Provincial Developmental Services – $110 M suit for developmentally delayed adults
Provincial Developmental Services
Father of disabled woman says she was abruptly cut off from support funding when she turned 19.
Provincial Developmental Services
Briana Leroux (middle) lost her provincial developmental services funding when she turned 18 in February 2016. She’s seen here with her father Marc and stepmother Lisanne. (FAMILY HANDOUT)
The father of a developmentally disabled Timmins woman has launched a $110-million class action lawsuit against the Ontario government for failing to eliminate the years-long wait list for support services.
“Wait lists are indeterminate and administered in an ad-hoc, inconsistent and unreasonable manner, denying eligible recipients statutory benefits which are necessary for their basic daily human needs and safety,” says the statement of claim filed on behalf of Marc Leroux.
“Adults may spend years on . . . wait lists, requiring family members or other caregivers to provide the necessary services or supports, or going without such services,” says the claim filed in Ontario Superior Court on April 10. The lengthy wait lists interfere with the life and security of people with disabilities and their families, it adds.
Leroux’s 19-year-old daughter, Briana, who is non-verbal and functions at the level of a 3-year-old, lost provincial Special Services at Home funding a year ago when she turned 18. She was subsequently placed on the wait list for Passport funding, which serves adults, but her father says he has no idea when she will get any help.
Both programs provide direct funding to families so children and adults with developmental disabilities can take part in community programs, develop work and daily life skills, hire a support worker and live independently.
“Common sense will tell you, if they need the funding up to age 18, they are definitely going to need it when they are over 18,” Leroux said in a telephone interview.
“But they cut you off and put you on a wait list,” he said. “It should be a simple transition. Or they should continue your funding (as a child) until the adult funding is in place.”
Unreasonably long and confusing wait lists for desperately needed services to help families care for disabled children with complex needs have been a problem in Ontario for years, says the statement of claim, filed by lawyers Kirk Baert and Jody Brown of Koskie Minsky LLP.
Three independent reports since 2013 have outlined the “crisis” and urged the government to act, the claim notes.
A 2013 Auditor General’s report criticized the government for “inconsistency of access to — and lengthy waitlists for — residential placements” and other supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
The 2014 report of the Select Committee on Developmental Services said eliminating wait lists should be the government’s top priority.
And a damning report last August by Ombudsman Paul Dubé, called Nowhere to Turn, noted “interminable wait list delays” amid a fragmented, confusing and complex system of community support agencies where demand far outstrips the supply.
“The class members are in need of services to live their life, and it is time they get what they have been promised and what they need and deserve,” Baert said in a statement.
Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek, who oversees Developmental Services Ontario and the Passport program, could not comment on the case because it is before the courts.
Last month, the ministry cleared a 2014 backlog of about 13,000 adults with developmental disabilities who had been waiting for Passport funding for years, bringing the total number served to 24,000.
But since 2015, another 11,000 people, including Briana, have requested support and are still waiting.
Until she turned 18 in February, 2016, Briana received $5,000 a year through Special Services at Home, which allowed Leroux to hire a support worker during the summer when she was not in school. (People with disabilities can attend public school until age 21.)
Although her father applied for Passport funding in August, 2015 — six months before Briana’s 18th birthday — she was not approved until September, 2016 and has been on the wait list for support ever since.
As a result, Leroux had to quit work as a real estate agent last summer to look after his daughter. And he fears he will have to do it again this summer.
“You can’t just hire anyone to look after someone like Briana. There is no space in any of the day programs and even if there was, we couldn’t afford to pay $18 to $20 an hour for it,” he said, adding he and his wife Lisanne, who is also self-employed, have four other children to support.
“At least I have the flexibility in my job. Many parents do not,” Leroux said.
Autism Ontario, which provides programs for about 17,000 individuals with autism spectrum disorder, is saddened by the lawsuit.
“It’s not surprising. We’re disappointed. And it’s not fair,” said spokesperson Katharine Buchan. “Families shouldn’t have to do this. They shouldn’t have to be forced into these positions to advocate for their loved ones. The service needs to be robust enough to meet the needs of a complex population.”
Help with daily living
What is Passport?
Passport is a program that helps adults 18 years or older with a developmental disability to participate in their communities. It also helps caregivers of an adult with a developmental disability take a break from their caregiving responsibilities.
Passport provides funding for services and supports so adults with a developmental disability can:
- take part in community classes or recreational programs
- develop work, volunteer, and daily life skills
- hire a support worker
- create their own life plans (this is called person-directed planning) to reach their goals
- get temporary respite for their caregivers
Passport is funded by the Ontario Government and administered by local Passport Agencies.
Who does the Passport program serve?
The Passport program is for people with a developmental disability who are 18-years-old or older and:
- need support to participate in the community while they are still in school, or;
- have left school and are living on their own, with family or independently in a supportive living arrangement
Learn more about how applicants are prioritized and funding amounts are determined.
Contact Developmental Services Ontario to apply for adult developmental services, including Passport. If you’re eligible, staff there will help you complete a developmental services application package to assess your needs and connect you with available services and supports.