Memo to: People we Support, Families, Guardians and Skills Society Employees
Re: Skills Society Relaunch Plan – Prevention and Preparedness Regarding the Novel-Corona Virus (COVID-19)
From: Executive Director and Senior Leadership of Skills Society
June 23rd, 2020 Update
We continue to follow direction and information provided by Provincial and Federal Governments and Public Health Authorities. As you know, the situation with COVID-19 is constantly evolving and we are always working diligently to be as responsive to new information as possible and do everything in our power to protect the citizens with disabilities we serve, our employees and community. As of today we continue to have NO confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst anyone we support, nor any of our employees. This is partly to do with our cautious approach and partly due to luck as community transmission is increasing, although still is low at present.
Message from Executive Director, Ben Weinlick
Skills Society Relaunch Package
Attached you will find our Skills Society Relaunch Package. As outlined in the plan, Stage 2 for Skills Society’s Relaunch begins June 22, 2020. Our Relaunch package consists of three parts:
- Skills Society Relaunch Plan
- Individual COVID-19 Relaunch Plan Template
- Roommate Agreement During COVID-19 Template
These documents have been designed to be used together to support people served, families, guardians, and staff in navigating the relaunch. Additional information on each of these documents can be found towards the end of this memo.
Navigating the Provincial Relaunch
Developing this relaunch package has been some of the most complex work we have undertaken in 41 years of serving people with disabilities. As outlined in greater depth in the Skills Society Relaunch Document – we are facing numerous tensions, uncertainties, and challenges with COVID-19 and the provincial relaunch including:
- Striving to inform and protect the health of people we serve as best we can
- Safeguarding employees
- Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of people we serve, families and employees
- Ensuring we have enough staffing to safely support people during the pandemic
- Recognizing the people we serve direct their own lives and make their own decisions
- Acknowledging that most people we serve do not live alone, but with 1-2 roommates whom we also support
- Helping people we support be aware of mandatory health orders from the CMOH in place for all Albertans such as the isolation requirements and legal restrictions on gatherings
The development of this package has required careful consideration and attempts to strike a balance between trying to keep people as safe as possible while also supporting people’s rights, responsibilities, and decision making power. This package has been developed thoughtfully with testing and feedback from a selection of guardians and people served. We also made countless edits based on critique and constructive feedback from Skills Society Leadership, the Office of the Public Guardian, and feedback from the Skills Society Board of Directors.
Some Important Considerations
- It’s important that people we support and guardians acknowledge that homes where we support people are not “Skills Homes” or “Our group homes”. Skills Society does not operate licensed facilities. We support people in their own homes and provide support services based on requests from individuals served and approved funding from Government of Alberta PDD services.
- Many people we support have roommates whom they live with. Roommates need to consider each other’s needs and support each other to be as safe as possible. Skills Society requires that our employees follow all policies and safety procedures, including COVID-19 safety procedures. Skills Society can ensure our employees follow safety protocols, but we cannot determine how individuals and guardians decide to conduct themselves.
We ask that you consider your roommates’ health, support each other to be as safe as possible, and follow provincial and federal COVID-19 orders and recommendations, while balancing these with mental and physical wellbeing needs. COVID-19 is likely to be with us in Canada and a threat to ‘at-risk individuals’ until a vaccine is created. Reasonable safeguards will need to be considered until a vaccine is acquired.
The Principles that Guide Our Approach
The following four principles continue to guide us as we navigate the relaunch:
- Cautious – Safeguarding people we serve and employees as best we can
- Balanced – Always balancing precautions with safeguarding the mental and physical well being of the people we serve.
- Responsive – Evolving as we learn new information and receive different recommendations from Health Authorities.
- Informed – Incorporating the latest information and evidence from Health Authorities and our ministry, CSS/PDD.
A Cautious Approach
With the provincial relaunch and reopening we are starting to see a small rise in community transmission cases in Edmonton. On June 22nd at least 5 restaurants in Edmonton closed due to patrons or staff having confirmed COVID-19 (Article link here). Covid-19 is still a serious threat to people at-risk of complications.
