Monday, December 27, 2010

Emotional Abuse of Workers vs. Those Who are Disabled

The sad part about disability and/or the poverty story is that there are often times when we were led into the poverty trap due to circumstances beyond our control. It could be a family break-up, the illness of a family member, alcoholism or addiction of a family member, attitudes of family and or society, or a whole host of other things. It’s too bad society insists on judging the person and not the circumstances that led that person to where they are today. Often, the circumstances are those of a tragedy, not that of laziness.

There is a word, more like words for how society and, in some cases, our families respond to it. It's called emotional abuse and bullying.

Statements are made that are not based on fact and it can lead to oppression.

The one that blew my mind is the new signs I see posted up in the rehab hospital.

I'll give you the wording of one, and then ask you to think about your own situation as a poor person who lives on ODSP? The similarities are shocking.
Workplace bullying - sometimes it's physical, sometimes it isn't. . .
  • Social isolation (silent treatment)
  • Rumours
  • Personal attack on your private life
  • Excessive or unjustified criticism
  • Over-monitoring of work
  • Verbal aggression
  • Withholding job responsibility
  • Trivial fault finding
  • Replacing proper work with demeaning jobs
  • Setting unrealistic goals or deadlines
You can report these in confidence to your employer

Let's work together to make our workplace safe and respectful. Ontario Safety Association for Community & Healthcare.
Now let’s break this down and do a comparative analysis between an employee and a person who has a disability and is forced to live on ODSP:
  • Social isolation - √ - we can't afford to take part in things because we are on ODSP

  • Rumours - √ - the auditor general and the media cite evidence of abuse. They then tighten up the rules. No stats to prove the abuse exists, is required. Nor can it be produced.

  • Personal attack on your private life - √ - this happens every time ODSP asks us to be accountable.

    Why is it any of their business how I spend my money from a settlement; one that was awarded for pain and suffering? The rules were followed exactly, yet still they are harassing me.

    Why can ODSP doubt the existence of a health condition or disability when the doctor says it exists?

  • Excessive and unjustified criticism - √ - this can apply to all the times ODSP asks us to prove ourselves, the media reports that we cheat the system - have too many riches, should get a job, or whatever.

  • Over-monitoring of work - √ - but this is not ODSP. This happens in the workplace.

  • Verbal aggression - n/a to this discussion

  • Withholding job responsibility - √ - employment supports does not promote people with disabilities getting jobs that are career oriented and will give the person a chance to earn more than minimum wage. The job responsibilities are withheld because it is recognized that we have limited educational or work experience background.

  • Trivial fault finding - √- "you didn't provide the right document" (even though they may have lost it or left it sitting on their desk), "your income is cut off" (for not being accountable - even though we may have been totally honest and provided the correct documents. Alternatively, we are doubted if the reason we didn't claim income is because we didn't work that month).... and the best one of all - you have paid back all the money you owe (when you returned a cheque they sent you in error).

  • Replacing proper work with demeaning jobs - √ (see above)

  • Setting unrealistic goals or deadlines - √ - in some cases it is unrealistic to expect people to work due to issues related to their disabilities.

    Those who do go through employment supports, may take longer to achieve their goals because of barriers or limits related to their disability.

    For ODSP to close a file because we weren't fast enough to get the full-time, or part-time job, is unrealistic.
If you read the various info sheets on emotional abuse, you will see people with disabilities often are subjected to that as well.

Any policy that requires one to fend for oneself irregardless of their disability which prevents them from doing it the same way a non-disabled adult can do, is abuse. We are not super-human. Therefore the limits of our disability must be taken into account.

For example, the government stopped funding for Physio and Occupational Therapy. At first, the programs continued to exist in the hospitals. Now cost cutting measures have made the programs unreachable. If one is on ODSP and can't afford to pay for this type of health care, then we will become more disabled and be forced to do without a replacement of a mobility device.

If barriers to our disabilities prevent us from taking part in mainstream life, and ODSP is keeping our income low with the idea that it may force us to work, we must do without (if we can't work) or work and watch ODSP and Subsidized Housing take more than half of the extra earnings away. This too is abuse; it is emotional abuse.

If you have a disability that requires you to depend on a home care worker and you have play by the agency's rules (i.e. give up part of your life so you can be home to receive their service at a time that is convenient to them), then it's abuse.

If the workers chew you out for never being home when they want you to be there (because you were out enjoying your life), then it is abuse.

If the agency says the workers have a right to enjoy family life at home so they won't send you a worker in early morning or late evening so they can accommodate your desire to go out for the day, then it is abuse. By citing the excuse that the workers have a right to a family life, they are saying indirectly that people with disabilities do not; that we must accommodate the rights of the service providers.

If a home-health-care agency denies adequate home supports, to someone whose family won't provide for it either, then it is abuse.

FYI the policy of the CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) is to provide home visits once a week to those who need personal care. The test for determining this is to ask if a client can take a bath or dress independently. If the answer is yes, then they are deemed to not need the service. It doesn't matter that the person may not be able to do the cleaning or cooking because the disability, or a barrier, prevents them from doing so.

Without the support of the CCAC, the person with the disability would either have to do without and learn to accept the mounting dirt and hunger that they feel, or they will have to hire someone else to do the job. Try doing that on ODSP. It doesn't provide for this type of added expense.

If the home health care agency adopts a policy whereby they will no longer physically help a person transfer into bed; they require them to buy a piece of expensive equipment that ODSP will not pay for instead, it is abuse. It is even worse when one can normally transfer into bed independently, but because of minor surgery, they can't. To tell one to sleep in their wheelchair because they do not own the equipment is abuse. I had to do this once.

As an aside, apparently the agency no longer trains the employees to physically assist with transfer. Heaven help the client if we happen to get another ice storm or something that knocks out the power for several days.

If the home health care supporters spill in our oven and are not allowed to clean it because they can't do heavy cleaning or be exposed to heavy chemicals, then it is abuse to expect the disabled client to clean up after them, or hire someone to do it.

If a worker breaks something because they were careless and the employer protects the worker with the excuse that they're human and are entitled to make some 'mistakes' and, we the client are not allowed to be assigned another worker because the agency says we are being too picky, then it is abuse. The agency must have a willingness to acknowledge that, when a client complains about a worker being clumsy, that they have a legitimate beef and should not have to pay for the mistakes of their workers. ODSP does not pay to replace things either

By translation, this line that protects the workers is saying that they are human (have more rights) than we do. This is emotional abuse.

If you ask your family for support, and they say it is obviously not needed because the home-health care providers are not providing it, then you have to do without. This too, is abuse.

If you need a mobility device, and you don't meet the criteria for ADP (the Assistive Devices Program) because the time is too soon or you can't get an Occupational Therapist to prescribe it, you must do without. This too, is abuse. I would like to see one of these decision makers do without their legs or the support if they ever break their leg or lose their ability.

If you buy your mobility device while you were working, lose your job, and then it breaks down, ODSP will not pay to repair it. Why? Because it was not purchased through the other government program. You do without or learn how to fix it yourself.

All these are examples of emotional abuse, and indeed, neglect, on the part of our government.

I'm sure there are tons of other examples as well; ones that are relevant to other kinds of disabilities, but for now I have stuck with what I know; the limits of using a wheelchair.

These untold stories of what goes on behind the scenes don't get out to the general public, so here's hoping this Blog will help.

Until word gets out, the emotional abuse and bullying from family, friends, the government, and service providers, will continue. Please speak to your MPP and help us to right this wrong.

Please read my other Blogs:

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