Throughout the pandemic, workers in developmental service have been on the frontline providing direct support to adults living with intellectual and physical disabilities.

As COVID-19 rapidly spread in Ontario, developmental service workers across the province grappled with inadequate PPE, were initially excluded from hero pay despite their frontline and crucial role in supporting people living with disabilities and their families, and did not receive vaccine prioritization until Stage 2 despite the nature of their work that puts them in close contact with vulnerable individuals.

Leading up to and on June 23, Developmental Service Worker Appreciation Day, CUPE calls on the Ontario government for the following:

  • Improved and sustained funding to the agencies within the sector
  • Enhancement and protection of day programs offered by MCCSS Funded not-for-profit agencies
  • Mandatory WSIB coverage for all workers in developmental services through amending the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act
  • Consultations with labour unions and workers to inform service delivery reforms

Sign and share this letter to the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, the Honorable Merrilee Fullerton, urging immediate action to support developmental services workers and the people they support.

Dear Honorable Minister Merrilee Fullerton,

The developmental services sector has reached a critical point during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recent announcements of closures of day programs by agencies, lack of vaccine and pandemic pay prioritization, staffing recruitment and retention issues, and the precarious nature of work in the sector indicate that more needs to be done to address the serious issues impacting workers in developmental services and the people they support. Together, we must recognize the important contributions and impacts workers in developmental services have in their communities and on the people and families they support. In order for Ontario to move forward with profound service transformation, we must address the systemic, pervasive issues impacting the developmental services workforce.

I join CUPE, who represents more than 8,000 developmental service workers in Ontario, to urge you to do the following:

  • Improve funding to the sector—this funding should be dedicated to stabilizing the workforce employed by MCCSS funded not for profit agencies, including providing an immediate wage improvement for all workers and pay equity adjustments; minimize long waitlists for residential supports; and enhancing base operations funding to agencies who’ve had to grapple with underfunding through staffing, service, and program cuts
  • Enhance and protect day programs—congregated day programs provide meaningful support to people living with developmental disabilities and their families by providing crucial space for educational and vocational skill building, offering program participants an opportunity to develop a strong social circle not inherently or easily afforded in their respective communities, and important respite for families who provide around-the-clock support to their loved ones. Day programs must be adequately funded in order to be effective, accessible, and publicly delivered. CUPE holds that congregated day program supports must be coupled with viable options for participants to engage with their communities through individualized, wrap-around supports
  • Legislate WSIB coverage for all workers in developmental services—given the health and safety risks associated with all frontline work, especially now during COVID-19, it is imperative that all developmental service agencies provide their workforce with WSIB coverage
  • Consult with labour unions, workers and people living with disabilities to inform service reforms—workers, people living with disabilities, and their families and caregivers are experts on what it’s going to take to ensure that service transformation is appropriate, sustainable, and meets the needs of service users. Their Labour Unions also offer ensign into the systemic issues within the sector. Individual access needs—addressed through system planning, not individualized or direct funding—must be core to the design, implementation, and review of services and supports

Over the past months, frontline workers in developmental services have been supporting those who’ve been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Developmental service workers are overworked, rapidly burning out, and are witnessing people living with developmental disabilities suffer because they cannot access the supports they need and deserve.

I ask that you immediately act to support the sector.


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