Letter: A Social Budget Is Necessary to Answer Urgent Needs!

The Provincial Government Isn’t Doing Enough to Help Social Services

In the past years, particularly the last year and a half, people with disabilities, their families, and many groups that represent them have been trying to grab the attention of elected representatives and of managers of the Health and Social Services Network on the urgency of answering their needs.

After being majorly impacted by the compressions and the reorganization set by the Couillard-Barrette-Leitao trio, we had hoped the election-minded budget presented in the Spring of 2018 would address, at least partly, the important problem of access to services and of the never-ending waiting lists in the programs and services of the Health and Social Services Network. In the end, shy announcements were to be invested in a next mandate, and have been diluted in the cacophonies of the electoral campaign and its pre-selected engagements, which were focused primarily on curative health, its hospitals, ERs, and doctors.

The CAQ government has now been governing for over four months and, a few weeks away from its important first budget, we still have no idea what orientations it intends to take in matter of health and, particularly, social services. Yes, social services, because for individuals with disabilities and their families, home support, family support, rehabilitation services, specialized housing, and socio-professional activities are essential programs that enable their capacity to overcome limitations and have an active social participation.
Currently, we are still in the dark regarding whether Danielle McCann, the Minister of Health, or Lionel Carmant, the Deputy Minister of Health, is responsible for these programs…

As a matter of fact, in this climate of confusion in the ministry, it has been impossible for us to obtain a meeting with either one of them to testify on the urgency to reinvest services that have been ignored or battered in the past years.

The promises the CAQ made during the electoral campaign were very specific and the actual government seems to want to apply the same recipe, without a global perspective, nor long-term action plan, nor the budget to support it. To illustrate this subdivided approach, we can look at Deputy Minister Carmant’s principal announcement regarding early screenings for all children under five years old. The idea is interesting, but it confronts itself to the necessity to hire hundreds of professionals in health and education networks, which are both in important deficits, to respond to the demands of the programs that already exist!

Our apprehension is met with additional concerns when we hear many cabinet members have repeated a so called “preventative message” concerning the billions in surpluses accumulated, which will not be used to reinvest into public services and social programs. Additionally, the ministers are asked to engage in compressions of nearly a billion to accomplish those surplus promises!

On our side, our message is that the priority of the next budget should be to answer the needs of people and families who have suffered and still suffer from the lack of essential services to which they have a right–rights that are currently being violated. Our promise is to keep reminding the government of those urgent needs and to reclaim equality and dignity!

Mathieu Francoeur and Florence Tiffou of the Mouvement PHAS (Personnes handicapées pour l’accès aux services)