Margaret and Deloris Yaskowich. Margaret has been attending day programs for years, but those programs are now shutting down.
By Paula Duhatschek
CBC News, Guelph
Some families of people with developmental disabilities say a decision by Community Living Guelph Wellington (CLGW) to end a long-standing group day program will leave their loved ones isolated and lonely, without a regular place to meet up with their friends.
"I am very concerned," said Deloris Yaskowich, whose daughter, Margaret, has been attending the day program for years.
"Plans can be changed, I think this plan must be changed."
Before the pandemic hit, CLGW ran a day program out of the former Arc Industries building in Guelph, and similar day programs at other locations in Wellington County.
"I am very concerned"
Some, like Margaret Yaskowich, had been going to Arc Industries since it ran a sheltered workshop, where people with disabilities would complete odd jobs for a small stipend.
Sheltered workshops were phased out by the previous provincial government but a day program continued five days a week, offering activities like music, sports and cooking.
But CLGW says its day programs, including the one at Arc Industries, are soon coming to an end.
Although these programs may reopen temporarily when it's safe from a COVID-19 standpoint, the organization's long-term plan is to shut these programs down and move toward a new system of community-based services.
The organization's long-term plan is to move toward a new system of community-based services
The idea is to give people more choice in how they structure their day, said Debb Young, the organization's service director.
"They get to say, 'I want to go swimming, and I want to go with my friend, because she also wants to go swimming, and we need a little bit of support from staff in order to make that happen,'" said Young.
"Having that individualized approach driven by the person and participating in what they want to do is much more value-added for them."
Young said CLGW is still in the planning stages and is working with families to decide what these services will look like going forward.
"She Loved Every Minute"
Peter and Kerri McCaskell
While that idea might sound good in theory, Peter McCaskell thinks it won't work in practice.
McCaskell's daughter, Kerri, was a regular at Arc before the pandemic.
He said there's something special about having a specific place in the city where Kerri and her friends could go and know they would be around people who knew them and understood them.
He worries that special quality will be lost if the day program ends.
"All of the things they did, and there were such a range of them, she loved every minute of it because she was doing them with the community of people who loved her and accepted her," said McCaskell, who said crafts, hockey games and nature walks were just some of the activities Kerri took part in.