“Something really needs to scale up here,” said Community Living Ontario’s Director of Policy Gord Kyle, critical of the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ six-month update on the implementation of the Ontario Ombudsman’s 2016 report, Nowhere to Turn.
“A much bigger effort needs to be made, both in the money that’s available and the approaches we use to provide support to people.”
The Ombudsman’s report detailed dozens of key challenges faced by adults who have an intellectual disability in the province, centering on growing waitlists and stagnant funding. It outlined 60 recommendations for improving service, all of which were accepted by Minister Helena Jaczek.
The recent six-month update from the Minister (click here to read it) highlighted the progress made so far and stated, “Our goal is to provide greater flexibility, choice and inclusion in the developmental services that we offer.”
It cited the recent elimination of the 2014 waitlist for Passport funding as an example of its work, and discussed affordable housing solutions and new safety measures for people who have an intellectual disability. However, as detailed in an April of 2017 response to the update (click here to read our response), Community Living Ontario believes the measures are inadequate.
While those on the waitlist for Passport funding in 2014 will receive funds from the 2014 funding commitment, additional people have been added to the waitlist. It’s expected that the waitlist for Passport funding will grow to 11,000 people by the end of the Ministry’s four-year implementation period, with no guarantee of additional funding.“
The Ombudsman’s report indicated that the April 2014 waitlist for adult residential supports was 12,808 people,” reads the response. “The government’s 2014 investment committed to providing new supports for 1,400 people on that waitlist.”
While those 1,400 spots are likely to be filled, Community Living Ontario pointed out that the waitlist for residential services is longer today than it was before the government announced its 2014 funding investments.
Kyle argued that what are referred to as waitlists in the Developmental Services sector are not actually waitlists at all, rather, they are a record of unmet needs. He contrasted the Developmental Services waitlists with those from the health care system.
“If I need a hip replacement, I’m eligible for funding,” he said, “you likely can’t get it tomorrow because there’s a lineup, but usually you’ll know with certainty that you’re scheduled for surgery in six months or four months or nine months.”
In other words, people in that situation may have to endure waitlists, but they know they will be attended to at some point and have a general idea of when that may be. That’s in contrast to the developmental services waitlists, where there is no guarantee of when a person will receive needed funding, if at all, or how much it will be.
Community Living Ontario also finds that the Ministry isn’t being entirely forthright in the amount of ‘new’ residential spaces allocated to people who have an intellectual disability.
Of the 819 residential spaces that the Ministry reported to have been “created” between 2014 and 2016, 535 were allocated to young people transitioning from the child welfare system and who were already funded through that system.
“While Community Living Ontario agrees that it was essential that these young people receive the support they need,” assures the response, “we challenge the Ministry’s contention that it has created new funded services for them, given that they were already in receipt of government-funded residential supports.”
“The Ombudsman went into this process identifying that the supports and services provided to people who have an intellectual disability were in a crisis situation,” said Kyle, “It is clear that the crisis still exists.”
“While addressing the crisis will require a very significant new investment of government funding in support and services, it is difficult to justify not doing so, given the overwhelming need.”
Community Living Ontario believes that the discretionary approach, where the government is not legally required to provide funding for developmental services, is not working. It is time to provide an entitlement to developmental services for those who are eligible. Such entitlements exist for other government funded services such as ODSP income support and health care services.
“People and families often face a lifetime of stress, uncertainty and crisis, while the support and services, when finally provided, are often far more expensive than they might otherwise have been,” added Kyle.
Community Living Ontario’s response concludes that policy reform and additional funding are required in order to significantly improve people’s lives, and that the Ministry of Community and Social Services cannot do everything itself; the task will require cooperation from the community and many branches of government.
“It’s an issue of conscience,” Kyle mused, “for government to say ‘Look, we’ve identified that there are people who are not going to be able to fully engage and live their life in their community without some assistance.” The assistance can come from lots of places, but there’s a role that government can and should play in supporting people.”
Daniel Share-Strom, Community Living Ontario