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OASIS and the Ontario Budget

Ontario Agencies Supporting Individuals with Special Needs (OASIS) Comments on Budget

The following email was sent to various OASIS members from president, Ann Kenney, as thoughts about the recent Ontario Budget 2017:

I had the privilege of attending the Budget Lockup on behalf of OASIS yesterday, as well as a teleconference with Karen Chan later that evening. For developmental services sector this is a good news/bad news story.  I will start with the good news:

  • The government will take immediate action and invest $677 million over four years to help keep people out of crises and give more people the supports that are right for them
  • In 2017-18 the investment will be over $130 million annualized dollars plus an additional $5 million in infrastructure funds as follows:
    • Provide over 375 additional residential developmental services placement for individuals with urgent needs and youth transitioning from the child welfare system;
    • Support 1,000 additional adults with developmental disabilities to participate in their communities through the Passport program;
    • Establish a special residential support home for individuals with complex needs who are moving from justice facilities;
    • Expand specialized clinical responses for individuals with complex special needs; and
    • Improve access to local community services by making the system easier to navigate
  • Over the next 2 years the government will work with families and community partners to transition over 400 young adults currently in the children’s system into adult developmental services
  • It was stated that this investment will support the government’s response to the recommendations of the Ombudsman of Ontario to address situations of crisis involving people with urgent and complex care needs.

For Individuals we support:

  • 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 (ODSP)
  • 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
  • For northern and remote communities, the Province will increase the Remote Communities Allowance by providing an additional $50 per month for the first person and $25 for each additional family member

 Housing Strategies

Under the affordable housing strategy the Ontario government is going to strategically leverage provincial land assets as a way to build more affordable housing units across the province. This program will complement the work being done to establish community hubs. 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. OASIS had previously advocated that if land that the institutions sat on was sold that it be reinvested in our sector,  and it may be worthwhile to purse this with the Government again.

 Children’s Services

Children and Youth Pharmacare will be available to all children and youth aged 24 and under, regardless of family income.  It will completely cover the cost of all medicines funded through the ODB program. There will be no deductible and no co-payment.

Affordable child care

  • By 2017-18, investment will support access to licensed child care for 24,000 more children up to 4 years old through new fee subsidy spaces and support for new licensed child care spaces in schools

Important to the Sensory Partner OASIS Members

  • Keeping all provincial and demonstration schools open to support students who are deaf or hard of hearing; blind or have low vision; deafblind; or who have severe learning disabilities
  • Establishing a reference group to provide guidance and input on strengthening supports for students who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Pursing legislative changes to transfer the governance structure of Centre Jules-Leger to the 12 French-language school boards to better support French-language communities

Autism

  • Jan 2017 – March 2018, five new diagnostic hubs will be established to improve the availability of more timely Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnostic assessments so children can start accessing services as quickly as possible
  • Continued investment from the $500 million investment over five years  announced in 2016
  • Enhancing autism supports in schools to help children transition to, and continue in, full-time school, including
    • Multidisciplinary, student-specific, school-based transition teams supporting all children transitioning form Intensive Behavioural Intervention services, and
    • After school skills development programs to provide students with additional opportunities to develop targeted skills outside the instructional day and to better equip them for classroom success

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

  • Investing $26 million over four years to expand support for children, youth and families affected by FASD through six initiatives
  • Create one-stop access to information/training resources
  • Providing funding for 56 FASD workers to support approximately 2,500 Ontarians with FASD
  • Support parent support networks
  • Increase access to FASD initiatives developed by Indigenous partners
  • Establish a consultation group to provide advice and feedback to inform implementation planning and prioritization of efforts
  • Create a research fund and invest in knowledge mobilization

Other

  • Enhancing caregiver support tax credit
  • Dementia Strategy
    • $100 million 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 bringing their 3 year investment in respite care to $120 million 

In relation to the Pay Equity issue that many agencies are facing there was no direct support or funding announced, however, there was the following information presented regarding Championing Women’s Empowerment:

  • The Province understands the value of women in the workforce, and what their contributions mean for economic prosperity in Ontario, and indeed the country.  That’s why the government has played a leadership role in women’s economic empowerment and corporate leadership through the action plan to close the gender wage gap and an initiative to support women in corporate leadership
  • Ontario is also committed to strengthening the use of gender-based analysis within government to make sure considerations of gender as an essential component of the policy development process
  • A plan will be released in the coming months
  • This plan will be part of a new women’s economic empowerment strategy.  This summer, the Province will be engaging with key stakeholder groups to help shape this strategy, so that more women are able to reach their full economic potential 

In discussions with Jonathan Bradshaw, Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister’s Office, they will continue to advocate with the Provincial Network, OASIS and Community Living Ontario to ensure that the Pay Equity issue of our sector remains on the radar.  The Gender Wage Gap working group has also commenced meeting and we are well represented by Janet Noel-Annable at this table.

In our teleconference with Karen Chan the partners indicated that while we were appreciative of the new funding that we are looking at a tough year for agencies who are faced with their 9th year of no increases to deal with the cost of living increases in operating their services never mind the pay equity issue.  We have agreed to have continued dialogue on this issue with the Ministry, as funding around agencies is reaching the critical stages.  Karen reiterated her understanding of this and emphasized how important it was we get these new individuals into service as it is crucial for sector credibility if we want to make long term gains for the sector. 

N. Ann Kenney, OASIS President
president@oasisonline.ca