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OPSEU demands developmental services system overhaul

Thunder Bay worker says people are languishing on waitlists

THUNDER BAY - The union that represents developmental services workers across Ontario has sent a message to the province's minister of Community and Social Services, Michael Coteau.

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) members rallied on Friday in Toronto outside Coteau's constituency office, demanding that he overhaul the developmental services system.

OPSEU says funding for the system is inadequate, even though the provincial Ombudsman recommended an overhaul in 2016. According to a news release issued by the union, the government responded with small funding increases, "but those increases haven't been nearly enough."

OPSEU noted that a family last year launched a class-action suit against the government because of a years-long waiting list for services.

A developmental services worker and OPSEU member from Thunder Bay, Erin Smith-Rice, was quoted as saying that "tens of thousands of people with developmental disabilities are falling through the cracks." 

She said "people are languishing on waitlists for services and housing, and many of them are ending up in psychiatric wards or unregulated private group homes with deplorable conditions."

OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas called the situation "a full-fledged crisis."

In response to an inquiry from, Coteau's office issued a statement saying the ministry is "working closely with our developmental services sector partners, with the people we serve and with their families, to improve the system of services and supports...Our goal is to provide greater flexibility, choice and inclusion" in the services that are offered.

The statement said the ministry has implemented or is in the process of implementing 95 per cent of the 60 recommendations made by the Ombudsman two years ago, and is working with his office to resolve three remaining recommendations.



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