Crisis in care for people with developmental disabilities in south eastern Ontario

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     MEDIA RELEASE                                  MAY 11, 2011

Agencies, staff doing “all we can to support families’ needs—province must do the same”

PERTH, Ont. – Provincial funding for supports and services for people with developmental disabilities following the 2011 Ontario budget is welcome, but it’s not enough to ensure existing programs are stabilized and the needs of families on waitlists in south eastern Ontario are met, said advocates for quality community supports at a media conference in Perth today.

For several years, the province has asked agencies that support individuals with a developmental disability to do more with little new funding investment in the sector. In 2008/09, the province required that supports and services delivered by the sector be increased without providing any new funding. In 2010, over $20 million in funding the province had committed agency base budgets was, instead, redirected to pay for changes to the bureaucracy required under new provincial legislation.

Across the province, there are 23,000 people with a developmental disability languishing on waitlists for services – 12,000 of those are waiting for residential supports. In 2008, in the south eastern Ontario area, there were 328 individuals on the waiting list for some form of residential supports. By 2011, the list grew by almost 100 individuals to 427. In 2008,120 individuals were waiting for day supports. By 2011, the number has nearly doubled to 231.

Many families have been on the waitlists for years. “They are losing hope that the province will ever listen to their plight. The long wait and lack of services has a tremendous impact on families,” said Tayside executive director David Hagerman. “The lack of support creates huge stresses for families including family break-up and debilitating effects on other siblings. Sometimes, family income levels drop as parents have to quit their jobs in order to care for their child. While the provincial government has provided some funding to the sector, it is not enough to meet the need. It’s just a finger in the collapsing dike.”

For years, Laurie Gauthier and her 15-year-old son, Cameron, were among those on the waitlist for residential supports. Two-and-a-half years ago, Gauthier was one of those parents who had to quit her job to care for Cameron who has a rare condition called Marinesco-Sjogren Syndrome. There are fewer than 100 cases in the world, maybe two individuals with the condition in Canada.

Amy Booth has been waiting almost four years for Special Services at Home Funding for her seven-year-old autistic son, Ronin. “Half the families in the area on waitlists have no funding or services. That has to change,” said Booth.

Shortfalls in provincial funding create instability in the sector in a number of ways, said Annalienne Venuta, direct support staff with Tayside. “People with a developmental disability generally do better when they have consistent, quality supports. Without consistent staffing, the progress made by individuals is often lost. Less than adequate provincial funding affects agencies’ ability to keep skilled staff and to recruit new staff.”

Without adequate funding to maintain quality programs, retain skilled staff, and increase access to services, “the waitlists will continue to grow for families whose children are turning 21 and can no longer access children’s services,” said Cathie Hogan, who just received notice that a residential space has been found for her severely autistic 21-year-old son, Ty, after a 10-year wait. “We are the lucky ones. But, for other families, there is a crisis in care.”


For more information, please contact:

David Hagerman       Executive Director, Tayside Community Residential & Support Options     613-390-1378


Stella Yeadon             CUPE Communications                                416-559-9300

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