What has also changed, is that in the beginning of COVID-19 (March 2020), more people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s were contracting COVID-19. Currently the cases on the rise are in people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. In this link you can see stats of where in Edmonton cases are rising, and how many cases have recovered.
In our relaunch documents we are diligent to share the cautions and strong recommendations from Skills Society and CMOH for people at-risk of complications due to COVID-19. Skills Society has many safeguards and procedures that our employees are required to follow through Stage 2. We ask that these procedures are respected and that it be recognized that they are put in place to keep people we serve and staff safe.
What is changing with Stage 2 of Skills’ relaunch, is that more decisions related to going out into community and having visitors inside and outside the home are in the hands of people we serve and their guardians. To help with safe decision making and strategies to keep people as safe as possible, we created the individual and roommate COVID-19 plans.
More Info on the Different Parts of Our Relaunch Package
Skills Society Relaunch Plan → View the Plan Here
This is a comprehensive document that outlines our approach to the relaunch as well as the recommendations and expectations in place across all aspects of the organization.
Individual Covid-19 Plans → View the Template Here
The Individual Covid-19 plans will be completed as part of a process facilitated by Managers, Coordinators, and Team Leaders with the people we serve and guardians where applicable. This document, and the facilitated process, will support the individual in exploring their own preferences and risk tolerance during COVID-19 relaunch and prompt them to make decisions that reflect their wishes and needs related to outings, visitors, and in home living. Built into this document are summaries of CMOH (Chief Medical Officer of Health) recommendations and places for individuals to go for more information as they learn and identify their wishes and needs.
For those who live with others supported by Skills Society, we ask that you also work with your roommate(s) to complete the “Roommate Agreement for COVID-19 Relaunch”. The conversations will be facilitated by a team leader/coordinator or Manager.
Roommate Agreements During COVID-19 Relaunch → View the Agreement Here
This document is meant to help facilitate conversations between people supported by Skills Society living with one another in their own home(i.e., roommates). Although this document will represent an agreement based on one conversation, we encourage roommates to continually have open discussion and conversation with one another as circumstances related to COVID-19 change. As we do not run any licensed health facilities, but support people with disabilities in their own homes in community, the wishes and preferences of citizens we serve are a key part of our relaunch strategy.
Federal Wage Top Up Information For Staff
Alberta Council of Disability Service Providers (ACDS) has not heard anything about the status of the wage top up. The last information they have is that it has to go through Alberta Labour; CSS(PDD) has put disability support workers on Labour’s radar, but the decision is made by Labour and Treasury within the Government of Alberta.
As discussed in our virtual employee gathering last month Skills Society is not funded by Alberta Health of AHS. We are mainly funded through the Community and Social Service Ministry under PDD and small contracts for Children’s Services (FSCD) and Acquired Brain Injury. Some other organizations have both health funded facilities and PDD funded services. In those orgs some staff may have received a wage top up through health/AHS funding from the government. We continue to advocate and hope this comes through for our essential service disability sector (CSS/PDD funded) which we all know is equally as important as health services.
We greatly appreciate your patience and support as we continue to navigate these times. Please know that we are working our hardest to keep the people we serve and our staff as safe as possible.
Ben Weinlick, Executive Director and the Senior Leadership Team
For More Information
- If you are a family or guardian and require additional information please be in touch with the manager associated with your loved one’s support.
- If you are a Skills Employee and require additional information you can be in touch with your supervisor or pandemic coordinators, Linda or Ed at 780-496-9686.
- Keep up to date on our COVID-19 Resources section on our website: https://www.skillssociety.ca/covid-19-resources/.
Previous Public Memos
Public Memos are available on our website under the ‘news’ tab.
Note: What’s happening with COVID-19 is changing rapidly. We become aware of new information from the provincial and federal governments and health authorities on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. We are working hard to be responsive to this new information as it becomes available. As such, information in this memo may change and quickly become outdated. We are doing our best to communicate new information to the people we support, families, guardians, and staff in a timely manner.