TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2012 /CNW/ -
December 3, 2012
Ombudsman Andre Marin
Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario
483 Bay Street
10th Floor, South Tower
Re: Investigation of province's services for adults with developmental
disabilities in crisis
On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Community Living
Ontario, speaking on behalf of people who have an intellectual
disability and their families and Community Living associations across
Ontario, welcomes the investigation into Ontario's services for adults
with developmental disabilities in crisis. We also ask for an
opportunity to meet with you as soon as possible.
CBC's The National profiled two families' stories recently. They are
newsworthy because they represent the situation faced by hundreds of
families throughout Ontario.
There are many people who have an intellectual disability who are
waiting for services. The waiting list for supports is over 10,000 --
over 7,000 for the Special Services at Home (SSAH) program and about
3,000 for the Passport program. And the waiting list for residential
care is even longer.
With community supports people can live in their own home or apartment,
but for those who require intensive support there is no more room.
Existing group homes are often beyond full.
More than 80 per cent of adults in Canada with disabilities who require
support have it provided by family members. But without the needed
supports these are people who are thrown into crisis. Such as the woman
who lives in poverty because she cannot work to provide for her family
because she has to be with her daughter who is in a wheelchair and
needs constant care. And the case of the recent high school graduate
who is home alone all day without any support because both parents need
to contribute to family income.
Supports and services for people who have an intellectual disability are
chronically underfunded. Community Living associations across Ontario
have had their funding frozen at 2009 levels as governments clamp down
on spending and have changed the system to require approval through
Developmental Services Ontario. Even if the local Community Living
association had a vacancy, under this system, they have no flexibility
to respond to families in urgent need.
The systemic problems cannot be corrected through simple adequate
oversight of transferred funds and exercising more controls and
accountabilities. Agencies simply don't have the power or the funds to
provide the needed services but end up being blamed for not providing
services. Meanwhile families are driven to the breaking point. If they
surrender their family member to the system, the Office of the Public
Guardian has no more choices than the family had. So, the repugnant act
of placing a young adult in a long term care facility, perhaps in
another town, becomes a real prospect.
Families are most likely to need support when the economy is not going
well. Agencies that support families have to be flexible.
Unfortunately, governments that are financially stressed tend to view
flexibility as waste and residential spaces held in reserve for
emergencies as inefficient. But when every space is filled, one more
family crisis throws the system, with no capacity to respond, into
crisis as well. That is what we are seeing - no capacity to respond
when families cannot go on any longer.
We can reasonably predict that the situation will get worse before it
gets better, if for no other reason than the demographics of our aging
population. We have had at least 30 years to see this coming, and now
that it is here, we are not ready.
Aging families are facing grim decisions with a sense of dread not felt
for generations. Governments across the country are in denial.
Governments place the responsibility of caring for adults with
intellectual disabilities on the backs of their families to an extent
far beyond the capabilities of many of those families. Advocacy
organizations that have been speaking out are treated as selfish
interest groups demanding public money for private causes.
"We need a new deal. What is happening to families is unfair,
unsustainable, and unconscionable," says Rick Strutt, vice-president
Community Living Ontario. The two CBC stories are only a sample of
similar stories that have made local news in Ontario this year. "They
are the tip of the iceberg. Most families in desperate circumstances
tend to keep a low profile. They are reluctant to do anything that
might offend those who hold power over how scarce public resources are
allocated. Many are seniors living in uncertain times who have no
appetite for a fight with the government. Parents love their children
and they are willing to sacrifice, but when governments exploit that
love to meet a fiscal target, we need a new deal," continues Strutt.
There comes the time when a person or a family simply runs out of
choices. That time has come for one of the families documented by CBC.
It will come soon for many more. If things don't change, it will keep
coming for a generation because the demographic wave headed our way
will not be deflected by political maneuvering and sleight of hand.
Community Living Ontario looks forward to the opportunity to meet with
you as soon as possible.
SOURCE: Community Living Ontario
For further information:
Sheila Kirouac, Communications Director
Community Living Ontario
416 447-4348 ext. 223
Cell: 416 316-1587