Update on New Ontario Legislation: "Services and Supports to Promote Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities" (30 September 2008)

"Bill 77" was expected to be passed by the Ontario Legislature on 30 September 2008, and the new legislation is likely to be proclaimed shortly. Here are links to the debate on the third reading of the Bill on September 24 and 25.
http://www.ontla.on.ca/house-proceedings/transcripts/files_pdf/24-SEP-2008_L064.pdf
http://www.ontla.on.ca/house-proceedings/transcripts/files_pdf/25-SEP-2008_L065.pdf

As we advised in our bulletin of September 24, some of the amendments urged in the review process were adopted in amendments to the earlier version of the legislation, including the following:
1. The short title of the Bill was changed to "Services and Supports to Promote Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities."
2. All references to "services" were amended to "services and supports."
3. Person-directed planning is included as a Ministry-funded support (though not an entitlement, as requested by stakeholders).
4. On the key provision for "application centres" Bill 77 is amended to outline a consistent process for applying for and accessing developmental services, supports and direct funding. The act would authorize the Minister to designate entities to administer the "application process" consisting of various duties and functions.
5. The Minister may designate one or more service agencies that do not deliver services and supports to be a funding entity for a geographical region. A funding entity would prioritize and allocate Ministry funding among eligible individuals.
6. While the establishment of waiting lists remains in the amended bill, transparency would be promoted by the funding entities providing annual reports on waiting lists which the Ministry would post on its website.
7. Services agencies must comply with regulations related to complaints, including written protocols and procedures.
8. Before the Minister makes a regulation under the act, a draft of the regulation would be made available for 45 days for public review and input.

However, none of the 66 constructive amendments out forward by the Conservatives and only two of the 32 amendments proposed by the New Democrats were accepted for the final version of the legislation. The other amendments  came from the Government members of the Standing Committee on Social Policy in response to the many submissions in the review process. The Hansard record of the debate of the third reading of Bill 77 last week is worth reading for what is left out of Bill 77.

Opposition critics spoke eloquently of the dashing of the high expectations that had been raised by the Government's announcement of a "transformation agenda." They criticized the
acceptance of waiting lists for basic supports and services, the absence of provision for lifelong and person-directed planning and supported decision-making in the legislation, and the lack of resources to facilitate true inclusion in people's home communities. They deplored the dearth of funds for any new initiatives, such as the much-heralded Passport initiative, in which fewer than 10 per cent of qualified applicants last year received anything at all. Concerns were expressed about the amount of detail that has been left to regulation by the Minister after the Bill is passed. They noted the absence of a preamble or purpose clause that would express the spirit and intent of the legislation, as had been urged by many who submitted comments on the earlier draft.

_____________________________________________________________

Earlier Bulletins Excerpted
24 September 2008
Read the informal text of Bill 77, with the amendments approved by the Standing Committee on Social Policy earlier this month.  http://www.ont-autism.uoguelph.ca/Bill77-clause-by-clause.pdf  Thanks to Community Living Ontario.

These are summary highlights of results of the public review and amendment process, as presented by MCSS to the Partnership Table: 77 oral presentations were made to the Standing Committee at hearings in the first week of August, and an additional 145 written submissions were received. Comments on the first draft Bill 77 contained a high degree of consistency among agencies, associations, family groups and others who made submissions.

Amendments to Bill 77 approved by the Standing Committee, in response to submissions, included the following:
1. The short title of the Bill was changed to "Services and Supports to Promote Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities."
2. All references to "services" were amended to "services and supports."
3. Person-directed planning is included as a Ministry-funded support (though not an entitlement, as requested by stakeholders).
4. On the key provision for "application centres" Bill 77 is amended to outline a consistent process for applying for and accessing developmental services, supports and direct funding. The act would authorize the Minister to designate entities to administer the "application process" consisting of various duties and functions.
5. The Minister may designate one or more service agencies that do not deliver services and supports to be a funding entity for a geographical region. A funding entity would prioritize and allocate Ministry funding among eligible individuals.
6. While the establishment of waiting lists remains in the amended bill, transparency would be promoted by the funding entities providing annual reports on waiting lists which the Ministry would post on its website.
7. Services agencies must comply with regulations related to complaints, including written protocols and procedures.
8. Before the Minister makes a regulation under the act, a draft of the regulation would be made available for 45 days for public review and input.

____________________________________________________
 
Background to Bill 77, Services for Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008
(10 August 2008)

In mid-May 2008, the Minister of Community and Social Services introduced new legislation covering services and funding the Ontario Government may provide for persons with a developmental disability. The last full act on the subject was passed in 1974. One reason for the legislation is to wind up the Government’s direct management of “Schedule 1” facilities which are due to close within the next year. The Government has said that the new act will shape what happens in the next quarter-century.


In May 2004, the new Liberal Government launched a process of consultation to “transform” developmental services. In the Ministry’s words, “the transformation agenda set out to achieve greater independence, dignity and self-reliance for individuals with a developmental disability, and offers more choice and flexibility for families and stimulates innovation and creativity.” Various stakeholders--family members, persons with disabilities, volunteer members of supporting organizations, and staff of funded agencies--were involved. People who had been advocating more choice and control by those with disabilities have welcomed the Government’s initiative in opening up conversations about ways to improve Ontario’s supports and services.
 
