Supports and Services
Did You Know?
- The Government of Ontario provides community services and supports for people who have an intellectual disability and their families through a branch of the Ministry of Community and Social Services called Developmental Services. Given the type and range of supports provided through Developmental Services, the sector receives far less than others do
- Wages paid to workers in this sector are far below those paid to workers in other sectors doing similar work.
- Despite incremental increases, the funding support people receive through the Ontario Disability Support Program for day to day living expenses is more than 18% lower than the funding support received in 1993 when compared to inflation.
We all rely on the support of others to live our daily lives. Usually we look first to our communities, friends and families to support us. For a person who has an intellectual disability, the need for support may be greater than for others in society. Often supports are needed that go beyond the natural supports that can be reasonably provided by family, friends or by our community. People will typically rely on government-funded supports to address these exceptional needs when they cannot be met otherwise. Without these additional supports people are unable to participate fully in community life; their opportunities to participate as effective citizens are reduced; and, in some cases, their personal safety is put at risk.
Government funded community supports must be adequate, available for those who need them, and they should enhance the capacity of the individual to participate in society as a full citizen.
We as a society must ensure that supports are provided in an adequate fashion to ensure that people who have an intellectual disability are able to enjoy a reasonable quality of life within the community.
Community Living Ontario believes that an appropriate framework for supporting the inclusion and capacity for citizenship of people who have an intellectual disability must include three main components:
- Employment Support to ensure that a person who has a disability can be supported to earn an income.
- Income Support to ensure that a person can enjoy a reasonable income and quality of life whether or not that person is employed.
- Disability Related Support to provide people who have an intellectual disability the supports they need to be included in their community.
People who have an intellectual disability are entitled to a reasonable and safe standard of living. Income supports, such as the Ontario Disability Support Program, should have sufficient investment to guarantee a reasonable standard of living. Support mechanisms should be indexed to the cost of living to ensure that erosion of benefits does not occur.
What is being done in Ontario?
Transformation of Supports and Services
In 2004 the Government committed to transforming its services and supports for people who have a disability to create an accessible, fair and sustainable system of community based supports. The vision that is described by the Ministry of Community and Social Services in Opportunities and Action is 'to support people to live as independently as possible in the community and to support the full inclusion of Ontarions with disabilities in all aspects of society.' It is also important to recognize our past mistakes in designing supports for people who have intellectual disabilities to be sure that we do not build strategies based on old ways of thinking.
Transformed supports should facilitate and enhance the support that people naturally receive from their communities and their families. Government funded supports should not be designed to replace natural supports.
The Government has shown an understanding of the extent of transformation to take place by setting a 25 year time-frame. Given this extended time-frame there is room to be quite ambitious in the kind of social change we hope to bring about. It is hoped that there will be implementation of the Ministry's vision of full inclusion in 'all aspects of society,' as stated in Opportunities and Action. The inclusion that we hope to see 25 years from now will only be possible if children who are in school now, or are not yet born, experience inclusion in every aspect of their lives. That will be difficult for the Ministry of Community and Social Services without the coordination of a similar commitment to transformation from the Ministry of Children and Youth and from the Ministry of Education.
At the May, 2008 Community Living Day at the Legislature, Minister Madeleine Meilleur tabled Bill 77, legislation that would replace the Developmental Services Act. The Developmental Services Act had been in place since the mid 1970s as the main legislation guiding the operations of the developmental services sector.
Community Living Ontario undertook a process of consultation with its members and other members of the public to have input into the Bill and shape its development. Many important changes recommended by Community Living Ontario were made to the Bill 77 and the resulting legislation, the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, or Social Inclusion Act, received royal assent on October 8, 2009.
Our response papers are available here:
Ontario Disability Support Program
The Ontario Disability Support program plays an important role in supporting people who have an intellectual disability in employment through the employment supports, and in ensuring that people have an reasonable income. The program needs additional investment to ensure that people who have a disability are not trapped below the poverty line by a mechanism that is intended to support them.
The Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (The Advisory Council) was appointed by government as part of their Poverty Reduction Strategy launched in December 2008. Their mandate was to develop recommendations on the terms of reference for the government's review of social assistance in Ontario. The Advisory Council was composed of eleven people who were asked to make recommendations on the 'scope and terms of reference that would guide the development of the social assistance review.' The report was completed in May 2010 and released in June.
Community Living Ontario endorsed the recommendations made by the Advisory Council. In particular, we welcomed the assertion that Ontario needs a comprehensive review of its income security system which would look not only at Ontario Works and ODSP but also at programs from other ministries and other levels of government that impact the lives of social assistance recipients.
On November 30, 2010 the government announced their plans for a review of social assistance. Community Living Ontario will work to support this review to ensure that the experiences of people who have an intellectual disability and their families are heard and rocognized by the Comission.
Providing Quality Supports and Services in Ontario
The average wages paid to workers who provide support to people who have an intellectual disability is well below those paid to workers doing similar types of jobs in other sectors in Ontario. Workers who are not hired by an agency but who work directly for a family are typically paid far less again, often in the $10 per hour range.
In the 2007 Provincial Budget, the government committed to spend $200 million over 4 years to improve support to people who have an intellectual disability. However, in response to labour unrest in the sector the government agreed to bring forward the 2% committed to address the wage gap in the 4th year of the budget commitment and provide it to agencies. This provided a total of 6% increase on average to agencies in 2007/2008.
In September 2007, the Ministry reported to Developmental Services agencies that it would be providing agencies resources necessary to give front line support staff a wage increase of $2.40/hour over the next 3 years. These funds committed in the past months by the government could reduce the current 25% wage gap to approximately 17% by 2010.
Workers hired directly by families have received no funding to improve the wages they pay to workers and no commitment of increases in the coming years. Enrollment in the college program that trains people to provide support in this sector is dropping and some programs have been suspended as more people choose to pursue career paths that promise a more reasonable living wage. Turnover rate of workers in the sector is more than 22% annually.
Article 19 of The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides that signing countries will ensure that â€œPersons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community.
Article 27 states that signing countries will â€œrecognize the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right without discrimination on the basis of disability.
The Ontario Disability Support Program Act:
The Developmental Services Act:
The ODSP Action Coalition advocates for improvements to the income and employment supports provided by the Ontario Disability Support Program:
The Individualized Funding Coalition of Ontario advocates to make individualized funding a reality in Ontario. Their library includes valuable research and analysis of policies that affect the way that supports and services are delivered in Ontario.
Contact your MPP/MP
Click here for information to assist you in contacting your local MP or MPP.
For previous policy papers and for a full list of resolutions passed by the membership of Community Living Ontario on supports and services, please visit our Archives.
Help us improve supports and services for people in Ontario who have an intellectual disability!
If you have ideas or resources to share with us please contact our policy analyst, thnatuk [at] communitylivingontario [dot] ca (Tyler Hnatuk) at 416-447-4348, Ext. 249.