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Over 400 adults in Lambton County without supports and services — 2011 funding not enough to meet needs of “our most vulnerable”

Provincial funding announced following last month’s Ontario budget for supports and services for people with developmental disabilities is welcome, but it’s not enough to ensure existing programs are stabilized and the needs of families on waitlists are met, said Lambton County advocates for quality community supports at a media conference in Sarnia today. 

For several years now, 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 community living agency base budgets was, instead, redirected to pay for changes required under new provincial legislation. 

Across the province, the waitlist for residential supports has risen to 12,000. Currently, 16,000 people with a developmental disability receive residential supports province-wide. In Lambton County, there are currently over 400 adults waiting for supports. Of those, 177 are in need of residential supports, and 233 adults are in need of day supports. Of the 177 adults needing residential supports, at least 90 need 24/7 support; and, of the 233 adults needing day supports, at least 190 are seeking day supportsfivedays per week.

Based on the most optimistic projected share for Lambton County of the recent 2011 funding  announcement,  support agencies within the County, including Community Living Sarnia-Lambton, will be able to provide additional supports for only just four or five adults who have high support needs. 

This,” said Wilma Arthurs, a local advocate for quality services, “is a drop in the bucket compared to what is actually needed to get more than a handful of people off waitlists. This can’t continue.” Arthurs, along with Community Living Sarnia-Lambton Executive Director John Hagens, and direct support worker Brian Biggers, called on the provincial Liberals “to meet the needs of our most vulnerable by improving funding for the sector.” 

What makes the need for new investment so urgent is that many of the primary caregivers for those needing supports are well over 65 years old. Parents and family members are at the age when they can no longer care for their loved one at home. “Older parents are desperate to know that their son or daughter who is also aging will be cared for when they are gone. They are losing all hope. And apathy is setting in after years of waiting for supports,” said Arthurs. 

Spreading already thin resources to address the unmet needs of those on waitlists will mean a significant reduction in the quality and quantity of supports provided. The capacity of agencies to provide quality supports without significant new investment is tapped out, says Hagens. 

Without adequate funding to maintain quality programs, retain skilled staff, and increase access to services, “the waitlists will continue to grow,” said Biggers. “We have a crisis in care. Front line workers and agencies are doing all they can to support families’ needs.”  

For more information, please contact: 

John Hagens
Executive Director, Community Living Sarnia-Lambton
(519) 332-0560

Stella Yeadon
CUPE Communications
(416) 559-9300