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Responding To The 2017 Budget

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Finance Minister Charles Sousa tabled Budget 2017 in the Ontario Legislature yesterday.

Reena is pleased to provide this commentary on how Budget 2017 impacts on those we serve, individuals with Developmental Disabilities and in particular on their inclusion in Ontario society.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services has demonstrated that those with Developmental Disabilities are important to the fabric of Ontario and the Government of Ontario has supported this by granting MCSS $ 677 increase over 4 years.

MCSS Budget for the developmental services sector is projected to increase by $130 Million in this fiscal year, a significant upfront investment in the 4 year plan. We are pleased that this investment builds on the $810 million allocated over the last few years and will help expand efforts for social inclusion for the most vulnerable in our community by:

  • Providing over 375 additional residential developmental services placements for individuals with urgent needs and youth transitioning from the child welfare system;
  • Supporting 1,000 additional adults with developmental disabilities to participate in their communities through the Passport program;
  • Establishing a special residential support home for individuals with complex needs who are moving from justice facilities;
  • Expanding specialized clinical responses for individuals with complex special needs; and Improving access to local community services by making the system easier to navigate
  • In addition, a capital investment of $5 million in 2017-18 will go to support transition home and innovative housing solutions.

Reena remains ready to work with all levels of government and the private sector to maximize the impact of Budget 2017 to support social inclusion.

Budget 2017 focuses on assisting vulnerable populations and we are pleased to see that the Government has recognized that individuals with Developmental Disabilities are included in this definition. Building on the Ombudsman’s Report, “Nowhere to Turn”, we encourage all Ministries in the Government to work together to ensure that those with Developmental Disabilities are not left behind. This increased investment and cross ministry effort is reflected in the integrated approach in housing, mental health, health care and basic income pilot project.

The following are examples:

  • Under the affordable housing strategy the Ontario Government is going to strategically leverage Provincial land assets .. The province will pilot the program at multiple sites in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, committing $70-$100 million in land to develop up to 2,000 new housing units, including a mix of market and affordable housing
  • Beginning in spring of 2017, the Province will work with municipalities, the federal government, the housing sector and other interested stakeholders to confirm the pilot sites and final program design.
  • For Dementia there will $100 million invested over 3 years including expanding province-wide access to community programs and other investments to enhance access to care, information and support from as early as possible once a diagnosis is made
  • Help patients and their caregivers find and access the most appropriate care and supports, improve training and education in dementia care for personal support workers, physicians, nurses, and other front line workers
  • Invest an additional $20 million in 2017 for respite care

The immediate positive impact of this budget will be felt with an expanded ODSP benefit program, increased employment supports, the expansion of affordable housing and growing passport funding so that individuals and their families can better manage and improve their own lives.

  •  The basic income pilot will commence this year in Hamilton, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay
  •  Investing more than $480 million over four years to raise asset limits, increase income exemptions for cash gifts, and provide a rate increase that will benefit more than 900,000 people across Ontario form Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program
  •  For ODSP recipients, effective January 2018, the cash and other liquid asset limits will be increased from $5,000 to $40,000 for single individuals, and from $7,500 to $50,000 for couples
  •  Effective Sept 2017, income exemption for cash gifts will be increased from $6,000 up to $10,000 per year in both ODSP and Ontario Works
  •  Effective Sept 2017, gifts in any amount will not reduce the amount of social assistance people receive if the funds are used to pay for first and last month’s rent, purchase a principal residence, or buy a vehicle that they may need
  •  ODSP rates will increase 2% effective Sept 2017, and will include increases to other social assistance benefits and allowances, such as Personal Needs Allowance

Bryan Keshen, President and CEO of Reena indicated “I am pleased to see an expanded investment in services through the Ministry of Community and Social Services for those in crisis and in transition to adult services. I am particularly thrilled to see the recognition and investment in inter-ministerial efforts with expanded housing, support for caregivers, and health services targeted to the most vulnerable populations of which those with developmental disabilities are disproportionately represented.”

It is unfortunate that core budgets of all agencies are flat and are not even indexed to inflation. All MCSS agencies, including Reena, will need to be creative and raise additional resources and/or cut non-essential services.

The budget was silent on a number of key areas of concern for the sector, namely base funding to cover inflationary costs nor was there any provision for legal and legislated responsibilities such as pay equity. In response Bryan noted that “agencies like Reena will need to be creative in their program provision without cutting core services and will increasingly depend on community support and philanthropy.”

Carolynn Morrison, parent of an individual supported by Reena and Chair of Reena’s Government Relations Committee commented: “We are pleased with the recognition and support of individuals like my son, but with no base funding increases, it makes me wonder what my son and his friends were able to do last year that they will not have the supports for next year. We can’t keep falling behind inflation.”