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Congregate Day Supports – Building on Common Ground

To reduce the risk of infection during the pandemic, the traditional 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday congregate day supports, have ceased. Support organizations have stepped up in a myriad of ways, adapting through virtual and socially distanced supports. Some people have adapted very well. Others have not.

Going forward, how are we to provide these supports? Once everyone is vaccinated, will it be back to business as usual?

I believe we should seize this opportunity to re-imagine what day supports could look like.

If you asked people who have an intellectual or developmental disability, “In your ideal world, what would you like your daily life to look like?”. I believe most would want the same things as you and I.

They would hope to feel included, have a purpose and contribute meaningfully to their community. People want to explore their potential, have dreams, learn new things, and feel safe. Like you, people who have intellectual disabilities want a social life they can choose, not be told how to spend their days and who to spend it with.

If we asked parents what they want for their sons and daughters, I believe most would provide similar answers.

The same goes for most direct support professionals, managers, and Board members.

If we can all agree that these are typical of the things we all want in our lives, the question then becomes “How might we support “typical” for all?”

What would it take to move towards individualized, community-based supports?

When we attempt to answer these questions, we must also bear in mind that nobody should ever be the victim of another’s good intentions. This will be a shared decision process. We must take the time to listen and respond to each person’s questions: Can I still see my friends? How will you keep people safe? Will I still be able to count on the same hours of support? Then, a support plan must be developed for each person that is flexible to their needs and interests. It will be gradual. It cannot be rushed.

To support this transition, Community Living Ontario and its Executive Directors’ Committee, is hosting a Community of Practice. This will provide a forum for agency staff from across the province, to consider these and other questions. They will collaborate to examine the opportunities and challenges and to learn from others who have travelled this road, including families and people who receive supports. They will build upon the common ground of those good things in life to which we all aspire.

Government, unions, support organizations, families, people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, and people in all communities will need to step up and play their part.

There is evidence. We will be profiling people’s success stories in the coming weeks, of how they are living their lives in community and how they did it.

In this together.

Chris Beesley
Chief Executive Officer
Community Living Ontario