During this process, the Ministry convened special advisory panels, invited submissions, and funded pilot projects of various kinds. We have reported most phases of this process in past bulletins, including the partial implementation of some new initiatives such as Passports (created from 2006 “to provide opportunities for individuals who have a developmental disability and who have left school to find more ways to participate in their communities”) and the Innovative Residential Model Initiative. Some changes are still being tested and others have yet to be evaluated. Visit the following links for a sense of what the Ministry has done during the past four years:
Opportunities and Action - Transforming Supports in Ontario for People who have a Developmental Disability (May 2006)

Spotlight on Transformation
(A Developmental Services series of electronic bulletins from the Ministry of Community and Social Services: February 2007 to July 2008)
 
Link to Text of Ontario Legislature Bill 77 (2008) in English and French, as submitted for first and second readings:

Click for a
“plain-language compendium” version of Bill 77:
 
Many people who work with or care about the quality of supports and services for persons with developmental disabilities have been eager to compare the bill’s provisions with the consensus of the many discussions since 2004. Bill 77 has been intensively studied and, during the first week of August 2008, scores of presentations were made to hearings of the Standing Committee on Social Policy in Toronto, London, Timmins and Ottawa. Click this link to the recorded presentations on August 5 in Toronto (the only day so far available):
Committee Transcripts: Standing Committee on Social Policy - August 05, 2008

A remarkable Provincial Ad Hoc Working Group was convened by Judith McGill, executive director of Families for a Secure Future. Twenty-six participants representing 14 organizations in seven of regions of Ontario intensively discussed the bill in various meetings. The following organizations were represented:
Autism Ontario
Community Living Ontario
Durham Association of Family Respite Services
Durham Family Network
Families for a Secure Future
Family Alliance of Ontario
Guelph Services for the Autistic
Individualized Funding Coalition for Ontario
Kerry’s Place
Special Services at Home Provincial Coalition
Toronto Family Network
Windsor Essex Brokerage
Windsor Essex Family Network
Click for this group’s working paper, which also formed the basis of spoken presentations to the Standing Committee on Social Policy in the first week of August. 
http://www.ont-autism.uoguelph.ca/Bill77-PAWG-final-Aug5.pdf
 
As in other presentations, the Provincial Ad Hoc group commended the Government for the process of consultation and for its announced commitment to the values of citizenship, fairness and equity, accessibility and portability, safety and security, accountability and sustainability. Most advocates have concerns that Bill 77 should do much more to realize the transformation values and goals.
 
A summary of recommendations is provided at the end of the Provincial Ad Hoc group’s submission, relating to the following points as they affect people with a range of developmental disabilities:
 
1) Name of the Bill: recommending a change to “An Act to enhance social inclusion for persons who have developmental disabilities, to repeal the Developmental Services Act and to amend certain other statutes.”
 
2) Use of Language: recommending that the phrase “supports and services” in place of just “services” to demonstrate the Ministry’s commitment to a range of options for individuals and families beyond just services.
 
3) Preamble: recommending that the bill begin with a preamble restating the government’s transformation values and principles and also referring to related United Nations documents on the rights of persons with disabilities.
 
4) Recognition of Legal Capacity: recommending that a provision be added that any decision that is required in the context of this legislation regarding a benefit that a person with a disability is eligible to apply for or receive under this Act is to be made to the greatest extent possible by the person receiving that benefit, with whatever support is required in order for that person to exercise his or her legal capacity to make that decision. Specific reference should be made to relevant provisions of the Substitute Decisions Act.
 
5) Accessibility and Portability: recommending that the following be included in the preamble.  A key principle to direct funding is accessibility and portability – so that funding and supports are flexible and go with the person if he/she chooses to use it in another way with another organization or moves to another community.
 
6) Independent Facilitation Supports: recommending that, once eligibility has been determined, applicants shall have access to resources for ongoing, independent facilitation and planning supports, with necessary changes to relevant sections of the bill to make this possible.
 
7) Prioritization and Equity: recommending that “ongoing, independent facilitation and planning support shall be offered as a basic right to each and every individual with a developmental disability once they are deemed eligible for funding and/or services.  By offering this as a minimal provision of support once they are deemed eligible, the Ministry will ensure that individuals are not severely disadvantaged as they wait for access to direct funding or services.
 
8) Application Centres: recommending that the government assess the conflicts of interest apparent in the current legislation as it pertains to the Application Centres and consider limiting the description of the stated functions so that a system of regulatory safeguards can be created to deal with the inherent conflicts.
 
9) Direct Funding Wage Disparity: recommending that, for direct funding to be considered a “bona fide” option in this legislation, thorough measures must be in place to ensure that individuals and their families and caregivers are able to purchase quality support within the community.  Such measures must ensure provisions through which contractors available for hire through direct funding can be paid a living wage, comparable to that of staff in service agencies, that there is an expectation of quality in the support provided by these contractors and that adequate training is made available to all workers in the sector as needed.
 
10) Protections and Appeals: including protection against abuse, and the right to privacy and security
 
11) Community Development and Infrastructure: recommending that provision be made to ensure investment in the development and sharing of innovative approaches to enhance the outcomes to be achieved through direct supports and funding, and responsive systems for facilitating direct funding and portability. Independent self-advocacy groups should be supported with funding.
 
There was a good deal of agreement among the various presenters on the main issues that should be assessed in revisions of the bill by the Standing Committee on Social Policy which has this power.
 
For those of us concerned with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), Dr Glenn Rampton, CEO of Kerry’s Place Autism Services, and Margaret Spoelstra of Autism Ontario both made presentations on the first day. Among the concerns they noted about issues for people with ASD:
1. The needs of adults with ASD were not properly considered in the preliminary stages of the bill;
2. An integrated legislative framework is needed to enable lifelong planning and access to supports and thus to overcome the discontinuities of supports and services that followed the separation of developmental services and children’s services in 2003, and to cross sectors including mental health, education and justice as well [to which we would add physical health].
3. Employees of application centres may not have the specific skills and knowledge to assess the highly complicated and specific and individualized needs of persons with autism.
4. More resources will have to go into services and supports, as many adults with ASD have never had adequately funded help, and numbers of children identified on the autism spectrum have been increasing dramatically.