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Slow ministry phone response concerns advocate for people with disabilities

A Victoria advocate for people with disabilities said it's getting harder to get help from the government over the phone.

“Before the holidays I could always eventually reach a human,” said Renée Ahmadi with the Action Committee of People with Disabilities in a letter.

“Now, after a considerable hold I am transferred to a messaging system where I am asked to leave my personal information and to wait for a call back,” she said. “This returned call is taking at least four days.”

While she's finding it hard to reach the ministry herself, the phone system is becoming yet another barrier for people who already have a hard time getting help, she said. “I am . . . very concerned for the large population of people living in poverty in Victoria who are on assistance who can not even begin to have their requests or questions responded to.”

People are forced to choose between joining long lines at ministry offices or waiting to have their phone calls returned, she said. “This is putting people at further risk and it is unjust and totally inaccessible to those most vulnerable. This population needs to have access to services in the simplest and most efficient way possible.”

In a separate letter to minister Rich Coleman, she said, “This ministry has become very inaccessible, especially for people with disabilities.”

A ministry spokesperson did not respond to questions about the phone delays by publication time.

At a public meeting on poverty issues in Victoria last week Ahmadi asked Seth Klein, the director of the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, for his thoughts on the phone delays. While the ministry's caseload has increased during the recession, staffing levels have remained steady, he said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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