| Jul 21, 2005


Feature article, July 21, 2005

Feature article July 21, 2005

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Government funding boost less than meets the eye - Community Living North Frontenac

by Jeff Green

A funding increase mentioned in a good news announcement from Leona Dombrowskys office about a $59 million increase in funding next year for Community Living Agencies throughout the Province is welcome news to Community Living North Frontenac. but the agency isnt quite jumping for joy.

It will only temporarily address the longstanding compensation issues that have pushed the developmental services sector to the point of crisis. It does nothing to remove the chronic under-funding problem that has plagued the sector for many years, said Don Nielsen, executive Director of Community Living North Frontenac.

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Community Living agencies work with people that have developmental disabilities and their families, providing a range of service and supports. They have been at the forefront of the movement towards maintaining people with developmental disabilities in the community, away from institutional settings.

Nielsen, who has been in his position since 1994, pointed out that under the Harris Conservatives, funding for Community Living was cut twice, by 8% in 1994, and 12% in 1995, and budgets have not recovered since then.

In making the funding announcement, MPP Leona Dombrowsky said, This investment will help families to support their loved ones with daily activities and help our community agencies to provide even better care for their clients.

The $59 million funding increase translates to about a 1.5% increase for each of the over 100 Community Living agencies throughout the province, although the actual dollar amount per agency is not yet known.

Don Neilsen said that, depending on how the actual dollar amounts are calculated, he expects Community Living North Frontenac will receive something in the $8,000 to $12,000 range as a funding increase. The agencys total budget for this year is just over $1.3 million. It has 30 full and part-time employees and a client base of about 75 in the North and Central and parts of South Frontenac.

According to a press release issued by Community Living Ontario in response to the funding announcement: Wages in the sector have fallen behind for 15 years and studies show that employees are paid 24% below similar positions in healthcare and education.

Don Nielsen said, The government is asking Community Living North Frontenac to sign labour contracts based on a 0.5% increase last year and just 1.5% this year, when just a month ago, the same government settled a dispute with its own employees with a 9.75% increase over four years. The reality is that the only way to continue operating with the funds that we have available is to cut services and that means cutting services to this communitys most vulnerable people. We want what is fair for our employees without compromising the services for the people we support.

Although there is no union at Community Living North Frontenac, many of the Community Living agencies throughout the province are unionized, either with CUPE or OPSEU, and both unions are expected to take a stronger line in contract negotiations that are upcoming.

Bob Miller, the volunteer President of Community Living North Frontenac, said The government is putting us in an impossible position. We are being asked to absorb increasing costs while holding the line on budget increases. We have already been doing this for 10 years. It simply cant continue without impacting families directly.

Community Living North Frontenac does not maintain a waiting list. Everyone who comes to the agency receives some supports. We try to match the employees that we have with the changing needs of the people we support, says Don Nielsen.

Community Living - Ontario is supportive of the changes the Ministry of Community and Social Services has taken, including the closure of the provinces three remaining so-called schedule one institutions, where people with developmental disabilities have been living for many years.

We applaud the Minister for her vision, but the community services sector that will bear the weight of these changes must have a strong foundation and stable workforce in place for the transformation process to be successful, said Bob Miller.

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