Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek says it will take two years to eliminate waiting lists for things like day programs and residential supports — not the one year recommended.
It will take two years to end waiting lists for treatment of people with developmental disabilities — twice as long as recommended in a new report — Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek said Wednesday.
“Do we have the capacity in the system to provide the day programming, the residential supports, within a year? The short answer was: perhaps not,” Jaczek, a medical doctor, told reporters.
“The intention is to eliminate wait lists, absolutely. But how we can do that in a practical sense? Our estimate is more like two years.”
Jaczek was responding to a long-awaited report by the legislature’s Select Committee on Developmental Services, with members from all three political parties who said the waiting lists are in “urgent” need of attention.
MPPs on the committee said in the report, which made 46 recommendations, that they were “deeply troubled and alarmed by the range of barriers confronting persons with developmental disabilities.”
A chronic shortage of developmental services for everyone from toddlers to adults was detailed more than a year ago in the Star’s Autism Project. Ontario Ombudsman André Marin is also investigating the struggles of young adults whose parents can no longer care for them.
Jaczek said more money will start to flow to developmental services agencies this fall after the provincial budget is passed, which was expected to happen Thursday.
The majority Liberal government has promised to boost funding by $810 million over the next three years, on top of the existing annual budget of $1.7 billion for developmental services.
It will take time for agencies that do the front-line work to get ready, Jaczek said.
“Agencies are going to have to build up their capacity. That’s what the funding is for. So I’m sure we will achieve it, but it may just be a little bit longer than was suggested in the report,” she told reporters.
“Some of these practical implications of the recommendations are exactly what we need to work through.”
For example, the members of a housing task force will be announced in August, and the ministry is working with agencies on ways to provide better “customer service” that is fair and consistent for families, Jaczek said.
“We’ve heard these concerns before.”
Progressive Conservative MPP Christine Elliott said she’s not banking on the waiting list being eliminated in a year, adding that the important thing is that “work be undertaken immediately.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was less patient about a two-year wait.
“I don’t think it takes much to expand services when the infrastructure is already there . . . this is one of the things I think is frustrating for people.”