Lack of training, guides means increased risk of inconsistent support for Albertans with disabilities: auditor general

ByLois C

May 28, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Alberta’s auditor general is warning that a lack of training and formal guides for caseworkers could be leading to inconsistent support being offered to Albertans with disabilities depending on where in the province they live.

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Doug Wylie released a report late Wednesday looking into Alberta’s Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD) program. The program reimburses eligible families for supports and services such as counselling, respite care, medications or footwear, based on their assessed needs.

Wylie’s report found that only some of Alberta’s regional offices offer rate guides laying out how much a family should be reimbursed, leaving the rest to make decisions based only on a caseworker’s judgment and experience. It said the vast majority of staff were not up-to-date on their training, which is essential when so much of the job requires making judgment calls.

“Without improving guides, training, and oversight, the risk of inconsistent decision making will remain higher than necessary so families may not have similar experiences and outcomes for their children with disabilities,” the report says.

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The report says that the process for deciding how much a family is reimbursed for services is ad hoc and varies among regions.

For example, the northwest, Calgary and central regions have guides related to the cost of counselling but the rest of the regions, including Edmonton, do not. The northwest and north-central regions are the only ones with guides dealing with the cost of domestic childcare.

“The recipient shouldn’t be dependent on just the caseworker themselves to the extent of (deciding) what they’re being paid,” Wylie told Postmedia in an interview Wednesday.  “There should be some consistency here and it shouldn’t just be entirely (dependant) on which caseworker you receive.”

Wylie said auditors found that the training program was not being delivered effectively.

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Only 57 of 260 departmental staff had completed all of the mandatory training and that in 70 per cent of cases training modules that are designed to take hours had been completed in 30 minutes or less.

“This system is designed to help ensure that all caseworkers are receiving the same training, which should help again with consistency,” Wylie said.

Wylie made three recommendations to the government, calling on officials to review and update guides to increase consistency, improve training and Increase consistency through effective oversight of caseworkers.

In a statement, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Luan said his department is developing an action plan to address the recommendations.

He said he’s asked officials to review tools to support consistent service delivery as well as training and look at options to streamline the application and assessment process. Staff have also been asked to “implement an approach for oversight and quality control,” he said.

“Community and Social Services is committed to continuing to deliver the FSCD program as consistently and efficiently as possible so all children with disabilities and their families can achieve the best outcomes,” he said.

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By Lois C