(Updated) Province responds to closure of group homes in Barrie, Orillia by Empower Simcoe

Courtesy Barrie360.com

By Ian MacLennan, Updated July 8, 2024

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCSS) touted investments made by the province when asked by Barrie 360 to respond to the decision by Empower Simcoe to close group homes in Barrie and Orillia, along with a program that transitions people with developmental disabilities to adult supported living.

Empower Simcoe (ES) announced the decision in a media release on Friday.

“Our primary concern will always be the health and safety of the people in the developmental services system. We have worked with the agency to address their funding issues and understand that these changes do not have any staffing or client impacts and are part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to manage their budget,” the MCSS said in an email to Barrie 360 on Monday.

ES said the closures affect eight people receiving services who will be moved to other Empower Simcoe group living homes. The agency added that no employee jobs will be affected by the closures.

The organization also stated that late last year Empower Simcoe, along with other provincial agencies, launched a #5toSurvive campaign, calling on the province to provide agencies in the developmental services sector with a five per cent funding bump. Over the last 30 years, ES said those agencies have received cumulatively, an increase of less than four per cent.

“Every penny we get is being eroded every day, because it can’t buy us much as we were able to buy just even yesterday,” stated ES CEO Dr. Claude Cousins, in the media release. “If nothing changes, we’re going to see a lot more program closures within our development services agencies.”

In the email to Barrie 360, the MCSS said the government was investing an additional $114 million in developmental services this year, for a total of approximately $3.4 billion.

“This is an increase of more than $1billion over 2017-2018, which will enable the continued support of people currently in service, and those who are high-risk and are entering service,” the email stated. “Additionally, through Budget 2024, we are investing $310 million over three years to address operational costs for community organizations, including Empower Simcoe. These funds will be annualized in agency contracts and should be considered ongoing base funding increases.”

Empower Simcoe currently operates 44 group living locations.

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Patricia Dent

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