COVID-19 action plan: protecting vulnerable Ontarians
Learn about how we’re protecting people living in high risk settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Read our plan to protect those living in homes for people with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, and children’s residential settings.
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Vulnerable Ontarians in residential settings, and the workers caring for them, face heightened risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a source of serious concern and worry for our government, those individuals, their friends and families and the community as whole.
The Ontario government is taking immediate action and building upon previous measures to better protect our most vulnerable and the frontline staff who care for them. We are working with our partners who operate these homes and facilities,including working with our partners who operate these homes and facilities municipalities, agencies and the federal government to do everything we can to ensure the safety of these vulnerable communities during COVID-19.
The province is implementing a COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People to better protect those living in high risk settings including homes serving those with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking and children’s residential settings. This includes Indigenous residential settings on and off reserve.
Within 48 hours, starting with our developmental services sites, new measures will be put in place to enhance screening and testing, helping to reduce exposure to COVID-19, prevent the spread of the virus and increase infection control measures. This plan builds upon the initiatives that were put in place at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak.
This plan also supports high risk locations in managing the COVID-19 outbreak by providing assistance with staffing and additional training and support.
The province will also move immediately to solicit ideas on additional actions and measures that can be taken now to further support vulnerable Ontarians and staff in high risk settings.
In this state of emergency, the COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People leverages all available resources and builds on actions already underway to protect Ontario’s most vulnerable people and those who care for them.
Actions taken by the government to date
- To support young people in Ontario who were formerly in care, providing up to $1.5 million in funding to the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada’s COVID-19 Youth Support Fund.
- Expanding the list of eligible expenses under Special Services at Home and for Passport funding. We will also continue to assist families and provide greater clarity about what expenses are eligible under the Ontario Autism program: including Childhood Budgets and Interim one-time funding, for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Enabled by the expanded guidelines that include enhanced COVID-19 testing at group homes and homeless shelters, among other vulnerable populations, Ontario processed well over 10,000 tests in a single day.
- Announced an $11 million partnership with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) to launch a new Ontario Community Support Program to expand existing Meals on Wheels services to reach low-income seniors and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions across Ontario. The program will also develop the capacity of community organizations and others to help deliver medication and other essentials.
- Extended the deadline for families to spend their Ontario Autism Program Childhood Budget by 6 months.
- Expanded the list of essential workers eligible to receive emergency child care to offer support to those providing a variety of critical services including people who assist vulnerable communities, emergency response and law enforcement sector staff, more health and safety workers, and certain federal employees.
- Issued new temporary emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act tohelp stop the spread of COVID-19 among the province's most vulnerable citizens and ensure frontline services can continue to be delivered in priority areas (implementation dates vary). These emergency orders provided municipalities and District Social Service Administration Boards with the flexibility to offer reassignments to certain staff to where there is local need during the outbreak, including child care, by-law enforcement, and public health services.
- To enable the full implementation of the next phase of Ontario’s COVID-19 testing strategy, expanded testing guidelines to include residents of and staff working in homeless shelters and group homes, among other congregate care settings and vulnerable populations.
- Is providing $37 million to support outbreak planning, prevention and mitigation efforts to ensure the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and communities — particularly those in remote and far-northern regions.
- Is providing $40 million to support organizations that provide residential services for children and youth, people with developmental disabilities and emergency shelters for women and families fleeing domestic violence.
- Issued a moratorium on children aging out of the child welfare system to ensure Children’s Aid Societies continue to provide services to children who may age out during the health emergency.
- Announced $20.4 million in increased funding for Special Services at Home to support an additional 4,700 children with special needs this fiscal year.
- Announced $200 million in social services relief funding - $148 million to help municipalities and social service providers such as shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits continue to deliver their critical services, hire additional staff, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep clients safe and healthy.
- The remaining $52 million is being invested in expanding the emergency assistance program through Ontario Works to provide more support for those facing serious financial difficulties - right now.
- Announced an $8 million partnership with Feed Ontario to launch the Emergency Food Boxes program which helps food banks across Ontario continue to support their communities.
Next actions by the government include
- Enhanced screening and reduced exposure to prevent spread
- Infection control - managing outbreaks and limiting spread
- Sustaining existing staff and managing critical staff shortages
Enhanced screening and reduced exposure to prevent spread
Increased screening, tighter visitor restrictions, reduced staff mobility between high risk settings.
Enhanced screening for residents and staff
- Improved screening of visitors to reduce COVID-19 exposure to staff and residents
- Screening of all staff and residents for COVID-19 symptoms to aid in early identification of infection on-site
Tighter visitor restrictions in all high-risk settings
- Limiting non-essential visitors to limit exposure
Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Use of masks in congregate care settings to boost prevention
- Additional training and guidance on PPE conservation and usage
Limitations on staff mobility
- Restrictions on the number and kind of additional sites staff in developmental services, Intervenor, Violence Against Women and Anti Human Trafficking work at to reduce spread across multiple high risk sources
Infection control: managing outbreaks and limiting spread
Reduce the number of outbreaks in high-risk settings and contain future outbreaks.
- Test symptomatic staff and clients to identify the need for isolation and additional infection control measures on-site
- Work with the local Public Health Unit to determine if testing of asymptomatic people with a known contact should be included in facilities with medically fragile people
- Report positive cases of COVID-19 to Public Health Units to support contact tracing of known people who may have been exposed
Restrict staff to work at a single location
- Limiting staff to working at a single location in cases of an outbreak to reduce the spread of the virus to multiple sites, across developmental services, Intervenor, Violence Against Women and Anti Human Trafficking.
Enhanced guidance of PPE conservation and usage
- Ensure PPE (gowns, masks, gloves) is available to staff and they are educated on conservation and usage during an outbreak
Training and education to help staff dealing with an outbreak
- Additional training and support for high-risk settings dealing with an outbreak, including guidance on how to isolate clients
Establishing alternate residential sites
- Identifying alternate locations to provide additional temporary residential capacity
Sustaining staffing and managing staff shortages
Fewer high-risk locations reporting critical staffing challenges and supporting and maintaining appropriate staffing levels.
Support high-risk setting workforce stability and capacity
- Leveraging workers with equivalent skills from other community agencies
Support for Indigenous communities
Indigenous-led congregate care facilities are located both in on-reserve First Nations and off-reserve and in urban or rural communities, focusing on service provision to Indigenous clientele across the range of settings considered high risk. Indigenous individuals are also likely to be accessing programming from mainstream congregate care settings across the province and will benefit from the initiatives set out in this Action Plan.
These actions will also support on-reserve shelters and the government will work with Indigenous communities to provide guidance and support to off-reserve services.
Support for Homeless Shelters
Municipalities and District Social Services Administration Boards oversee Ontario’s homeless shelters, as they understand their communities’ unique needs. We’ve provided $148 million in social services relief funding to help them expand their services and supports and shared public health guidance materials. We’ve also issued emergency orders to allow staff to be redeployed to where they’re most needed and supported expanded access to emergency child care services for shelter workers.
We have implemented a risk assessment survey for all sites and are creating an Ontario Shelter System Response Table with local officials, to look at additional interventions based on individual shelter needs.
- Continuing to work collaboratively across government, with our sector partners and agencies to explore additional measures that can be taken to protect the health and safety of vulnerable Ontarians and those who care for them
- Continue to ensure that vulnerable Ontarians receive the critical services on which they rely, and to support Ontario’s dedicated community and social service workers in providing this care