Passport funding helps people with developmental disabilities

Meet Sarah McRae, our new passport facilitator

Posted on May 15, 2017

“I like giving people the opportunity to do things that they never thought they could do,” Sarah says.

Passport funding is money for individuals over the age of 18 who have a developmental disability. It is to be spent on doing things in the community or to hire support workers.  The money comes from the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.  

How it works:

Qualified individuals are assessed to receive a certain amount of money based on their needs. The Community Service Coordination Network holds the passport funds and reimburses the individuals for the money they spend up to the assessed amount.

However, some people can’t afford to put the money up front and wait for the reimbursement. It can take as long as a month. That’s where Sarah comes in.

Sarah McRae at her deskAs the Hutton House Passport Facilitator, she will manage the account, putting the money up front and then getting reimbursed from CSCN later. She also helps by keeping up to date invoices, so people aren’t spending their money too quickly or too slowly. She’ll budget appropriately to ensure there isn’t unused money at the end of the year because if they don’t spend their allotted amount they don’t get to roll it over to the next year. They just lose that money.

This is a huge relief to some families, Sarah says, “Because now they have money and they are able to do things. I have a lady who isn’t even able to pick anything right now because she is just overwhelmed with the fact that she has a choice to do things where before, living on ODSP, her life was so structured and so financially burdened that she couldn’t go to the movies.”

How to spend the money:

The passport money is used to access the community.

At Hutton House, one of the large programs that people spend their passport money on is the LIFEworks program. People can come for a full day of programming where they can learn independence skills, they go on field trips, they learn how to cook, learn how to take the bus, and all the things you need to know to live more independently.  There are 1 day, 2 day and 3 day options.

People can also use their passport funding to pay for the ARTworks programs; the fitness centre and they can use it to hire a support worker. They can hire Hutton House staff to work with individuals one on one. Sarah can set them up with different support workers. “If I think they’ll be a great fit with someone I’ll work to make that happen. They’ll meet them and if they aren’t the right fit, then we can try somebody else,” she says.

If they want a program that Hutton House doesn’t offer, we will work with other agencies to access their programs for the individual, for instance, overnight respite. Sarah says, “We have a young man who wants to go camping for the summer. Those have fees. So he can use his passport funding to pay for a week at camp. I have one lady who I talk to about all the things coming up at Budweiser Gardens and she tells me which ones she’s interested in and I help her get the tickets for it.”

Passport funding can be used for bus passes and tickets to events at places such as Budweiser Gardens, The Grand Theatre, Forest City ComiCon, movie theatres, and sporting events. Some of our participants are Special Olympians and they may use the money to go bowling every week, or to whatever their sport is.

The Passport funding allows them to do things they weren’t able to do before. It doesn’t cover things like rent, bills, groceries, travel, but it can cover the cost of so many other things. “Say you wanted to go to the Aquarium in Toronto. You could use it to buy your train ticket and your entrance fee, and for your support worker to go with you if you were too anxious to go on your own. Then you just use your regular ODSP to pay for your meal. It can make such a difference in our participants’ lives,” Sarah explains.

How it makes a difference:

Sarah sees it every day: “I have a participant who was on the wait list for more than 6 years and she had forgotten that she was on the list and when the government released the funding they called her and said, ‘hey here you are’. She was just so overwhelmed! When I first met her she was so anxious, she had lived on her own for 30 years and the fact that we helped her with her bus pass was just so overwhelming for her because she realized she now has an extra $80 a month so she can go out with friends for coffee or go out for dinner, she was telling me how badly she wanted to go see Chicago at Budweiser Gardens, that sort of stuff.”

How much?

Every case is different. Some people get passport funds of $2,000 dollars for the year and some people get over $20,000 a year. It’s all determined by needs from assessments by Developmental Services Ontario or DSO. They use a supports intensity scale which determines the supports a person needs in their life.

Sarah can act as an intermediary between DSO and the participant. “We just had that happen with a participant who frequents our Learning Centre. He was getting about $3,000-$4,000 and we felt that his life had been altered a lot and he needed to be reassessed.  He was reassessed and now he gets around $8,000. So that is something we can help with, we can advocate for people to get reassessed to get more supports.”

Hutton House charges a fee for managing funds. There is an administrative fee of 10% of the participant’s funding for a year, and a nominal coordination fee based on how much support they need. 

If you or someone you know would like to have Sarah manage their passport funding, just give her a call and she’ll set up a meeting with DSO and the family. Sarah can be reached at 519 472 1541 or 519 472 6381, or you can email her: sarah [at]


Hutton House promotes and supports persons with disabilities through learning and life-enhancing programs that focus on each individual's strengths, abilities, and interests.