Direct Funding and the Depoliticization of Home Care Systems: Popular Rhetoric and Policy Directions in Ontario


  • Mary Jean Hande Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Aliya Jamal University of Victoria
  • Christine Kelly University of Manitoba


aging, Canada, disability, self-managed care


Home care systems have undergone major transformation in the last twenty years, manifesting as a volatile series of policy changes in Ontario, Canada. This includes increasing attention to direct funding (DF) home care where individuals receive cash transfers to arrange their own services. Through a textual analysis of 101 media and grey literature sources about DF home care in Ontario published between 2011 and 2018, we find three interrelated, yet sometimes conflicting, discourses in public circulation. DF is represented as: (1) a ‘fix’ to the challenges of mainstream home care; (2) a form of marketization; and (3) as social transformation. We argue that these discourses reflect a neoliberal policy climate that depoliticizes and instrumentalizes DF in ways that obscure how continual policy adjustments actually contribute to frustrating experiences with home care. The contradictory claims about DF home care in the public domain often untether DF from its social justice history and from the careful implementation needed for it to be an empowering and equitable home care model. We suggest that DF home care should not be approached primarily as an individual fix to systemic problems with home care nor as a strategy for cost saving. Rather, DF should be one component of a broad spectrum of social care policies that fully acknowledge both the social justice history of the program and the complex interdependencies of home care users, workers and informal caregivers.


Les systèmes de soins à domicile ont connu une importante transformation au cours des vingt dernières années, engendrant une série de changements politiques en Ontario (Canada), dont une attention croissante au financement direct (FD) des soins à domicile où les individus reçoivent des fonds pour gérer leurs propres services. En analysant 101 textes des médias et de la littérature grise au sujet du FD des soins à domicile, nous trouvons trois discours en libre circulation qui sont étroitement liés mais parfois contradictoires. Le FD est présenté comme étant (1) une « solution » aux défis que posent les soins à domiciles traditionnels, (2) une forme de marchéisation et (3) une transformation sociale. Nous soutenons que ces discours sont le reflet d’un milieu politique néo-libérale qui dépolitise et instrumentalise le FD de manière à masquer la façon dont l’ajustement continu des politiques concourt réellement aux expériences frustrantes liées aux soins à domicile. Les affirmations contradictoires au sujet du FD des soins à domicile du domaine public détachent souvent le FD de son histoire de justice sociale et de la mise en œuvre minutieuse nécessaire pour qu’il devienne un modèle de soins à domicile responsabilisant et équitable. Nous proposons que le FD des soins à domicile ne soit pas abordé comme une solution individuelle aux problèmes systémiques liés aux soins à domicile ou comme une stratégie visant à réduire les coûts, mais plutôt comme faisant partie d’un large éventail de politiques d’assistance sociale qui reconnaît pleinement l’histoire de justice sociale du programme ainsi que l’interdépendance complexe entre les usagers des soins à domiciles, les travailleurs et les aidants naturels.

Mots clés: vieillissement; Canada; invalidité; soins autogérés

Author Biographies

Mary Jean Hande, Mount Saint Vincent University

Mary Jean Hande is a postdoctoral fellow with the Nova Scotia Centre on Aging at Mount Saint Vincent University. Her recent doctoral research at the University of Toronto examined alternative community-based disability care formations, political consciousness, and organizing in the context of austerity in Ontario. Building on this, her postdoctoral research looks at transnational political economies of caring for older and disabled people. Her work is published in a variety of venues, including popular magazines, academic journals, academic websites and edited volumes. She is currently leading a research grant on migrant homecare work in Canada.

Aliya Jamal, University of Victoria

Aliya Jamal is a Masters of Public Health student at the University of Victoria and a community-based researcher and evaluator in the areas of health, immigration, inclusion and equity. Aliya has a background in adult education, organizational change and community organizing with queer and trans people of colour. Her thesis work looks at resistance to health equity related organizational change in Canadian health systems.

Christine Kelly, University of Manitoba

Christine Kelly, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Community Health Sciences and a research affiliate with the Centre on Aging at the University of Manitoba. Informed by feminist and critical disability scholarship, Dr. Kelly uses qualitative methods to explore the politics of care, aging, and Canadian disability movements. She is co-editor of the Aging/Disability Nexus (UBC press, under review), Mobilizing Metaphor: Art, Culture and Disability Activism in Canada (UBC Press, 2016) and author of Disability Politics and Care: The Challenge of Direct Funding (UBC Press, 2016). Dr. Kelly leads a Canadian study on directly-funded home care.



How to Cite

Hande, M. J., Jamal, A., & Kelly, C. (2020). Direct Funding and the Depoliticization of Home Care Systems: Popular Rhetoric and Policy Directions in Ontario. Canadian Review of Social Policy Revue Canadienne De Politique Sociale, 80. Retrieved from