There are many gaps in the disability data collected and publicly available in Canada. It’s difficult to find reliable data on:

How much governments are spending on disability services and supports

How many Canadians are living with different types of developmental disabilities

How many Canadians are on waiting lists to receive services and supports

Data on the number of Canadians living with disabilities, the amount governments spend on disability supports and the number of people on waiting lists for services is not well documented. There is no requirement for our governments to collect or publicly report this information. Even the 2013 Canadian Survey on Disability, which lists prevalence rates of different types of disabilities by province or territory and age group, notes many numbers were “too unreliable to publish” or should be “used with caution”.

How can governments properly structure support systems or ensure responsible spending if they don’t have this information? Better data is necessary to ensure Canadians who require supports and services are able to get them. This is why Every Canadian Counts is advocating for better data collection. A national program could create a nationwide data collection system and reporting standards to provide a clear picture of provincial and territorial performance. We could then direct resources to identified areas of need.

What Data is Available?
In early 2014, Every Canadian Counts looked into what data was available for the developmental sector, only one part of the overall disability support system. Specifically, we tried to gather data on developmental disability prevalence, expenditure on developmental supports and services, and waiting list numbers. Our findings can be viewed by clicking on the data table below.

Much of the information is not available and the data we did find is not very reliable. This is representative of the state of data collection across the entire disability supports system in Canada.

Every Canadian Counts is connecting with Canadian data collection agencies to advocate for improved data collection and public access to information. This will allow us to assess what the needs are, how is much is being spent to meet needs and where there are shortfalls. We can then start looking at ways to address these shortfalls.

Why is Reliable Data on Disability in Canada not available?
There is no national or provincial and territorial legislation to ensure this data is collected.
There are no national or provincial and territorial mechanisms in place to collect reliable data.
Government-funded supports are delivered and monitored by various departments, collecting different types of data. Departments are not required to share information or to publish collective data on developmental supports.
Not all supports are delivered through government-funded programs. Charities and private agencies also provide supports, so getting numbers that combine expenditure and demand from all these providers is challenging.
Numbers vary depending on how disability is defined. Definitions vary by province and territory and between agencies providing supports. Without a standard, national definition we cannot expect data to be comparable between locations.

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