Developmental Services

Ontario’s new “passport program” for Ontarians with developmental disabilities allows private companies to profit from services that are publicly funded.

It sounds like great news: The Government of Ontario is investing more money to support Ontarians with autism and other developmental disabilities, and eliminating existing wait lists for funding to pay for services. But what the Ontario government isn’t talking about is the problems it’s creating with its “passport program.” The recently expanded system relies on private care and allows private companies to profit from services that are publicly funded.

How the Ontario system works

The passport program gives money directly to families, and requires them to find and access the care they need, such as personal support workers, day programs and respite care. The idea is that families understand their own needs best. Giving them a voucher worth $35,000 (the maximum grant allowed under the Ontario program) enables them to choose which services they want, and how much they want to pay for them.

The downside of privatization

But the system creates challenges for families. Not only do family members now bear the responsibility of researching and accessing services, but they’re also pushed to pay care workers as little as possible to make the dollars stretch, which means hiring people with few qualifications and less experience to care for vulnerable people.

The system also lets agencies – and for-profit organizations – skim off 10 per cent of the funding for administration, opening the door to private organizations to make money. Publicly delivered services, on the other hand, partner with more than 400 non-profit charitable agencies across the province to deliver high-quality, reliable care, at no additional cost to the public.

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