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Disability support staff in Manitoba battling for pay hike amid cutbacks

A disabled Manitoban requiring support can expect to receive care from around 770 different people in their lifetime.

A disabled Manitoban requiring support can expect to receive care from around 770 different people in their lifetime.

Support staff who work with people with disabilities say their wages need to go up, in order to provide stability for their clients.

“Right now, people who provide support often work two or three jobs so they can stay working in the field, or more often leave, which is why that number 770 comes up,” said Margo Powell of Abilities Manitoba.

Spectators at the International Day for Persons With Disabilities celebration at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Monday morning.
Spectators at the International Day for Persons With Disabilities celebration at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Monday morning. Marek Tkach / Global News

Abilities Manitoba is a network of agencies that exists to improve services for people with disabilities.

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Powell says the amount of support staff cycling through the lives of patients across Manitoba is extremely overwhelming for them.

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“Just last week I heard a story about a family member whose sisters receive support in a community home, calls every staff member Connie because she’s so tired of learning all the different names that she doesn’t even bother anymore,” Powell said.

Rob Edwards has been Gimmi Vaccaro’s main support staff member for over six years, and he’s been working in the field for over 10.

Support Staff worker Rob Edwards assists his client Gimmy Vaccaro with his laundry.
Support Staff worker Rob Edwards assists his client Gimmy Vaccaro with his laundry. Marek Tkach / Global News

His day to day includes playing games with Gimmi, doing laundry with him, taking him to do his shopping and banking, and helping him with personal support.

“I know that at other homes there’s so much turnover that you just don’t make that kind of connection,” Edwards said. “They just have so many people coming in and out of their lives that and the quality of life just isn’t there.”

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READ MORE: More work needed to make Manitoba accessible: disability advocate group

Private- sector disability support staff say they currently make between $12 and $14 an hour.

Powell says they’re pushing the government to raise that to $17 an hour.

“It’s hard to have consistency and a good quality of life when you’re getting to know different people all the time that you might rely on for some very necessary types of support.”

Abilities Manitoba has been rallying the government for a wage increase for year, but with the Pallister government cutting back on health care, spending for a pay hike doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

“We are remaining hopeful, as we have been chatting with the critics and the Liberal Party to hopefully find a solution,” Powell concluded.

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