A decade-long funding drought for Ontario’s developmental disability services must be addressed with dollars and common sense not cuts, says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
Last weekend, news outlets in Ontario began reporting on the Ford government’s offer to pay $1 million to any firm that can find efficiencies within Ontario’s developmental disability sector. The call for bidders was not made public and only discovered by the Canadian Press through a Freedom of Information request.
“The government has hoodwinked the public into believing they are backing off from attacks on the most vulnerable but then they go and do this,” says Thomas. “This is a moral failure of epic proportions.”
Already woefully underfunded, the sector has experienced zero base funding increases in the past 10 years. The Ontario Developmental Services Housing Task Force last year found that 15,700 adults with developmental disabilities were waiting for residential services in 2017, up from 12,000 four years prior. And, just last month, an Ontario woman from Renfrew with a developmental disability was discharged from hospital and ended in a homeless shelter.
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida points out that on top of all this, retention and recruitment within the sector is a real struggle. Approximately 62 per cent of agency-based disability support workers find themselves in undesirable positions of casual or part-time employment.
“This is a system in crisis and the government wants to exacerbate that by adding further stress and hardship on both workers and service users?” asks Almeida. “This is pushing vulnerable people – who need high-quality intensive care – into the streets, into emergency wards, jails and homeless shelters. There is no excuse for causing further suffering and hardship.”
The kicker here, adds Thomas, is that not only are the planned consultations a waste of money that could rather be put to good use helping restore and build the sector, but the call for bids that was put forth by the government came with a disturbing caveat.
“There was clear message that this work was is be done without consulting individuals, families, parents, or service providers,” says Thomas. “This is yet another case of a corrupt government using the guise of consultation to actually do nothing in order to justify its destructive agenda.”