TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 11, 2014) - The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario welcomes the provincial government's major funding announcement for developmental services, but remains concerned the funds will not eliminate waitlists or restore cut services.
"We are pleased that the government has recognized the longstanding funding crisis and increasing need in developmental services. However, the government's timeline for spreading the funding increase over multiple years still leaves 2 out of 3 families up to three years away from help," said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. "Also, with few details as to how that funding will be allocated, it is impossible to say it whether the government's plan will actually deliver relief to as many families on waitlists as possible."
Missing from today's announcement are crucial details about the ways funding will be directed. Most glaringly, the minister announced support for urgent residential needs for approximately 1400 people with developmental disabilities, but failed to mention that there are 12,000 people in need of those services. The minister also failed to indicate how a wide range of residential needs will be served.
"Today's announcement didn't include a concrete plan to address the major challenges in this sector, including long waitlists and cuts caused by years of underfunding for non-profit, community-based services. We would like assurance that the services that have disappeared because of underfunding - program closures, services cuts, reduced hours - will be restored through this additional funding."
Hahn, who comes from the developmental services sector himself, noted the government's announcement centred on individualized direct support funding, which provides a finite amount of funding for families to purchase their own services.
"Many people go on to direct funding waitlists because there are no spaces in day programs or respite programs provided by the agencies; we want to ensure that their needs and expectations are met," he added.
While the government acknowledged the low wages and insecure employment are challenges for agencies trying to recruit and retain qualified staff, the announcement lacked any concrete steps to reversing that trend. The announcement failed to address other issues, including:
- The need for 24/7 supports, not just for a few weeks or for respite, demonstrated by recent high-profile media reports about families in crises;
- What will happen to the 10,600 Ontarians in need of residential services and their families, who will remain on waitlists even after today's announced funding.
- How families in need of residential supports for loved ones who choose to live independently will be served, as expansion of direct funding will not address this issue.
- How government funding will reverse cuts to services and supports within agencies and address waitlists for agency supports.
The government's announcement also did not state whether the funding will increase the numbers of new residential homes and spaces, provide any increases in the number of support hours individuals receive, ensure the number of day programs and spaces that will be created and/or restored, or guarantee staffing ratios needed to deliver quality services and serve those currently on waitlists
"Our members working in developmental services have been stretched to the brink," said Hahn. "They are often low-waged, part-time workers and, while they all want to provide the best service possible, years of underfunding has seriously hampered their efforts.
"We are still waiting to hear what kind of funding agencies can expect to address these challenges, and we will continue to work with our allies to ensure that public money is spent where it is really needed and will have the greatest impact - on full, non-profit and community-based supports and services."
CUPE is Ontario's community union, with members providing quality public services we all rely on in every part of the province every day. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards, universities and airlines.
For further details of CUPE's response to Friday's announcement by the Minister of Community and Social Services or interview opportunities with Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, please contact:
Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416 576 7316
Mary Unan, CUPE Communications, 905 739 3999 ext. 240 or 416 206 5609