Ontario government fails the province when it fails developmental services

Programs for individuals with developmental disabilities have too long gone underfunded in Ontario. Now, facing cuts, these Ontarians are poised to lose even more of their limited funding.
Developmental disabilities vary greatly, but are usually life long and affect everyday living. At their severest, they can often mean lifelong support. If the government isn’t able to help, the financial burden falls to caregivers alone to make sure adequate supports are in place. 
In November 2019, the Ford government announced their intent to pay $1 million to a contractor over six months this year to make service delivery cuts for adults with developmental disabilities. The services under this umbrella broadly include community housing, social programs, and support workers: all initiatives that offer more independence to adults with disabilities. 
This standing proposition is damaging: it contributes to the rhetoric that these services are an unnecessary burden and cost on our province, when the opposite is true. 
These services are a necessity. They promote inclusivity and allow individuals with developmental disabilities to participate in their communities while fostering independent lives. Despite this benefit, significant gaps continue to exist in Ontario’s support for the developmentally disabled community.
Students receiving special education support in Ontario public schools are already faced with barriers stemming from inadequate resources and funding. Low funding leads to high student-to-teacher ratios, which force programs to function based on generalizations instead of targeting individual needs. 
After they graduate from the public school system, many people with developmental disabilities continue to require similar levels of supervision they received throughout their educations, along with social and mental stimulation. 
Social programs can provide this structure, but are often varied in scope and cost. The individual funding for adults with special needs doesn’t necessarily cover the cost of these programs, presenting a financial barrier for caretakers and families. Similarly, group homes offer independence while alleviating some stress on caretakers, who aren’t equipped to provide constant care. Unfortunately, group homes often remain inaccessible, and waitlists can span decades
The government must begin to address systemic inequalities and foster inclusivity, starting at the basic levels of education and infrastructure. This means they need to ensure the reallocation of funding and action taken to support people with developmental special needs—not more cuts. 
The Ford government’s proposal to limit their provision of services for this community is more than counter-productive. It demonstrates a complete disconnect from areas of need in Ontario.  
The developmental special needs community has long made due with less than adequate financial support. 
Programs and services that support them need more funding, not less. 
Tessa is The Journal’s Photo Editor. She’s a third-year English major.

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