SSAHPC was invited to meet with the Ombudsman Investigators…report by Alison Ouellette, Co chair
Our meeting was held in London, ON on April 30, 2013. We gave the investigators our Issues Pages [see below] plus the Social Exclusion Paper on our web site, the ARCH Newsletter of Jan 2011,the graphic of the SSAH-Passport stats- March 2012, the Everyday Ordinary Lives web site and their Direct Funding newsletter from Dec 2012.
They indicated to us at the start of the meeting that they were neutral and do not advocate. They are an arms-length body with jurisdiction over 500 agencies. They do broad scale investigations about gov’t organizations….99% are informal solutions to complaints. If they see a pattern with lots of complaints, they move to a general Ombudsman response with a team of investigators. If the evidence warrants, they only advocate on fair process based on the evidence gathered-to ensure the processes are fair & equitable. This investigation will most probably end in a public report but that is up to the Ombudsman. First MCSS has to respond to the report. They make recommendations to MCSS and then the work begins. They are not subject to Freedom of Information.
As of Apr 2012 they had 63 complaints
As of Nov 2012 there were 680 more
A total of 750 complaints by spring 2013.
We also talked about the overlaps of Ministry of Health- Enhanced respite which also ends at 18 years old , the same as SSAH which now end at 18 and will place many families in crisis. We spoke about Ministry of Education regarding the transition planning for young people with multiple disabilities…being next to non- existent transition planning…..the deficiencies in the supports for families…..that building capacities in families was necessary through meaningful family to family support and mentoring, as well as encouraging families to look beyond programs.
Following the meeting we shared information received from Australia on their government funded family centered model and the poem ” Beyond Programs”.
Issues presented to the Ombudsman
April 30, 2013
When the transformation of Developmental Services began in 2004, families of people
with developmental disabilities were hopeful for better futures for their sons and
daughters. Since then, the Social Inclusion Act has been enacted replacing previous
legislation governing services for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, as the
transformation of services has unfolded, more and more families around the province
have been plunged into crisis.
Waitlists represent a complete lack of support for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in the face of an implicit, if not explicit, commitment from the government. As of March 2012 there were 8,900 families waiting for SSAH funding for their children, and 4,000 families waiting for Passport funding for their young people. Today, many more wait for both programs.
The present crisis has been created by the manner in which MCSS has implemented its transformation of services. Thousands of people are maintained on waitlists, receiving neither services nor supports, while the MCSS spends millions erecting a bureaucratic Developmental Services Organization in the interests of accountability.
In the past, there was a mechanism for Appeals, which provided some recourse for those who received inadequate support, and brought political attention to the extent and impact of underfunding across Ontario. Now there is not even an appeals process. Waitlists are not just statistics; they mean that people with developmental disabilities and their families are left with neither support for the present nor hope for the future.
Inadequacy and Misuse of Funding:
The Liberal government’s priorities, for the past 10 years, have been education and health. Community services for families and people with developmental disabilities have been largely neglected, with money once spent on government institutions not redirected to the community. People not supported in the community are ending up in long-term care institutions, at higher cost to the Health budget. The recent budget recommendations of increases in the health budget for home care might benefit a few people with disabilities in the community, but at a much greater cost than if the government actually implemented its direct funding proposal. With adequate implementation of direct funding people with developmental disabilities would avoid institutionalization and live well in their own homes and communities. Instead, MCSS has spent millions of taxpayers’ money on a new layer of bureaucracy and developing elaborate tools to assess needs that never seem to be addressed.
The Social Inclusion Act and the bureaucracy being created to administer the act do not provide for any accountability to individuals with developmental disabilities or their families for the quality or nature of services. This fact is well laid out in ARCH’s submission to MCSS, “Enforcing the Rights of People with Disabilities in Ontario’s Developmental Services System” by Kerri Joffre and Roberto Lattanzio. This will ensure the continuation of abuses and crises within the system for years to come.
The Drummond Report recommended that the government “continue its initiative to shift funding for services to people with disabilities from transfer payment agencies to service recipients, thereby increasing independence and reducing overhead.” Such a system is in place in Great Britain and Australia today. Funding families, rather than agencies, would allow families to purchase service from more efficiently run, competitive, agencies. The Provincial auditor has harshly criticized transfer payment agencies, for misuse of funds, excessive labour costs, and lack of accountability. Despite all of the reports, however, MCSS has been very timid with its initiative, seeming to be more comfortable spending on bureaucracy and agencies, leaving people with disabilities on waitlists with no service or support.
Systemic Problems Creating Crises at all Life Transitions:
The unresponsive, fragmented and incoherent system for developmental services has always created crisis situations for families at all life transitions. The latest transformative move by MCSS to cut SSAH off at 18 years of age has thrown all families at this life juncture into crisis. Between 18 and 21 years of age all people with developmental disabilities leave the school system. At 18 years they leave their pediatric medical team at the children’s treatment centres or children’s’ hospitals, and now at 18 years they leave the children’s’ social service system. It seems to families that no ministry assumes primary responsibility for guiding families through this transition. There is no help with transition to work or community activity, and no help with navigating the adult medical care system. Now, to make matters worse, funded supports to attend community activities, volunteer work or recreational programs are abruptly removed and the young people are placed on waitlists for eligibility assessment for the supports that they have been receiving. With no other options, and already under considerable emotional and frequently financial stress, parents are often forced to leave paid employment to supervise and care for their adult children at home.
Planning for Life in the Community
In decades past, life in the community meant life under the care and supervision of community agencies. Whether or not this was a desirable state of affairs, it is clear from the waitlists that community agencies can no longer accommodate the numbers that come to their doors. It is also clear from the waitlists for group homes that the province can no longer afford to provide for the care and housing of people with disabilities. Families are and must support their family member in the community throughout their lives. This must be recognized and acknowledged by MCSS. The ministry has a responsibility to families and individuals to educate prepare and support families to carry out this role.