The Province of Ontario is in a period of fiscal restraint and the government is taking steps to fulfill its commitment to balance the provincial budget by 2017-18. Mindful of this context, the Panel has endeavoured to identify both areas where we believe investment is required as well as potential cost savings and offsets. As the Ministry costs out our recommendations, we recognize that there will be investments required to create a new structure within the Ministry to provide integrated oversight of residential services, the Quality of Residential Care Branch or Division. Offsetting the costs of the new structure will be the integration of all funding currently associated with the licencing function into the Quality Inspectorate and the integration of the current Crown Ward Unit into the Continuity of Care Unit. There may also be areas of duplication between the new Quality Inspectorate and the quality assessment functions performed by some Children’s Aid Societies.

The Panel’s recommendations in the area of Human Resources will require an investment in precariously employed front-line OPR group home workers in order to attract, retain and appropriately compensate these workers for the very challenging work that they do. It is in the Province’s interest to ensure that qualified, trained and prepared staff are supporting some of the Province’s most vulnerable children and youth. If our recommendations to raise the bar on educational credentials and training are accepted for front line staff and supervisors, there will be a cost associated with that. At the same time, the Panel believes that rationalizing the wide variation in per diem rates across the province will at the very least ensure consistency and better value for money and ensuring increased rigor and oversight of Special Rate Agreements may yield savings that could be re-invested.

The Panel has also recommended that some funding be set aside in order to conduct research in the area of the Ontario residential services sectors. It is important to strengthen the research knowledge of Ontario residential care provision across sectors, with specific attention to generating evidence of effective practices at all levels of service provision, and in particular with respect to the themes reflected in the recommended Service and Outcome Indicators. It is anticipated that an offset can be identified within the Ministry’s funding envelope for this purpose.

There is also a significant opportunity to rationalize the excess capacity in both secure custody/detention and open custody/detention beds in Youth Justice Services. The Panel has recommended that these resources be first re­invested in creating community-based youth residences that serve the full spectrum of youth-justice engaged youth, where demand can be demonstrated. After this is undertaken, the Ministry should assess where to best reinvest remaining resources from this initiative. The Panel strongly recommends that these resources be retained and reinvested to address the gaps in residential services that have been identified by the Panel and for which recommendations have been made that require investment.