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Crisis in care for people with developmental disabilities in Hamilton—Agencies, staff doing “all we can to support families’ needs—province must do the same”.

Across the province, there are 23,000 people with a developmental disability languishing on waitlists for services – 12,000 of those individuals are waiting for residential supports. 44-year-old Hamilton resident, Akhil Agarwal, is one of them. His 70-year-old father, Naresh Agarwal, is worried that families like theirs have to go into crisis to get the supports and services they need. 

Maintenance services have a long-term payoff. It is better funding for day-to-day community supports and residential care that will keep families from spiralling into crisis. Prevention is much cheaper than crisis management,” Agarwal said at a Hamilton media conference today with others advocating for improved funding for services for those with developmental disabilities. 

Based on information provided by Contact Hamilton – the area’s entry point agency to access services – in 2008, there were 144 adults with a developmental disability on the waiting list for some form of residential supports. By 2011, the list more than doubled to 255 individuals. In 2008, 83 individuals were waiting for some form of day supports. By 2011, the number is 171. 

Many families have been on the waitlists for years, said Janet Downer,whose 43-year-old daughter Marianne with Down’s Syndrome just received a residentialspace after a waitof more than 15 years. 

Families are losing hope that the province will ever listen to their plight. The long wait and lack of services has a tremendous impact on families including stress, family break-up and debilitating effects on other siblings. Sometimes, family income levels drop as parents have to quit their jobs in order to care for their child. While the provincial government has provided some funding to the sector, it is not enough to meet the need and stabilize existing services,” said Downer. 

For several years, the province has asked agencies that support individuals with a developmental disability to do more with little new funding investment in the sector. In 2008/09, the province required that supports and services delivered by the sector be increased without providing any new funding. In 2010, over $20 million in funding the province had committed to agency base budgets was, instead, redirected to pay for changes to the bureaucracy required under new provincial legislation. 

Shortfalls in provincial funding create instability in the sector in a number of ways, said Karen Almas, an instructor with Community Living Hamilton and a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3943. 

People with a developmental disability generally do better when they have consistent – often daily – quality supports. Without consistent staffing, the progress made by individuals is often lost. Without adequate funding to maintain quality programs, retain skilled staff, and increase access to services, “the waitlists will continue to grow for families whose children are turning 21 and can no longer access children’s services,” added Almas. 

For more information, please contact: 

Jim Beattie                 
President, CUPE 3943                    

Stella Yeadon             
CUPE Communications