The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.
– Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
From the Ground Up: A Grassroots Beginning
The birth of Windsor Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports, often called ‘Brokerage,’ began with conversations in the mid-1980s. People living with disabilities, their family members and loved ones, and others who cared about the way supports were designed for people with disabilities were asking for changes in Windsor and Essex county.
By 1989, a strategic plan was written by a multi-year planning committee with goals and a vision for how things could be done differently so that children and adults could experience full inclusion in their schools and communities.
In the mid-1990s, projects were tried, tested, and evaluated. People coming home from institutions worked with an independent facilitator to direct their own lives. People who were looking for something different were invited to explore new ideas:
- Individualized funding: People would have control over their supports and who helped them.
- Independent planning: People could dream big about their future with someone who worked only for them.
- Circles and networks of support: People would make their own decisions, with support from family members, friends, and trusted others.
As the community heard about these new options, people and families were very excited and began to request Independent Facilitation and Individualized Funding. They wanted to be able to control their own destiny.
Brokerage grew out of the
wants and needs
of the Windsor-Essex community.
By October of 1997, a Steering Committee was formed, made up of people with developmental disabilities, family members, and partnering agencies. They believed that people and families needed someone to walk with them over time during the ups and downs of life. Grounded in the core value of freedom for people to make choices and have control over their lives, the Brokerage Project was created. A broker-facilitator worked with 17 people and families, giving them information, planning with them, and facilitating whatever they needed.
In 1999, Windsor Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports was built into the system permanently as a viable option for those who wanted it. This happened during a period of time the government called ‘Making Services Work for People,’ where planning groups across the province were asked to develop a plan for their communities. Windsor-Essex was the only community to re-structure a system with people and families, so that services would truly work for people.
Brokerage became the place for information about possibilities and ways to live a meaningful life in one’s chosen neighbourhood and community.
Today, Windsor Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports continues to support people and families, working out of the same core values established in the year 1997. Over the years, we have seen people’s lives unfold and have heard stories of incredible change by people and families. People have said they have more freedom!
People and families
are the roots of Brokerage.
Moments in Time: Turning Points and Milestones
Windsor Essex Brokerage Pilot Project: Evaluation Report
By Michael Bach, The Roeher Institute
“Supporting an empowering planning process, building a planning capacity and working on systemic changes. In addition, a focus on providing a point of access for information about community resources and options could be considered. This function would fit well within a brokerage as long as it is not seen as a ‘point of entry’ to the system. One of the roles of the brokerage could simply be to provide a ‘place to go’ for information” (Pg. 17).
“Governance: incorporated governance body. It can provide presence, profile and recognition of the independent brokerage as an integral part of the community (Pg. 20).
The experience to date suggests that the success of the brokerage will not be found in becoming everything to everyone. Some may express concern that the brokerage, if more securely established will become ‘just another agency’. It will provide a place for individuals and families to go for assistance in planning and arranging supports. It will provide information about community services and supports. If they wish, individuals and families will obtain assistance in developing a support network to help plan and make decisions (Pg. 21).
“The pilot project has shown that what brokerage has to offer is a place where individuals and families can go to dream about their future, chart a path in that direction, and obtain assistance in heading down that path” (Pg. 21).
Systems Review of Adult Developmental Supports and Services: Windsor and Essex County
Prepared by Don Gallant
“To best ensure that planning results in outcomes responsive to individuals and families, not service providers, it is imperative that planning be vested with a community agency without linkages to actual service delivery” (Pg. 45).
It has been demonstrated through the pilot project, and confirmed throughout the course of this current review, that the Brokerage model now in use in the Windsor-Essex area has great potential to enable innovative and unencumbered planning with and on behalf of families and individuals” (Pg. 46).
That the role of current service planning in the planning process be significantly diminished” (Pg. 46).
“The planning process must be separate and distinct from the current service providers…”
Proposal Submitted to Increase Brokerage Function in Windsor-Essex
As community members learned about Brokerage, more people and families were asking for Independent Facilitation. To meet demand in the community, 3 additional full-time facilitators were needed.
