Full community inclusion focus of Community Living Day at the Legislature

May 16, 2016

Posted in: Uncategorized

Community Living associations from around the province came together at Queen’s Park yesterday as part of Community Living Day at the Legislature.

Co-hosted by Community Living Toronto, Community Living Ontario and the Minister of Community and Social Services, the event was an opportunity for roughly 30 member associations to connect with their MPPs, to celebrate the many collaborations with government, and to recognize the challenges that remain in creating inclusive communities in the province.

MPPs and government staffers joined friends of Community Living for a lunch reception. The group heard remarks from Hélène Morin-Chain, President of Community Living Ontario, Brad Saunders, CEO of Community Living Toronto, James Taylor, Chair of the Council of Community Living Ontario, as well as from Randy Pettapiece (PC) and Sarah Campbell (NDP), critics for Community and Social Services.

The Honourable Helena Jaczek, Minister of Community and Social Services, also addressed the event’s attendees and referenced the lighting of the CN Tower, Welland Bridge 13 and the many other buildings across the province that have been illuminated with the Community Living colours as part of Community Living Month.

“I’m sure people were intrigued by seeing the colours and this is just another way to make sure that everyone is aware of not only of the work that you do, but our communities’ intent to ensure that we live in an inclusive province where there’s a place for every single person,” said Jaczek.

She also talked about the government’s shared goal of improving the Developmental Services system to meet the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

“We are determined to develop a system that meets the needs of individuals with [intellectual] disabilities and their families, and we want to continue to encourage individuals to connect to the labour market. We are also engaging and supporting potential employers, current employers to spread the word. We want people who choose to work to have real work for real pay, and your support is critical as we work together toward our shared goal of full community inclusion.”

The Minister also stated that the Ministry of Community and Social Services and its partner ministries would be developing a provincial employment strategy for people with disabilities, with a range of training and employment services based on people’s specific needs and goals. She also made reference to the government’s multiyear plan to reform social assistance and the design of a basic income pilot.

After the reception, many guests then attended the afternoon session in the legislature, where statements on Community Living Day were made by the Minister of Community and Social Services and government critics.

The following was taken from yesterday’s Hansard transcipts:

Statements by the Ministry and Responses

Community Living Day

Hon. Helena Jaczek: Today is Community Living Day, and it gives me great pleasure to welcome our guests from Community Living Ontario and many of its local agencies from across the province. We have been joined by Chris Beesley, chief executive officer of Community Living Ontario; Brad Saunders, the CEO of Community Living Toronto; Hélène Morin-Chain, president of Community Living Ontario; James Taylor, council chair of Community Living Ontario; Gord Kyle, director of policy; and Jo-Anne Demick, the executive director of Community Living Parry Sound.

I would also like to acknowledge that May is Community Living Month. In honour of this month, the CN Tower was lit up last night with green and blue to shine a light on Community Living and the message of inclusion for everyone.

For 63 years, Community Living organizations have been true leaders in advocating for people with developmental disabilities. It started with the families who formed the original Community Living movement to fight for their children’s right to attend public school. The movement soon expanded into one that championed the rights of all individuals with developmental disabilities to be equal participants in their communities.

Today, there are 12,000 members in more than 100 local Community Living associations.

Family is and has always been at the heart of what the movement is about. I am always humbled by the personal commitment and caring I see when I meet with community living organizations. Inspired by this movement, we are working with Community Living organizations and other partners to transform the developmental services system into one that is more accessible, fair and sustainable.

Let me also recognize Community Living London, Community Living Brant and Community Living Algoma, who are leading the way in transitioning away from sheltered workshops towards inclusive, person-centred supports in the community and effective individualized employment supports, and in sharing their stories with other agencies on the transition journey.

Independence, inclusion and choice are the core principles behind our three-year, $810-million investment strategy for community and developmental services.

My ministry has just completed year two of this investment and, together with our partners, we have already made tremendous strides in helping thousands of Ontarians. Approximately 15,200 people and their families are getting new direct funding so they can choose the programs that will help them achieve their goals. We have provided Passport funding to approximately 7,200 people since 2014. We have eliminated the Special Services at Home program wait-list more than a year ahead of schedule. We have funded new residential supports to more than 800 individuals—more than halfway to our target.

Over the next year, along with our partner ministries, we will also develop a provincial employment strategy for people with disabilities. We want to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities by helping them connect to the labour market and by engaging and supporting employers. Providing increased choice and greater community inclusion is key to our efforts.

We know that tackling issues facing families in the developmental services sector is not just about more funding. We are working to make our employment support programs more effective to help people get real jobs in their community. For people who choose to work, we want them to have real work for real pay.

I would like to commend the Community Living movement for their support as we work together on this. As we continue to transform the developmental services system, we look to our partners to help make Ontario a more inclusive province.

None of this would be possible without the drive and inspiration of the families and caring individuals in the Community Living movement.

Madam Speaker, I invite all members on both sides of the House to join me in recognizing the vital and important work of the thousands of Ontarians who are proud champions of Community Living Ontario.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Responses?

Mr. Randy Pettapiece: Today is Community Living Day at Queen’s Park. We have many representatives from Community Living Ontario and Community Living agencies across the province. I would like to welcome all of them to the Legislature and thank them personally for the great chocolate bars we got at the reception today.

