GUELPH, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 30, 2013) - Guelph families of individuals with a developmental disability, and community living direct support staff, urged local MPP Liz Sandals at a pre-provincial budget media conference in front of the MPP's office today, to be a strong voice at the Liberal government cabinet for better funding for services.
Funding for developmental services has been flat-lined for the last three years and, as a result, 30 per cent of agencies are in deficit. When inflationary costs are included, the sector has experienced a substantive cut in funding. Services are at risk, they said, and cuts at agencies, like Community Living Guelph Wellington (CLGW), are widespread. To ensure that no more programs close and that the nearly 400 Guelph Wellington families on the wait list for services have access to supports, Sandals, and her government, must increase funding for the sector in the 2013 budget to be released this coming Thursday, May 2, they said.
Recently, CLGW cut 90 hours a week of support time at residential group homes. The cut in hours has further reduced staff's ability to take supported individuals shopping, for walks, and to events in the community.
Before presenting Sandals' staff with petitions signed by hundreds of local residents, parents Sylvia Quinn, James and Anne Thomson and Helen Garton, whose adult children, Sean, David, and Brittany, respectively, are provided services through CLGW, and front line CLGW staff said they want Sandals to do more than just give lip service to their issues. They called on her to be a real champion at Queen's Park for community inclusion for individuals with a developmental disability and for adequate funding.
"I'm advocating for better funding because I truly believe in community inclusion and quality of life for individuals now threatened because of years of provincial funding freezes for services. Yes, I want my MPP do more to secure improved funding for services. Some agencies have already made deep cuts. They've closed residential group homes. Cut day programs. Services, once focused on community inclusion and quality of life for individuals, have been reduced to a "custodial" care arrangement. The whole point of community living is inclusion - not custodial care," said Quinn who recently received a form letter from Sandals defending her government's record.
Like many parents, Quinn is extremely worried about what will happen to her son once she's gone. Sector research found that, province-wide, there are 1450 parents of children with a developmental disability who are over 70 years old; 20% of them are over 80 years old.
Joanne Smithers, a residential counsellor said, front line staff at agencies like CLGW, want supported individuals to have access to quality services and the best quality of life possible. One of the ways staff advocate, she said, is to use contract talks and collective bargaining to protect the integrity of services. The quality of services, the number of hours programs are available, as well as the safety, physical needs and overall quality of care for supported individuals, "are all directly tied to our working conditions," added Smithers.
But after several years of frozen funding for services and frozen wages for modest-waged staff, recent contracts are at a "dismal impasse," she said. "What is happening with services and contract talks at our agency is unfortunately the norm. There is huge instability in the sector across Ontario because the province wants front line staff to bear the costs of government underfunding through low wages and poor working conditions. The very same conditions that maintain service quality."
Copies of the petitions left at Sandals' office will be presented in the Ontario Legislature by opposition MPPs.