Minister’s Response to the Ombudsman of Ontario Report on Situations of Crisis Involving Adults with Developmental Disabilities

August 24, 2016

I would like to thank the Ombudsman of Ontario and his Office for this report, and for their efforts to carefully consider and reflect on the needs of adults with developmental disabilities. I accept all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations and will report back to the Ombudsman’s Office every six months as he requested.

I have great respect for adults with developmental disabilities and the challenges they face, and I am committed to addressing these recommendations. I have met many of these individuals and their families in my tenure as Minister, and I know we need to keep working to improve our system for them.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services works closely with the dedicated staff and management of the approximately 360 developmental services agencies across the province that we fund. Every day, these community agencies provide vital services to ensure that people with developmental disabilities receive high-quality care and supports, and help foster community inclusion. Through partnerships with these agencies, we provide supports and services to more than 42,000 adults with developmental disabilities, with 18,000 of those persons receiving residential supports.

However, as the Ombudsman’s report highlights, we know that there are some situations in which the needs of adults with developmental disabilities and their families are not being met, and indeed, cases in which their situations are entirely unacceptable.

We recognize this, and I am fully committed to working with our partners in the sector and my cabinet colleagues across government – including the ministries of Health and Long-Term Care, Children and Youth Services, Community Safety and Correctional Services, Education, the Attorney General and Housing – to find longer-term solutions to crisis situations involving adults with developmental disabilities, particularly with respect to those with urgent and complex care needs.  

While we know there is still much work to be done going forward, much has also changed since the Ombudsman’s investigation began nearly four years ago. In that time, my ministry worked hard to address the type of situations identified in the report. 

In order to provide supports and services, the developmental services budget has doubled over the past 12 years and has reached $2.1 billion annually in 2016-17. In 2014, we made an unprecedented $810 million investment over three years to expand support for adults with developmental disabilities. This represents the largest funding increase ever to this sector. This three-year investment is giving more people and their families the choice and flexibility to purchase the supports that best fit their needs.

As the Ombudsman noted in his report, this investment is providing new direct funding to 7,200 adults and their families through the Passport program. Part of this investment will provide new residential supports for approximately 1,400 of the highest needs adults with developmental disabilities by 2017-18. In fact, in the first two years, more than 800 people have already transitioned to new residential supports. 

My ministry also introduced a consistent province-wide urgent response process in 2014 to help individuals and families who require immediate need. This will assist us in ensuring that situations such as those mentioned in the report, are able to be addressed as quickly as possible. Our urgent response process has already helped more than 1,100 people find urgently needed supports, including the majority of those mentioned in the Ombudsman’s report.

Our agency partners have been assisting my Ministry with helpful, creative, innovative ideas and local partnerships to make our communities more inclusive. Through our Developmental Services Housing Task Force we have been able to fund 18 creative community-based housing solutions to provide more residential options to meet individual needs.

Lessons learned from the projects will be used to develop residential options that could be replicated in communities across the province, to help more people in the long term. Two additional projects that are knowledge-based initiatives could also have an impact on many more individuals and families.

In the past year, my Ministry has also taken steps to further improve the safety of adults with developmental disabilities in government-funded programs. Some of this work includes:

  • Developing a stronger compliance inspection program for agencies that provide services and supports;
  • Establishing new requirements to enhance the oversight of agencies providing the Host Family program to adults with developmental disabilities.
  • Launching ReportON to agencies in March 2016, which is a direct reporting line and email address (available 24/7) to report alleged, suspected and/or witnessed incidents of abuse and neglect of adults with developmental disabilities, and we plan to help create greater public awareness of the service in fall of 2016.

In a relatively short time we have made important progress in moving towards our vision of full community inclusion for adults with developmental disabilities in Ontario. Over the past decade, we have closed all institutions and we have begun the shift away from sheltered workshops towards competitive employment and meaningful participation in the community. These decisions were not easy, but I do believe they were the right ones.

Our shared vision with partners, people with disabilities and families is one that is person-centred, giving a voice to each individual to determine their needs and to select the services that best reflect their goals. We will continue to work to put into action the changes necessary to address the challenges outlined in the Ombudsman’s report for adults with developmental disabilities and the families and caregivers who support them. 

Once again, I’d like to thank the Ombudsman and his office for their work. The recommendations in this report will help contribute further to the ministry’s ongoing efforts to improve the delivery of the developmental services system in Ontario.