UCP cut PDD funding to over 170 people

Since releasing their first budget in the autumn of 2019, the UCP have seen over 170 fewer people receiving PDD funding.

Earlier this month, the Alberta Government updated caseload data for the Persons with Developmental Disabilities  program run by the Community and Social Services ministry. The data runs from June 2018 to December 2021.

In June 2018, Alberta had 12,181 PDD cases. A year later, in April 2019, that number had increased to 12,696. That was an additional 515 cases, or an increase of 4.2%, which works out to about 0.35% more cases a month, on average.

April 2019 just happens to be two months after the UCP government was elected.

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A year later—in June 2020—cases had dropped to 12,676. That’s a decrease of 20 cases.

Last June, the PDD caseload had dropped even more, down to 12,534. That’s a loss of 142, nearly 3 times the loss as the previous year, and a drop of 1.1%.

However, by the time 6 months had passed—in December 2021, the most recent data available—PDD cases had started climbing again, finishing at 12,640, an increase of 106, or 0.84%.

Even then, though, it’s still less than the number of cases the UCP inherited when they took office. And there was a drop of 18 cases between November and December 2021.

Here’s what the monthly caseload looks like in a graph.

And before anyone jumps down my throat and says that it was because families were getting federal pandemic benefits, keep in mind that cases had been falling for months before pandemic benefits kicked in during the spring of 2020.

Here’s, take a look at this graph.

During the first year and a half of this graph, the number of PDD cases had been rising pretty consistently. That is until November 2019, the first month after the UCP released their first budget.

Speaking of the 2019 budget, consider this quote from page 93:

Alberta’s benefit rates are much higher than other provinces on social services in several key areas, including AISH benefits. Reform in social services will ensure that vulnerable Albertans continue to receive the support they require.

Ongoing consultation and collaboration will help balance fiscal efficiency with care and service. Caseload growth is a key cost driver with caseloads growing by 17% for AISH, 14% for PDD, and 30% for FSCD over the past 4 years. A full program review will determine what activities provide value while clearing tasks that distract from client service.

“Expense”, Fiscal PLan 2019–23, p. 93

Sounds to me like the UCP felt that the PDD programme (as well as AISH and FSCD) needed some trimming.

By the time March 2020 hit, when pandemic benefits kicked in, PDD cases had already dropped by 36 from their peak in November 2019.

Here’s how the data breaks down by the 7 CSS regions:

North Central670698671527517
North West461486583583581
North East5958595558

All but two of the regions—Calgary and Edmonton—saw a reduction in caseload between June 2020 and December 2021.

And two of the regions had a caseload in 2021 that was lower than what they had 3 and a half years prior: Central, North Central, and North East.

Let’s look at the change in caseloads for each region as a percentage:

Jun 2019Jun 2020Jun 2021Dec 2021
North West5.42%19.96%0.00%-0.34%
North Central4.18%-3.87%-21.46%-1.90%
North East-1.69%1.72%-6.78%5.45%

What we see is that in every region but one, the caseload increased between June 2018 and June 2019. The only decrease was -1.69% in North East.

However, the following year, decreases were seen 3 regions. And the decreases seen in the North Central and Central regions nearly wiped out the increases in cases they say the previous year.

By June of last year, only one region—Calgary—saw an increase. North Central saw the largest decrease of all the region, at over 21%, completely eradicating out the increases they saw in the first year of this dataset.

Likewise, the Central region’s drop of nearly 4.5% made short work of the 3.15% increase seen in 2019. And the loss was even worse when combined with the 2.86% decline the previous year.

And even though the North East region saw an increase of 1.72% in 2020, it was lost when cases dropped by 6.78% by June 2021.

In fact, three of the regions—Central, North Central, and North East—saw large enough losses between June 2020 and June 2021 that it completely undid any gains they had seen in 2019 or 2020.

Calgary is the only region that saw increases in PDD caseload every year.

It’s clear that the Alberta government is not taking on as many FSCD cases as they have in the past, and for some regions, even fewer cases than they were just 2 years ago.

Which shouldn’t be that surprising, given their attitude regarding the cost of the programme, which I highlighted earlier.

Regarding how much the government spends on PDD, I found some interesting information.

In 2018–2019, the last budget year of the NDP, the Alberta government spent $920.89 million on PDD funding that went straight to families supporting persons with disabilities. For the 2022–2023 budget year, the UCP government plans to spend $1.06 billion. That’s an increase of 14.82%.

That seems pretty good, eh? Especially considering the number of cases have dropped.

Well, there are a couple of other things to consider.

First, how much they spend on direct operations of the PDD programme has dropped.

In 2018–2019, before the UCP took power, the Alberta government spent $47.12 million on direct operations for the PDD programme. In this year’s budget, that number has dropped to $39.65 million, a 15.85% decrease.

So, while the amount paid out to PDD families has increased, the amount spent to keep the programme running—including the operation of government-owned facilities to provide supports and services to adults with developmental disabilities in residential care settings—has decreased.

Speaking of which, The number of cases that were administered through government-owned facilities dropped over the last 3.5 years, going from 228 in June 2018 to 195 in December 2021.

The number of cases administered throuh third-party community providers also went down, from 10,578 to 10,559, during the same period.

However, the number of cases that were family managed increased during that period, from 2,204 to 2,680.

Well, no wonder operating costs dropped. If they’re depending on families to manage services themselves, then there’ll be less need for the government to spend more money on government facilities.

Not only that, but the waiting list for PDD services has skyrocketed, going from less than 100 cases in June 2018 to over 500 cases in December 2021.

Persons with Developmental Disabilities”, Alberta Community and Social Services Open Data, January 2022.

Second, during the PC party’s last budget year, the government spent $616.69 million on funding going to PDD recipients. By the end of the NDP’s administration, that had increased by 49.33% to $920.89 million.

Under the UCP, PDD funding to recipient increased (assuming they follow through on budget forecasts) by 14.82%, but it increased by 49.33% under the NDP.

So, the UCP has slowed recipient funding increases, as well as cut direct operations funding. And they have reduced how many people receive PDD funding.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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