Several dozen Ottawa families are angry after the province cut funding to a program that advocates for their adult disabled children.
For five years, Ottawa-based Citizen Advocacy has been running the Real Plans for Real Life program, which finds day programs, jobs and respite care for parents of developmentally disabled adults.
It was run through $300,000 in funding for the Ontario Ministry of Social Services. But the ministry said the money is being moved to the provincial Service Coordination office, which provides some services for the disabled, but doesn't provide the same long-term planning aid for disabled clients.
Francois St. Jean, whose son Alexander is autistic, doesn't speak and suffers from seizures, said parents won't get the same level of care.
"Every time we call Service Coordination we have to wait days before they respond," said St. Jean. "They say, sorry no funding, no respite care...everything is in transition."
Zeno Jaworski, whose 26-year-old son Tom has a rare genetic disorder that leaves him catatonic, said when ministry staff handled her son they labelled the family "difficult" and said they couldn't find a day placement.
Jaworski said the Citizen Advocacy worker spent a year writing a plan for Tom and pushed to get him into the best day program.
"It's meant that I have hope for a life with Tom," she said. "I have hope for a life with me...just to enjoy Tom as a human being and not always as his caregiver."
About 40 severely disabled people and their caregivers benefited from the program.
Social Services Manager Una Jane Tallentire acknowledged case workers at the ministry won't take on an advocacy role.
But she argued her revamped ministry will serve clients better and said they would not review the decision.
The Ministry is making the change, she said, "to provide a simple, transparent mechanism to access to services."