Windsor·Video

Windsor mother says deep cuts to disability services will be 'detrimental'

Ford government willing to pay $1 million for a contractor to cut services to the most vulnerable.

'They're taking away too much and it's scary,' says Shirley Knight

The Ford government is cutting developmental services — and it's spending up to one million dollars to hire a consultant to do so. 2:14

Shirley Knight is worried cuts coming to disability services will be "detrimental" to her two sons who both have cerebral palsy and rely heavily on funding from the province.

Aside from monthly Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) cheques of about $800 a month, Knight's two sons receive about $35,000 a year each. 

Joshua receives $39,000 a year and Max is provided $32,000 each year through Ontario's Passport Program, which is funding meant to help the two young men live independently and develop skills.

"It seems like a lot, but in the last year I still paid over $1,000 out-of-pocket," said Knight, adding that she recognizes some families get significantly less funding.

Max Knight, 23, asking his mother when he can go swimming again. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Between the cost of workers and programs — including the Roots 2 Wings program which costs nearly $20,000 a year — Knight said she couldn't afford these services without provincial aid.

"If I had to pay out-of-pocket, there is no way they'd be able to go [to programs]," she said. "This funding not only helps the family but it employs. We have seven workers between the two young men."

Knight's concerns stem from an Ontario contract issued in August looking for bidders. The contract seeks a management consultant to find ways to "streamline" the delivery of services to 40,000 adults living with developmental disabilities, with an eye to the "savings targets" in the spring budget.

Joshua Knight wrestling with his mother while listening to music. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Ontario's Progressive Conservative (PC) government offered to pay up to $1 million for an outside contractor to help it cut costs in disability services.

The government's most-recent budget showed a $1 billion cut in the children and social services sector over three years, and set a target of a $510 million annual cut in 2021-22 from "operational efficiencies and cost savings."

Windsor West MPP takes issue to Queen's Park

Lisa Gretzky is the NDP's official opposition critic for the community and social services portfolio. She's also the MPP of Windsor West. Gretzky has met with Knight and said she is also deeply concerned by the government's proposed cuts.

"What these families need is supports," said Gretzky.

Watch the full interaction between Lisa Gretzky and Minister Todd Smith:

Windsor West MPP at Queen's Park asking about cuts to disability services. 4:34

During Question Period on Monday, Gretzky asked the Ford government why it's spending $1 million to hire a consultant to cut funding.

"People with developmental disabilities and their families are worried sick about these drastic cuts. The programs the Conservatives are looking to cut provide crucial supports like respite, day programs and in-home caregivers — programs that some families aren't even able to access because they've been on a wait list for years," she said.

Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, said the provincial government is committed to meeting with families and caregivers in the sector. Smith has previously visited Windsor and has met with area families and Gretzky.

"I understand the challenges that they are facing. They are the same challenges that they have been facing in this sector for the last 10 to 15 years," Smith said in response to Gretzky. "We recognize the challenges ... we are spending $2.6 billion in this sector now in Ontario."

Still, Knight said she worries for her sons' futures. She said if the government starts cutting funding for certain services, they might not stop.

Joshua Knight, 21, could lose his independence if funding is cut, says his mother Shirley Knight. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

"They're the most vulnerable. They didn't ask to be in this position and neither do we want them to be in this position, but it's not fair," said Knight. "They're taking away too much and it's scary."

A report by the Ontario Developmental Services Housing Task Force released in 2018 found that 15,700 adults with developmental disabilities were waiting for residential services in 2017, up from 12,000 four years prior.

With files from the Canadian Press

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