Brokerage submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) for additional funding to meet this demand.
At this time, additional funding was not granted.
Foundations Proposal Funded by MCSS
Funding for another unencumbered planner was secured.
Planning was separate from services.
Support dollars through Foundations were separate from planning dollars.
All Foundation dollars were individualized.
Personal Satisfaction Survey for Windsor Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports
Compiled by Steve Monaghan Communications
As a result of the satisfaction survey, we learned:
- 93% of participants who responded indicated they were comfortable talking to their broker/facilitator.
- 95% of participants indicated they were satisfied with how their broker/facilitator listened to them.
- 95% of participants felt that the information provided by their broker/facilitator connected them to the right people and services.
Modelling Community Change and Innovation Project
This 3-year Collaborative Provincial Project funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation allowed for capacity building in 3 communities in Ontario:
- Brockville: an autonomous family network was built and the People First group was strengthened.
- Huntsville: created an environment for and began to set up an autonomous independent facilitation organization.
- Windsor: created an entity that provides human resource support for people with individualized funding. The Ontario Independent Facilitation Network was formed and began to look at sustainability.
‘The idea of community capacity exceeded all expectations.”
Individualized Funding in Ontario: Report of a Provincial Study
Journal on Developmental Disabilities by John Lord & Peggy Hutchinson
“Families understood the importance of having someone independent of the family and services in this journey. Families appreciated that facilitators were more than planners and were very creative in a variety of areas” (Pg. 46).
My Voice, My Choice, My Life Design: Planning Demonstration Project
In 2008-2009, Brokerage was one of 3 sites participating in the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ Planning Demonstration Project. Brokerage was selected to represent the independent planning model.
The planning demonstration project involved intensive planning with 30 people over a 1-year period. This project offered an opportunity for Brokerage to explore what elements of the work were unique to Independent Facilitation.
The Evaluation Report prepared by Community Consultation Resources indicated that:
“By far, the greatest change was that the person’s voice had increased and they could and were making decision about their life” (Pg. 8).
“There were two (2) overriding values that were reflected. These values were people and families’ belief in citizenship and inclusion and families belief in the worth and gifts of their family member” (Pg. 12).
A third-party evaluator was contracted by MCSS to compare planning done by an agency, Adult Protective Service Workers (APSWs), and unencumbered planning. The Evaluation of Person-Directed Planning Demonstration Project prepared by Carolyn Sherk Consultants found that:
“Brokerage was the most insistent in reinforcing their strongly held values in their day-to-day activities” (Pg. 23).
“The plans in Windsor Essex were the most extensive, focusing on support networks and life goals. The plans included short and longer term goals and documented the progress that had been achieved in many of the short term goals and a few of the longer term ones” (Pg. 34).
Finally, summary notes from the Person-Directed Planning Demonstration Project Wrap Up Session stated:
“…person-directed planning process as expressed in Windsor Essex sees individuals and families as partners who are the ones to direct and define the partnership” (Pg. 8).
“In part, the approach to community capacity building is a function of the state of the community…for Windsor Essex where the concepts and relationships in the community are mature, the focus was on individual level of capacity building” (Pg. 8).
A Deeper Look at WEBPS
In February 2010, Brokerage presented findings from the My Voice, My Choice, My Life Design Planning Demonstration Project (2008-2009) to Peter Steckenreiter, Regional Director for the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS).
“The three sites received similar funding levels, but it appeared that the free-standing organization, Brokerage, served a more complex population and provided more in-depth planning and evaluation” (Sherk, Pg. 5).
“In Windsor-Essex all individuals participated in all discussions” (Sherk, Pg. 8).
Individualized Funding: A Framework for Effective Implementation
by the National Individualized Funding Discussion Group
“To be effective, personal planning must:
- be directed by the person,
- be separate from the eligibility, service delivery and funding functions…
- be facilitated by an external neutral party who is knowledgeable about the options and supports available to the individual they are supporting, and who is able to guide the process…
- be available to the individual as needed over time” (Pg. 12).
