Windsor & Sarnia, Ont. — The need for increased and secure supports for persons who have a developmental disability is so great that parents and family members, frontline workers and the agencies that employ them to provide supports have joined forces in a new campaign that they hope will spread across Ontario.
Forums sponsored last week by community living associations and CUPE in Windsor, Sarnia, Amherstburg and Essex heard story after story about how well persons with a developmental disability do when they have consistent, quality supports and about the problems that develop when there is no consistency.
“Families have an extremely difficult choice to make when they get direct funding from the province,” said Lisa Raffoul, mother of 12-year-old Eric, who has multiple disabilities and complex medical needs. “We have to choose between paying a support worker less in order to get more hours or paying more in order to keep the worker who knows our family member and his or her needs.”
Agencies face similar problems. Since the mid-1990s, they have struggled with an initial 5% base budget cut followed by years with no increases. There were minimal base budget increases in 2004-05 and 2005-06, including some agency revitalization funding, but this did not even keep up with the pace of inflation.
A study conducted six years ago by KPMG on behalf of community living agencies showed that workers in developmental services earn 25% to 30% less than people doing similar work in hospitals, schools and other institutions. Recruiting and keeping developmental services workers has become increasingly difficult, said Xavier Noordermeer, executive director of Community Living Windsor, noting that some community colleges have even decided to postpone support worker diploma programs because of low enrolment.
“We love our work,” said Brian Biggers, president of CUPE 4370, who works for Community Living Sarnia-Lambton. “But you can’t fault people for going to jobs that allow them to support themselves or their families. Right now, too many developmental services workers are carrying two or three jobs just to make ends meet.”
As demand for service continues to increase in the communities across Essex and Lambton counties, the situation will only worsen without increased financial support from the province, the forums heard. With consultations already underway for the next provincial budget, the families, workers and agencies have joined forces to launch We Count, Too! — a campaign to advocate for increased supports in the next budget.
“They tell us, correctly, that funding for developmental services has increased,” said Noordermeer. “But it’s not enough to meet the demand so that persons with a developmental disability can get off the waiting lists and receive the services they need.
“Our message to the province is a simple one: if you believe that every Ontarian has a right to be an active participant in our communities, you have to provide the necessary, adequate and secure supports to let that happen.
“It’s a message that we will be asking our colleagues right across Ontario to take up and help us deliver.”
For more information in Windsor, contact:
Xavier Noordermeer, Executive Director, Community Living Windsor 519-974-4221, ext. 224
Charlotte O’Neil, President, CUPE Local 2345, 519-971-2600
Marleen Crawford, Parent, 519-735-6971
For more information in Sarnia, contact:
John Hagens, Executive Director, Community Living Sarnia-Lambton, (519) 332-0560
Brian Biggers, President, CUPE Local 4370, (519) 333-7109
Wilma Arthurs, Parent, (519) 869-8397
For more information in Essex, contact:
Nancy Wallace-Gero, Executive Director Community Living Essex County, (519) 776-6486 ext. 223
Suanne Hawkins, President, CUPE Local 3137, (519) 971-3724
Lisa Raffoul, Parent, Ensemble, (519) 551-0780