Ontario’s developmental services system evolved over many decades. Like other jurisdictions, we used to operate institutions for people with a developmental disability.

Over the past 50 years, Ontario moved government-run services and funding for those services from institutions to community groups, and increasingly to individuals and their families. By 2004, Ontario was investing more than $1 billion each year in these supports, including group and individual living arrangements, as well as day programs.

Why change the system?

While Ontario’s developmental services system evolved in response to demand, it lacked consistent infrastructure and planning. People applied for and were assessed for services in different ways across the province. This led to people’s needs, funding and priorities being determined inconsistently.

Many people with a developmental disability and their families have found this system confusing and challenging to deal with. Meanwhile the demand for supports has continued to rise.

Transforming the system

The government recognized that the province’s developmental services system could work better for the people it served. In 2004, Ontario announced plans to modernize services. Since then, the government has:

  • closed the province’s three remaining institutions. Ontario’s system is now completely community-based.
  • introduced new legislation. It lays the foundation for a more modern system.
  • created Developmental Services Ontario. It is the single point of access for adult developmental services in the province.
  • developed clear eligibility criteria for accessing services. These are standard throughout Ontario and make eligibility decisions consistent.
  • created a standard application and assessment process that ensures people’s needs are assessed consistently across the province.
  • put province-wide quality assurance measures in place. These are rules that help agencies and Developmental Services Ontario provide high quality services and supports and meet set standards.
  • introduced Passport and direct funding to allow individuals to better transition from school into their communities with more control over the supports they need.

What’s happening next?

Ontario is making progress on its plans to improve Ontario’s developmental services system, but there’s still more work to do. Next steps include:

  • creating a standard provincial funding model. This will help make sure funding decisions are based on the same criteria no matter where someone lives in the province.
  • working on options for direct funding and partnering with agencies to create individualized supports. This will create more choice for people with developmental disabilities and their families.
  • developing guidelines to make supports portable. This will help people with developmental disabilities get the supports they need if they move.

Learn more

Find out about the end of institutions.

Read “Opportunities and Action: Transforming Supports in Ontario for People who have a Developmental Disability.”

Check out the new legislation Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008.

Stay informed about our progress on improving Ontario’s developmental services system. Read Spotlight on Transformation.

Discover how new accessibility standards will make our communities more inclusive for everyone. Visit Ontario.ca/AccessON.