By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
Allowing developmentally disabled adults choose how to spend their individual government grants might be a way to make original ideas like the proposed Dundas Living Centre a reality.
Ernie Lightman, a retired economics and social policy professor at the University of Toronto, said he understands both what local parents are trying to do for their adult children with the local project, and the provincial government’s hesitation to change their current policy in order to provide operational funding for the living centre in the Sister’s of St. Joseph’s Convent on Northcliffe Road.
“But the government is moving in a direction. They’re not there yet, but perhaps these parents will push them further in that direction,” Lightman said.
He said a solution to bureaucratic squabbles over funding new projects like the Dundas Living Centre could be ‘Individualized Funding’ – a pilot project the British Columbia government has attempted.
“The money is attached to the individual, not the services, so they can spend it however they want,’ Lightman said, but added that policy assumes each individual – with their personal challenges, disabilities, and supports – will spend the money properly, or not lose it.
Lightman said those issues can be addressed by having community agencies help individuals plan how their individualized funding will be spent and ensuring that happens, or creating “custodial agreements” which require others signing off on how the money is spent.
“I think it’s the way they’re going,” Lightman said.
While acknowledging he does not know any of the details of the Dundas Living Centre proposal, the families behind it, and how it would exactly work, Lightman said he can understand the province’s fear of creating an “institution” with as many as 20 residents.
Lightman said there needs to be a specific definition of what an “institution” really is.
While he said “institutions” cause residents to lose their self-reliance and can create impersonal surroundings, parents behind the Dundas Living Centre point out that is the opposite of their plan.
George Fox said his son Matthew would retain his independence within the Dundas Living Centre.
“Does (MPP Ted McMeekin) really think we want to put our children in an institution?” George wondered aloud during a recent community gathering at the Sisters of St. Joseph convent.
The floor dedicated to the Dundas Living Centre includes several large extra rooms for activities and informal gatherings among the residents, and they would continue attending programs at the Dundas Learning Centre while some maintain part-time jobs in the community.
The families have requested $68,000 in operational funding a year per resident to provide 24-hour care and two meals a day, from the Ministry of Community and Social Services. But ministry staff says the proposal ignores their existing waiting list for emergency housing in favour of a pre-selected group of developmentally disabled adults and with 20 residents sounds like an ‘institution” as opposed to the group home model of three to six residents they currently support.
In response, the families argue the province needs a “pre-emptive” housing strategy to accommodate the province’s developmentally disabled adults before they reach a crisis situation and are forced to take the next available space, wherever it might be.