WATCH ABOVE: A disabled woman with two post graduate degrees now faces losing her job because the funding for her attendant care is running out.
TORONTO – A Richmond Hill woman who has two post graduate degrees and a good job at a charity in Barrie faces unemployment for reasons she finds maddening: a lack of funding for her support worker.
“Nobody wants to take responsibility for it and it makes me so angry,” said Jenny Clement.
Clement has cerebral palsy, which limits her ability to do physical tasks. Her attendant J.R. takes care of filing, typing and personal tasks but the funding for his salary is running out.
Her employer, Gilda’s Club, is a non-profit on a tight budget and is unable to afford to pay him, which means Clement will be out of a job as early as the end of September.
“It’s a very sad situation,” she said.
After the story aired an anonymous donor came forward to assist, and the Ontario Disability Support Program found stopgap funding.
But now all of the patchwork support is coming to an end.
Clement suggests the government could save money by paying her support worker: if the government paid J.R.’s wage of $16 per hour, she could keep working and paying taxes. She calculated it would cost the public purse $900 a month less than forcing her out of a job and onto disability benefits.
Advocates for the disabled argue that it makes good economic sense to keep people like Clement employed.
“It’s a very practical thing,” said Sandra Carpenter, the executive director of the Centre for Independent Living Toronto.
“We’ve gotten our heads and hearts around it, but not our pocketbooks.”
Government supports for attendant care focus on assistance in the home with basic tasks like eating and bathing. In the workplace, the onus is on the employer to pay. Governments and large companies can accommodate the extra costs in their business plans however smaller firms and non-profits often cannot.
Asked about Clements’s case, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins issued a statement:
“I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for people living with disabilities to encounter barriers in the workplace. All Ontarians deserve the opportunity to put their skills and talents to work in a fulfilling career… I am working to determine if additional supports are available both within government and in the community sector.”
Hoskins also pointed out that the Liberals have almost doubled funding for home and community care since taking office in 2003.
But despite all that, Clement may well be out of a job within weeks, barring another last minute reprieve.