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A new initiative recently undertaken by Abilities Manitoba will help partner agencies develop a framework that will make it easier for them to determine if personal outcomes for the people they serve are being achieved.

Work on the Quality Assurance Framework Project began this past November and is expected to continue until the end of this year or early next year. It is being done in partnership with the provincial government and the Department of Families.

Leanne Fenez, Director of Special Projects for St.Amant, has been seconded  to be the Quality Assurance Lead for the project. Fenez says the primary objective of the project is to determine what a good life looks like for someone living with an intellectual disability. The project will also look at how that can be objectively measured, what standards need to be implemented to ensure that happens and what tools are required to help service providers build additional capacity.

“We think it’s a wonderful opportunity, one we haven’t really had before,” Fenez says.

“We want to create something people can aspire to, that will inspire people to do good work and result in good lives for the people we serve.”

As part of the project, Fenez met with representatives of more than 50 service agencies from across the province, including Epic Opportunities, between last November and January of this year. They were asked to detail current efforts regarding quality assurance, what changes they would like to see made and any concerns they might have regarding quality assurance standards.

Fenez also met face-to-face with people living with an intellectual disability, their families and service providers. A total of 230 individuals from six regions were asked to provide their opinions on what makes a good life for someone living with an intellectual disability and what they require from service providers to make that happen. An additional 90 people participated in an online survey. Further consultation was planned in the North in early May.

The feedback the committee received from people who receive support services and their families was frank, but largely positive, according to Fenez.

“A lot of people said to us I love being able to share my opinion. The reality is a lot of people have not been asked enough about what they think,” she says.

“I have found it to be such a profound experience. It’s been so valuable at checking your ego at the door. You think you know everything and then suddenly realize you don’t. People were very open about showing us what is going on in their lives, what works and what doesn’t work.”

Fenez stresses that the project isn’t about promoting compliance or creating checklists. She says the ultimate goal is to improve the quality of services people receive by creating common expectations and measurements.

One of the added benefits of the study, she says, is that it will help service providers determine how best to direct their energy and resources.

“A lot of times agencies tend to work in silos. This is really an opportunity to share information. Good things are happening everywhere so why are we not sharing (that)? We are far better when we work together,” Fenez says.

The next step for project organizers will be compiling all of the information that was received from the various focus groups. They are being assisted with that task by Health in Common, a non-profit group that provides planning and evaluation support.

A mid-term report was expected to be completed by early May. The report will be used to help build a framework that includes suggestions on principals, values and vision, desired outcomes and measurement tools and standards.

Once that preliminary framework is determined, Fenez says the project’s working committee will schedule follow-up meetings with the communities it met with earlier for additional feedback. A final report will then be delivered to Department of Families Deputy Minister Jay Rogers, likely some time in 2019.

Fenez is optimistic that the province will act on the committee’s recommendations.

“We have had the highest assurances that whatever we come up with will be mandatory and required for service providers,” she says.

“We think this is a good opportunity to say if you really want to look at transforming services you have to have expectations of quality and they have to be person-centred and driven by what people want. They can’t be artificial descriptions of what good lives look like.”

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