CUPE Local 2345 and Community Living Windsor have joined together to express shared concerns and a joint commitment to secure adequate funding for our sector.
We jointly want to ensure the continued delivery of quality supports and services, but it is clear we need more money from the provincial government.
What’s new about our approach?
For years, support workers, unions, agencies and families in the developmental services sector have campaigned/lobbied the government separately for better resources to maintain quality supports and services and compensate workers fairly. While these separate campaigns have had varying degrees of success, there has been no fundamental change in the government’s approach to funding.
We believe it is time to join forces and work together to lobby for a more meaningful response from the provincial government.
The timing is crucial because the provincial government is set to introduce a “transformation” plan that will bring many changes to our sector. This is why we believe it is proactive for agencies, CUPE support workers, people supported and families to discuss how we can best strengthen supports and services and address chronic underfunding.
What needs to change?
The provincial government must show a real commitment to individuals who have an intellectual disability by increasing agency funding to ensure quality supports and services are maintained.
Community Living agencies and support workers provide quality supports and services despite tremendous, mounting challenges posed by provincial underfunding. The system of community-based services is under extraordinary stress and faces growing instability.
Since the mid 1990’s, developmental service agencies have struggled with first, 5% base budget cuts, followed by years with no increases. There were minimal base budget increases in 2004/05 and 2005/06, including some agency revitalization funding, but this did not even keep up with the pace of inflation.
Recent funding announcements, while much needed, do not address the long-standing issues created by chronic underfunding.
Provincial Underfunding of Developmental Services Impacts…
1. Consistency of supports
One of the most important things for people supported and their families is having consistent support from staff who understand their individual goals, outcomes and needs. Inadequate funding however jeopardizes this consistency, as it results in unacceptable staff turnover, along with recruitment and training challenges.
2. Ability to meet increasing demands
Individuals who have an intellectual disability and receive services are ageing. Many have increasing challenges. These demands for support are in addition to the many people who sit on waiting lists. As agencies and support workers struggle with increasing workloads, provincial funding has not kept pace with the demand or the realities of providing quality services. As challenges increase, funding for staffing must increase.
3. Staff recruitment, retention and training
Low wage rates
Because wage rates are low, Community Living agencies struggle to retain skilled support workers.
A research study in 2000 found that developmental support workers earn 25-30% less than other social service staff in comparable jobs within hospitals, Boards of Education, directly operated government facilities and Children’s Aid Societies.
Not surprisingly, low wages mean many support workers must hold multiple jobs to make an adequate income, until they find higher paid work elsewhere – creating unacceptable staff turnover.
Finding Qualified Staff
Low wage rates also dissuade young people from entering the developmental services field. There is a diminishing pool of qualified potential employees.
Agencies must have adequate funding resources to ensure workers have the necessary skills and training to sustain quality services.
§ Community Living Windsor has a high number of part-time workers, 182 compared to only 119 full-time, and staff turnover in 2005 was 19% for part-time and casual staff.
§ St. Clair College (Chatham Campus) and Fanshawe College in London has experienced low enrolment rates for the Developmental Support Worker program.
§ Conversely, Algonquin College in Ottawa – an area with the highest wage rates in the province – has experienced recurring wait lists for its Developmental Support Worker program.
What does this mean for the quality of services?
§ In the Windsor/Essex area, there are at least 300 adults and many children who are waiting for supports and services
§ Any significant staff turnover, as well as a growing casual and part-time workforce, ultimately impacts on the quality and consistency of support for individuals and their families.
§ Underfunded agencies are struggling to hire support workers as the number of casual and part-time workers grows.
§ Because compensation packages are lower for part-time staff, turnover rates are higher than for full-time workers. As part-time workers find new jobs, employers have no choice but to use scarce funding resources to train new staff, rather than add services and supports or improve wages for workers.
What about government accountability?
We believe that the provincial government has a responsibility to adequately fund developmental services to support individuals who have an intellectual disability and their families. However, the reality is that the lack of adequate multi-year provincial funding for developmental services short changes vulnerable people
How can you help?
1. Watch for a notice of a special community meeting in the fall. Please make every effort to attend
We are planning an opportunity for individuals, families, friends, agencies, support workers and union representatives to discuss how we can work together to lobby the provincial government for adequate funding for developmental services.
2. Watch for future information articles.
3. For additional information, suggestions or feedback, feel free to contact:
Community Living Windsor
CUPE Local 2345