November 13, 2019
The Honourable Todd Smith
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
Hepburn Block, 6th Floor
80 Grosvenor Street
Dear Minister Smith,
I am writing to you today because I am deeply concerned about the Conservative government’s intention to spend up to one million dollars cutting services and supports for adults with developmental disabilities. As you know, the developmental services sector has been under-funded and under-resourced for decades. Further cuts to government funding would only exacerbate the crisis, and paying private consultants up to a million dollars to orchestrate these cuts is reprehensible. I am urging you to reverse course immediately for the sake of vulnerable people in Ontario, as well as the people and agencies that support them.
Adults with developmental disabilities are faced with a myriad of obstacles and challenges due to the continued underfunding of the sector. You personally heard evidence of this recently during a roundtable held in Windsor that I also attended – those first-hand accounts and pleas for help are echoed across the province.
As you know, when children turn 18, they age-out of ministry supports for children and transition to supports for adults. This is anything but a seamless transition. Many young people and their families are instead thrown into chaos, losing their funding and supports and being forced onto a years-long waitlist for adult supports. The average wait time for the Passport program is 2-5 years long. Latest estimates, such as in the Housing Task Force report, tell us there are approximately 16,000 individuals on the waitlist for supportive housing (as of 2017), meaning that adults with a developmental disability, and their families or caregivers, are also waiting over 20 years just to secure a safe, appropriate, supportive home. Your government also continues to keep those with developmental disabilities living in poverty, as income assistance through the Ontario Disability Support Program is woefully inadequate, and eligibility is in jeopardy as a result of your proposed change to the definition of disability.
The community agencies that support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are struggling too. It has been over a decade since they have seen a budget increase or any infrastructure investment. The cuts you are proposing will hurt them, and by extension, the people they serve.
All of this leads to increasing burdens on caregivers, aging parents, and service agencies, who step in and step up to try to fill the gaps. It also means that our hospitals, mental health services, long term care homes and homelessness initiatives are attempting and struggling to fill the gaps as well, by housing and supporting adults with developmental disabilities who have nowhere else to go. This broken system is leading to more emergencies and crisis situations, which will always be more costly to the government than simply making investments in people upfront and creating a truly supportive developmental services sector. The 2016 report by the Ontario Ombudsman titled Nowhere to Turn clearly articulated this point.
In 2014, the Legislature’s Select Committee on Developmental Services tabled a report, based on investigations, deputations, and consultations with families and the developmental services sector. It was the committee’s understanding then – five years ago – that individuals and families were in crisis, and the situation was urgent. They reported troubling and alarming barriers, and families being “pushed to the brink of disaster”. The current Minister of Health and Deputy Premier, Christine Elliott, was the Vice-Chair of the Select Committee on Developmental Services.
I have mentioned just a few reports among a litany of studies, consultations, working groups, committees, and task forces that have come to the same conclusions. Therefore, I am confident that you are aware of the exact nature of the crisis in the developmental sector. That is why I, individuals with a developmental disability, families, caregivers and people in the developmental services sector, are particularly outraged by your government’s plan to make drastic cuts – and to pay up to a million dollars for it. I am urging you, please do not drag this already under-resourced sector backwards and push families and individuals with developmental disabilities deeper into crisis. Cuts will only take things from very bad to much worse.
Lisa Gretzky, MPP