Toronto Star Editorial: Unkind cut for disabled

MAY 6, 2010

The days are long past when people with developmental disabilities were quietly shut away in large institutions. But these Ontarians still need support to live and work independently in our communities.

So it is troubling to learn that in its 2010 budget, brought down in March, Ontario cut $22 million that had been expected by some 380 organizations supporting people with developmental disabilities. The sector was not specifically targeted, but it fell victim to the broad austerity program introduced by the provincial government to reduce the provincial deficit.

The government knows the difficulties Community Living groups and other service providers face just keeping existing programs going, let alone expanding them to reduce the lengthy wait lists. Indeed, while freezing the providers’ base budgets, the government found $20 million to continue development of “transformation” plans. But it makes little sense to fund planning for a fairer and more sustainable system in the future while throwing the same organizations into a budgetary crisis today.
If the government does not restore the $22 million in funding, some organizations will be forced to cut off vital services and lay off staff.

After simmering in the background, this issue is now garnering attention, especially after Community Living cancelled its annual day at Queen’ Park this week in protest over the cuts. Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones notes that more than 12,000 people are on wait lists for residential supports and 7,000 for other supports. Parents of the disabled “see little light at the end of the tunnel,” says Jones.

And the situation threatens to get worse, as a majority of those with developmental disabilities on the wait lists have parents over the age of 70.

The government should dig deeper to find adequate funding for the residential and program services required by people with developmental disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable in our society.

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