in a broken system will not solve the multiple problems. What is needed here is a real rethinking of existing models and ways of doing things. New, more inclusive models are needed, more support services and home care must be mobilized, and the community must be engaged. People with disabilities, regardless of their level of need, want to be included in the community, they do not dream of living in nursing homes or "seniors' homes."

The current model of segregation and institutionalization, particularly through recourse to the private sector, which is becoming widespread, is worrisome and suggests even more massive setbacks for people with disabilities. Faced with this state of affairs, we must rely on the ideas and capacities for self-determination of the persons concerned, the commitment of families, the community sector and researchers.

It remains for the government and its various departments to do what they are elected and appointed to do: work for the common good, without excluding the most vulnerable. The state can and must do better.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 24 - October 3, 2022

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