We are a group of five Developmental Services Worker professionals who are joining forces to build a worker-owned cooperative that provides high-quality, person-directed support to community members who have developmental disabilities. Every person, no matter their abilities, deserves the right to participate in activities within the community, find meaningful employment and live where and with whom they choose. Persons with developmental disabilities may need support from Developmental Services Workers (DSWs) to accomplish these activities. The DSW Cooperative will provide respite for family members, job coaching, assistance with community participation, and support in day-to-day life. Our goal is to remove barriers, encourage independence and empowerment, and foster organic friendships. As a worker cooperative, we will collaborate to meet our own needs as employees while providing the high-quality, reliable care that is so desperately needed in our community.
An aspect that makes our business unique from existing developmental services models, is that it will be democratically controlled by its workers. Our model is designed to serve the needs of both workers and service recipients by focusing on finding mutually beneficial connections within each other to facilitate long-term relationships and commitment. This can mean matching similar personalities and interests, as well as ensuring a good fit in regards to availability and physical location. We plan to accomplish this in part with the creation of a well developed website. This unique worker cooperative model accompanied with an accessible website, will inevitably address the current crisis in the developmental services field.
By addressing the needs of people with developmental disabilities and their families, as well as the workers who support them, the DSW Cooperative will completely transform the way developmental services are provided in our community. Currently there is a chronic problem affecting both individuals with developmental disabilities as well as the workers that support them. Individuals with developmental disabilities and their families often have trouble finding and keeping workers who provide high-quality, person-directed care. From the worker's perspective, DSWs currently have two choices: to work independently without any support or to work for an organization in which they have limited say in how care is provided. We are offering a solution to these challenges.
To create a more meaningful quality of life for all persons, our cooperative model will provide a link to a community of workers which provides choice and assurance of long-term person centered supports. Families and individuals will have a place to turn to for ongoing support and guidance, backup workers and emergency services. The support provided by the cooperative will assist people to participate more fully in their communities, develop natural relationships, acquire new skills, and access a wider range of housing options. The DSW Cooperative will work to inspire people with developmental disabilities to follow their hopes and dreams. By recognizing the interdependence of community members and supporting people of all abilities to participate fully in community life, the DSW Cooperative will undoubtedly start something amazing.
From a worker’s perspective, the cooperative will provide stability and support to DSWs who wish to provide flexible, community-based services when and where individuals with disabilities and their families request them. Currently, self-employed DSWs work in isolation, juggle an immense work load, have no job security or benefits and have no back up should they need to take time off work for professional or personal reasons. Without proper support, DSWs often refuse to take needed breaks as they are unwilling to sacrifice their client's care. This approach can create a vicious cycle, causing many DSWs to burn out and permanently leave this field of work, thereby further depleting care options available to people who have developmental disabilities. The DSW Cooperative will address these problems. Workers will own the cooperative and have democratic control over how the business is run. The cooperative will also facilitate worker access to standard employment benefits and is likely to improve job security for members.
In addition, in accordance with the cooperative principle of “cooperation among cooperatives”, our cooperative will be sharing information with other worker groups across the province who are interested in starting similar cooperatives. As a result, our cooperative will be an amazing starting point for a transformation in the way community-based developmental services are offered across the province.
August 2016 - May 2017: Algonquin College, in collaboration with LiveWorkPlay and the Disability Advocacy Network of Eastern Ontario, with funding from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, (MCSS, through the Developmental Services Housing Task Force), began a project to determine the feasibility of creating a worker-owned cooperative business to provide flexible, community based services to people with developmental disabilities in Ottawa.
As part of the project a business feasibility study was completed by an experienced worker cooperative developer.
Due to the encouraging feasibility study results, as well as the positive response seen during community consultation, the five of us decided to proceed with the creation of the DSW cooperative.
June 2017 – November 2017: During the next 5 months, the 5 founding members of the DSW Cooperative will be working with a cooperative business developer to create our business plan.
November 2017: The DSW Cooperative will have a complete business plan and be ready to file for incorporation. Our plan is to have our website up and running so that we can begin making matches between workers and people in the community needing support.
December 2017: Official launch of the DSW Cooperative!
January 2018 and onward: Working toward full time employment for the 5 founding members as well as part time employment for approximately 15 other DWS by the end of our first year of operation.