Minto council urges Community Living to reconsider plan to end day programs

MINTO – Town council wants Community Living Guelph Wellington (CLGW) to reconsider its decision to shut down day programs at its facility in Harriston.

The closure of six day program sites – in Harriston, Mount Forest, Fergus, Erin and two in Guelph – has left many participants with specialized needs and their parents and caregivers concerned they have been left without critical support.

Community Living officials have stated the agency is adopting a person-centred approach to care, allowing clients to choose their own life goals and activities.

Councillor Ron Elliott proposed at the Nov. 3 meeting that council speak out.

“There’s been an awful lot of concern in the community about this. A lot of our citizens are losing a lot of time … involved in programs at this facility,” said Elliott.

“They went from 30 hours a week and they are suggesting they’re making it better for them because they’re going to give them an hour a week of one-on-one work – and at times even one-on-four.”

Elliott added, “I know a lot of parents and I do know a lot of the clients … because some of them used to come to the Norgan (a town-owned, volunteer movie theatre in Palmerston) until they cut that out too, for some reason.”

He called the new approach “very upsetting” for clients, parents and the community.

“I think it’s a needed program.  I think it’s a great program; we’ve got phenomenal staff at that place and we do need to have it,” stated Elliott.

He added an online petition asking for the continuation of day programs had garnered over 800 signatures so far.

“I know it’s nothing to do with as far as us operating it – the Town of Minto or the county or anybody – but … it’s in our community and I believe we should be doing something to support these families and support these clients that need that kind of support,” Elliott continued.

He asked council to send a letter asking CLGW to reconsider the decision and requesting a response to the town.

He also suggested the letter be sent to the County of Wellington because “other communities are also losing their programs.”

“So when we pass this motion, what happens next?” asked deputy mayor Dave Turton.

“All I’m asking for them is to reply to us. I believe it’s just our town council putting on a little bit of extra pressure for them to open up the facility and help our citizens,” said Elliott.

“I don’t understand their reasoning. It doesn’t seem to make any sense, unless maybe it’s financial.”

Turton stated, “Realistically, if we don’t push back a little bit, they obviously, or possibly, think they are doing the right thing.

“And I know that … there are folks that are very disappointed because, their children, they look forward to going there and enhancing their learning and it’s good for these children to get out.”

Councillor Judy Dirksen said she is “100 per cent in agreement,” with the intent of the motion.

“I think it’s really important that we take a stand on this because it certainly affects a large number of people in our community,” said Dirksen

“And it’s not just those individuals that have been attending the program, but it’s also the families. This supplies an important respite period for them as well.”

Dirksen added, “Some of these clients aren’t even family members. They are people that families have invited into their home and they care for them. So there isn’t even a family relationship and their looking after them.

“Some people are working full time so they need this program to look after these individuals while they are working … There’s just all kind of cases out there that it’s really thrown a wrench into.”

“That has to be a tremendous impact,” said councillor Jean Anderson. “What are they to do? How are they to manage this? And the impact on the young adults, most of them are young adults, is just devastating. So I fully endorse this.”

Mayor George Bridge said “a lot of people were caught off guard” by the CLGW decision.

“I think we’re doing the right thing. We’re looking into it and hopefully we can get some communication going with them,” added Bridge.

He noted the Harriston Community Living building was built with the support of a community fundraising program.

Bridge said the municipality had no advance discussions with Community Living officials prior to the announced changes.

“Unfortunately there was no communication with us (to ask) if there’s anything we can do to help. I don’t’ want to get into specifics of what we could do, but no one even approached us,” the mayor said.

“It just came out of the blue, so I think it’s worthwhile for us as a council, when we have so many of our citizens concerned, to  go back to them and see what we get for some response.”

Council passed a motion directing staff to send a letter to Community Living Guelph Wellington asking the agency to reconsider ending day programs and to provide a response to the town.

Council also directed that the letter be sent to the County of Wellington.