Our Community Living agencies promote inclusion, citizenship and equality for people who have an intellectual disability. I’m inspired by Community Living’s mission to create a world where people with an intellectual disability can fully participate in their community because they are included in decisions and considered citizens. I know that Community Living works towards this mission every day and their results are invaluable for so many individuals and families.

Among the many programs offered by Community Living agencies are housing supports, employment support and day programs. These services help to provide independence for individuals with disabilities and are an important part of the developmental services sector.

Over the last few months, we have been working hard to voice the concerns of the sector and the families that Community Living agencies serve. At top of mind are the closures of sheltered workshops, many of which are run by Community Living, pay equity issues and the availability of housing.

I have heard from families across the province who are extremely concerned about these government plans. Many fear that this will compromise the work and social opportunities that are so important for the individuals who work at these places. What we need and what we have been asking for since the initial announcement in December is a detailed transition plan and a consultation period.

In line with the mission of Community Living, everyone deserves to have their feedback and advice heard on this important policy issue. I remain disappointed that the government has not committed to a formal consultation period and that they have still refused to provide a detailed transition plan. Individual families and agencies deserve better.

I also remain concerned about the availability of housing for individuals with disabilities. Community Living has gone above and beyond to provide inclusive housing opportunities. They need a partner in this government to ensure that everyone who wants to live with independence has the opportunity to do so.

In Perth–Wellington, we are lucky enough to have a number of Community Living agencies. I would like to recognize the staff at Community Living St. Marys, Community Living Stratford, Community Living North Perth and Community Living Guelph Wellington. I had the opportunity to visit these agencies, and I frequently meet with families who rely on the important resources that Community Living provides.

To the staff at Community Living agencies, we say thank you. Your commitment to inclusive and independent living has improved the lives of so many. To the families who support their loved ones, we recognize your hard work and your tireless commitment each and every day. And to all of those who are visiting today and are a part of the Community Living family, thank you for your outstanding citizenship and for sharing your stories.

Ms. Sarah Campbell: I would like to extend a warm welcome to the many people with Community Living Ontario who are here at Queen’s Park, joining us today. I’m always proud to stand in the Ontario Legislature on behalf of my constituents of Kenora–Rainy River. On behalf of New Democrats and Andrea Horwath, it’s my pleasure to rise and speak today in celebration of Community Living Day.

For over 60 years, Community Living Ontario has advocated for people with intellectual disabilities to be fully included in all aspects of community life so that all people are able to live with dignity, share in all elements of living in our communities and have the opportunity to be better enabled to fully participate.

I was proud to have attended the reception earlier this afternoon with many of my MPP colleagues to help celebrate the achievements of Community Living Ontario. I also had the pleasure to meet with so many individuals who had come from across the province and who continue to receive the services that Community Living offers, and I was able to hear their stories.

In my riding of Kenora–Rainy River, I’m proud of Community Living Ontario and the work that it does to provide services to the residents of Fort Frances and Dryden. The excellent support staff is part of a dynamic team of individuals who work at these two locations. I’m looking forward to seeing and meeting many of these individuals in the coming months.

I’d like to highlight some of the outstanding services that Community Living Fort Frances and Dryden provide. Employment supports are provided so that each person can live their life to the fullest. Individuals are offered ongoing training and support, which will facilitate either paid employment or unpaid placements, which are consistent with the goals and the needs of the individual. While the emphasis may not necessarily be on competitive employment, it includes satisfying work alternatives reflective of individual interests.

They also provide 24-hour supports. This is a comprehensive service for people with long-term and intensive support and care needs. The level of supervision is high and is geared towards each person’s skills and abilities. In-home and out-of-home supports are provided in a wide variety of areas, such as personal health and safety, mobility, household maintenance and transportation.
Finally, leisure activities are also available. Through the use of technology, people are offered a range of experiences, including sports, education and literacy, life skills, physical therapy, music therapy, vocational skills, stretching and relaxation.

Speaker, as you can see, Community Living Ontario provides a range of programs and supports to those living with intellectual disabilities. I support Community Living Ontario and the 100 branches across the province as they continue with their strong advocacy for clients, to ensure that we all have inclusive communities in Ontario.

However, Speaker, there is still much more that needs to be done. I had the opportunity, as I mentioned, to speak with a number of people at the Community Living reception. They told me time and time again that there are real challenges in this province with the shelter allowance with ODSP. It comes in at less than $500 a month and many areas that were represented at the reception told me that the market rent can be in excess of $700, on average, to $900 or more, depending on where they’re living. What that means is, if they’re taking money away from the rest of the money that they have to pay for their shelter, there’s less money for food. It means an increased reliance on food banks and it also means a life that is doomed to poverty.

We have to change those things. We need to have more affordable housing units across this province and we need to have real employment opportunities. That was something that people had talked about time and time again: “I want to work. I am capable of working. Let me go out and work. I just need a job.” There is a lot more work we need to do on that front.

We know the fantastic work that Community Living Ontario does, but this work is simply not possible if there’s limited funding and a lack of other supports from the provincial government.

I’d like to conclude my remarks by thanking the organizers of the reception today as well as the individuals sitting here in the galleries. Thank you so much for travelling across Ontario to come here and join us today and share your stories.
I thank Community Living Ontario and all of its member organizations for the outstanding work that they do every day.

Ron Laroche, Community Living Ontariolegislature

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