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Ontario Ombudsman to investigate province’s services for adults with developmental disabilities in crisis

Date: 2012-11-29

TORONTO (November 29, 2012) – Ontario Ombudsman André Marin today announced an investigation into the province’s services for adults with developmental disabilities who are in crisis situations, after several desperate families complained their loved ones risked being sent to homeless shelters or jail because there was nowhere to care for them. 

Complaints to the Ombudsman’s office about the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ response to such situations have steadily increased in the past two years, Mr. Marin noted – from 35 in 2010, to 45 in 2011, to 64 so far in 2012.  

In many cases, parents of children with severe special needs complained that services for them essentially vanished when they turned 18.  Many complained of a lack of planning and funding, lengthy delays and poor co-ordination of care through agencies contracted by the Ministry.  Some families complained of being refused support services because of their loved ones’ high needs and challenging behaviours.  

“We have heard heart-wrenching stories from aging or ill parents whose adult sons and daughters are a danger to themselves and others and need constant care that can’t be provided at home – but they have nowhere to turn,” Mr. Marin said.  “Some of these caregivers are on the brink of emotional and physical breakdown.  We have investigated past cases where people with these severe disabilities have been sent to shelters and even jail.  What is particularly troubling is that our complaints have only gone up, despite new legislation and changes made by the Ministry in recent years.” 

The Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons With Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008 created Developmental Services Ontario, established last year, to process applications and determine eligibility for services.  Complaints to the Ombudsman have more than doubled since then.  Services for adults with developmental disabilities are provided by some 300 community-based agencies contracted and funded by the Ministry. 

The investigation will focus on two issues – whether the Ministry is adequately responding to urgent situations involving adults with developmental disabilities, and whether it is doing enough to co-ordinate, monitor and facilitate access to services for them. 

The Ombudsman’s Office has investigated individual complaints on this issue over the past two years, a few of which have also been the subject of media reports.  However, the increase in complaints indicates there may be a systemic problem and a broader investigation is warranted, Mr. Marin said. 

He noted that the Auditor-General of Ontario’s report last year found that there is inadequate Ministry oversight of the $472 million it transfers to agencies providing services for people with developmental disabilities.  “My investigation will build on that, and determine whether the Ministry is doing all it can to respond to crisis situations, and providing access to services in a fair and equitable manner,” he said.  “It’s about timely response to crisis situations.  It’s about making sure people who need help are not left without supports or homes.” 

The adults in the situations complained about to the Ombudsman have a variety of mental and physical conditions including the inability to communicate verbally, inability to dress or care for themselves, low mental function, and unpredictable violent behaviour, requiring highly specialized care and services. 

The Ombudsman is asking anyone who has information relevant to the investigation to contact his office at 1-800-263-1830,
file an online complaint or email  

The investigation will be conducted by the Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT) and is expected to take about six months.  Since 2005, SORT has conducted about 30 major systemic investigations into issues affecting large numbers of Ontarians.  The Ombudsman’s recommendations stemming from these cases have been overwhelmingly accepted, resulting in such reforms as increased screening of newborn babies, improved compensation for crime victims, better access to funding for cancer drugs, an overhaul of the property tax assessment system and increased security of lotteries. 




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