Ontario fails to help people with developmental disabilities: Ombud (The Canadian Press)

Ontario fails to help people with developmental disabilities: Ombud (The Canadian Press)

August 24, 2016

24 August, 2016

TORONTO - Widespread inconsistencies and gaps in Ontario's support network have left many adults with developmental disabilities scrambling for care, at times exposing them to abuse or landing them behind bars, a new report said Wednesday.

The Canadian Press
August 24, 2016

TORONTO - Widespread inconsistencies and gaps in Ontario's support network have left many adults with developmental disabilities scrambling for care, at times exposing them to abuse or landing them behind bars, a new report said Wednesday.

While the province has poured more money into the care system in recent years, demand for services continues to outstrip supply and thousands still languish on waiting lists, Ontario's ombudsman said in the report.

And "while steps have been taken to create more uniformity and standardization for accessing urgent resources, there is still marked inconsistency in how limited funds are prioritized and distributed," Paul Dube said.

The report, entitled Nowhere to Turn, is based on 1,400 complaints from families of adults with developmental disabilities dealing with dire circumstances, including domestic abuse and abandonment.

"What we found was a fragmented, confusing and complex assortment of hundreds of community agencies and local processes, impossible for many individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to navigate," he wrote in the report.

"Families were often bewildered by the confusing web of service providers or oblivious to the distinctions between the various service agencies, Developmental Services Ontario offices and Ministry officials," he added. "Many were discouraged by interminable waitlist delays and desperate for help. Some were on the brink of crisis, others firmly in its midst."

Despite the province's efforts to move away from institutionalization, some adults with developmental disabilities nonetheless find themselves unnecessarily hospitalized or jailed because of a lack of community placements equipped to accommodate individuals with complex conditions or serious behavioural challenges, Dube found.

Dube acknowledged the province has taken steps to address the gaps brought to light in the report, including accepting and implementing all 60 of his recommendations and promising to give a progress report every six months.

These include regular data collection on abuse by caregivers and the use of community shelters, an expanded definition of urgent circumstances requiring intervention from service agencies, and a directive that adults with developmental disabilities should not be left in hospitals where there is no medical need.

As the province became aware of these issues over the course of the investigation, it began making improvements to the care system, said Minister of Community and Social Services Helena Jaczek.

A funding increase in 2014 raised the annual budget for care for those with developmental disabilities to $2.1 billion, she said.

But the government should have taken a more active role earlier on, she said, noting that service providers need "central direction" on how to carry out their mandates.

"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," she said, vowing to work with her cabinet colleagues to tackle any remaining gaps.

The ombudsman stressed that money, while crucial, is only part of the solution.

"It's not just about money, it's the allocation of money, it's the direction of services -- direction needed from the top," he said in a news conference.

"There's nobody else better placed than the ministry to set the standards for these different agencies across the province and make sure they're delivering supports in a way that's needed."

Chris Beesley, CEO of Community Living Ontario, said he was "encouraged" that the government has agreed to adopt the recommendations in the report, as well as the fact that the minister has apologized.

"I take that to mean that going forward, that people who reach that point, that their situations will be dealt with immediately and appropriate. I look forward to that."