“I need help with everything,” sketches Caroline Lapensée Savaria, sitting in her wheelchair. “To get up, wash, dress, eat. Even to open my door, my television or my computer. “
Based in an apartment in the Center-Sud district of Montreal, Caroline Lapensée Savaria – who suffered spinal cord decompression in 1997 – benefits from 44.5 hours of service each week from three attendants. An essential aid so that she can stay at home.
But there. One of his attendants left when the COVID-19 crisis hit Quebec. Another plans to leave her post in August. And Caroline Lapensée Savaria now fears that the third will be attracted by Quebec’s offer to recruit 10,000 attendants for CHSLDs by paying them $ 21 an hour for their training, then $ 26 an hour for guaranteed full-time work .
How to keep staff at home in this context? A home attendant – who does the same work as in a CHSLD – is paid between $ 13.10 and $ 15.22 an hour, or half as much. “The government must open its eyes,” claims Caroline Lapensée Savaria. Why don’t the attendants all earn the same salary when they do the same job? “
To the shortage of labor – which had already strongly hit the home care sector – is therefore added, from now on, this pay disparity, a real burden for any disabled person or elderly person wishing to recruit attendants to stay at home. .
This is without counting the Canadian Emergency Benefits (CPU), which arrived at the end of March as a veritable cloud clouding the skies of this vulnerable clientele. France Geoffroy – who became quadriplegic at 17 after having suffered a diving accident – has benefited from the services of home attendants for the past thirty years.
“As soon as the ECP was announced, one of my part-time employees preferred [arrêter de travailler] to receive the benefit. I understand it [puisqu’elle reçoit ainsi une somme plus élevée] », Mentions this professional dancer, seated in her home in Plateau Mont-Royal.
A real combatant journey has thus once again been erected in front of France Geoffroy to fill this aid which is – she too – indispensable. Without forgetting that this turnover of personnel is, moreover, destabilizing. “It is intimate care that they provide to me. And it takes a long time to train them. “
A wage increase – synonymous with recognition for the work done by home workers – would solve many problems, she believes. Visibly angry, France Geoffroy does not fail to speak of an “exploitation” of these agents, very often racialized women.
“SAQ employees are paid more [salaire plancher de 20,46 $ de l’heure] to place bottles of wine on shelves as these attendants who do exceptional work, but not valued. “
As if these attendants, who provide home care, suffer from the same invisibility in public discourse as the people they help.
“We are the neglected, the forgotten of this crisis,” deplores René Ménard, who travels on crutches due to cerebral palsy. Each week, this resident of the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood receives help preparing meals or cleaning up. “But because of the stupidity of the government, there is a shortage of personnel. We are under stress since we never know if we are going to have someone. “
However, this support offered at home, “is the extension of our autonomy,” he said. An autonomy that allows many vulnerable people to stay at home, an avenue that Quebec wishes to encourage, without however allocating the necessary resources.
“It’s as if in their head it’s a solution for tomorrow, not for today. However, these people live in their homes today, “denounces Judy Bambach, executive director of Répit-Ressourcede l’Est de Montréal, which is one of over a hundred social economy companies for home help ( EÉSAD) from Quebec.
“Allowing them to stay at home as long as possible, it reduces the crowds in CHSLDs, while having positive effects on their physical and mental health,” argues François Allard, rights advocate at Ex aequo, an organization that promotes and defends the rights of people with motor disabilities. A more flexible schedule, cohabitation with a lover or even access to personalized dishes are thus within their reach.
There are two main ways to access home support. Caroline Lapensée Savaria and France Geoffroy benefit from their services thanks to the Chèque emploi-service program, which allows users to be directly the employer’s agents, while René Ménard calls on the social economy company Répit-Ressource .
Break in service
The break in service is therefore already there in home support, brand Judy Bambach. Normally, around 100,000 elderly and vulnerable people use the services of the EESAD. In Montreal alone, there are 12,000 users. “But right now, if we manage to help 550, it’s good,” she worries.
“If I put the 12,000 users that we have on the island of Montreal in a single seniors’ residence – since they are the same clientele – and that we learned that on the 100 floors, we served only half a storey, and for everyone else, we close the door, we’re not even going to come in to say hello since the start of COVID, I think people would have been heard much more quickly to say : what’s going on ? “