Shared Leadership: A White Paper on Independent Facilitation and a Regional Network
by Windsor Essex Brokerage for Personal Supports
“People and families that choose independent facilitation are choosing innovation…In partnership with their independent facilitator they are inventors. They create a new reality. Inventors do not fear failure; they keep experimenting until they find the solution” (Pg. 6).
MCSS Introduces Developmental Services Ontario (DSO)
Prior to the roll-out of DSO offices, people and families who were interested could ‘walk through Brokerage’s front door and receive Independent Facilitation.
The DSO became the central access point for all developmental services in Ontario. Since 2012, people and families have needed to go through the DSO to ask for Independent Facilitation. The box on the application form for services is called person-directed planning. People and families who ask for this option are put on a waiting list for support.
Person-directed Planning and Facilitation Initiative
In 2013, MCSS requested proposals for a lead agency in each region of the province to lead a person-directed planning initiative.
In response to this request, Brokerage and Family Services Windsor-Essex (FSWE) submitted a joint proposal for the Southwest Ontario region, which was approved. MCSS provided funding with the expectation that 45 person-directed plans would be created by March 31, 2015.
The Southwest Ontario Region Summary Report, written in April 2015, captured key findings from the initiative:
“Primarily the initiative reinforced the inherent nature of person-directed planning which is a very natural process that unfolds differently for each person and family and for which a timeline cannot be attached.”
Building a Provincial Network
In 2014, Brokerage acted as the transfer payment agency for project funding for the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network. OIFN received project funding from MCSS for 1 year to continue to support the growth of person-directed planning and facilitation across the province. Outcomes included:
- Hosting of an OIFN Spring Forum in the North
- Hosting of an Everyday Lives Conference in Toronto
- Animation of a sustainable website for OIFN
Working with Youth
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services granted 1-year project funding to Brokerage to support a small number of teenagers (aged 14-18) and their families each year. Facilitators assisted young people and their loved ones to think about life after high school and begin to make plans for the future.
After the 1-year project, funding for Youth Transition Planning was annualized, making this a permanent offering at Brokerage.
Manawanui Individualized Funding Support
by Julz Britnell
New research shows that giving people control over their government funding is better for everyone.
“This research is a first step in understanding more about the impacts of disabled people having control over their government funded support and will hopefully contribute to the ongoing development of self-directed approaches to funding” (Marsha Marshall, Pg. 1).
Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project (IFDP)
Through this 27-month project, OIFN, Brokerage, and 6 other Independent Facilitation Organiztions (IFOs) received funding from MCSS to build and strengthen Independent Facilitation across the province. IFOs worked on capacity building for their organizations and provided Independent Facilitation to people and families who were referred by the DSO.
For Brokerage, funding from this project meant that 3 additional independent facilitators were hired; the initial demand in the 1990s for 6 full-time facilitators was finally met. Brokerage met 178 people through the project, supporting 108 people and families at any given time.
The goal of this project was to secure permanent funding for Independent Facilitation across the province. Project funding was extended for an additional year in 2017/2018 and again in 2018/2019. Funding officially ended on March 31, 2019.
Through this project, Brokerage learned that the “averaged percentage is 60% looking for what is possible and thinking and moving beyond congregated services. For years the international percentage has ranged between 25% and 35% – this is an increase of 25%” (Info given to Powers Analysis from WEBPS).
Below you will find what some of the people and families involved with Brokerage through the IFDP had to say about their experiences:
“We were stuck – we had tried everything. It wasn’t until we started talking to [the facilitator] that we saw things differently and were able to take some steps” (Parents).
“In my own house I have choices I make and in a group home I don’t” (Person).
“The experience with Brokerage has changed how we see, hear, recognize and really listen to each other. It feels like a new us” (Mom).