Government Issues

Government of Ontario Recognizes Disability Employment Awareness Month


On October 4, 2016 The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Accessibility, recognized Disability Employment Awareness Month in Ontario in her statement to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) applauds Minister MacCharles and the Government of Ontario for their commitment to inclusive employment.

From left to right: Joe Dale, Executive Director ODEN; Diana McCauley, Member of ODEN Board of Directors; The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Accessibilty Goverment of Ontario.

From left to right: Joe Dale, Executive Director, ODEN; Diana McCauley, Secretary ODEN Board of Directors and Senior Manager, Employment Services and Knowledge Enterprise, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario; The Honourable Tracy MacCharles, Minister Responsible for Accessibility, Government of Ontario.

MINISTER TRACY MACCHARLES STATEMENT

Mr Speaker, I’m honoured to rise in the House today to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Monsieur le Président, je suis honorée de me tenir devant l’Assemblée aujourd’hui pour célébrer le Mois national de la sensibilisation à l’emploi des personnes handicapées.

I’d also like to recognize the rich and enduring history of indigenous people in Ontario.

Toronto is a sacred gathering place for many people of Turtle Island, and I’d like to pay particular respect to the Mississaugas of the New Credit.

Today, Ontario joins governments and communities across the country to advocate for the inclusion of people of all abilities in our workforce. The fact is, increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and building accessible workplaces is a matter of fundamental importance to our society today – and our economy of tomorrow.

It will expand business.

It will grow the economy.

It will diversify workplaces.

And it will strengthen communities.

There are many compelling reasons to promote inclusive employment, Mr Speaker – 800,000 of them are undeniable.

That’s the number of Canadians with disabilities out of the workforce — talented people who are ready, willing and able to contribute to their communities and economy.

It’s a social, cultural and economic imperative for the entire country, Mr. Speaker.

And it’s one that the Government of Ontario intends to address.

Il s’agit d’un impératif social, culturel et économique pour tout le Canada.

Et c’en est un à l’égard duquel le gouvernement de l’Ontario compte bien s’engager.

It’s why, 11 years ago, members of this House came together to support the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

It’s also why, this spring, Premier Wynne appointed Ontario’s first Minister Responsible for Accessibility.

AND I am honoured to serve in this role.

We have a bold vision for the future, Mr. Speaker; one where our province is accessible to people of all abilities by 2025.

To get there we will encourage employers to hire more people with disabilities – to expand their talent pool and strengthen their workforce.

We will also continue to work with companies, communities and individuals to embed accessibility in our workplaces and neighbourhoods to make inclusion part of our lives.

With a goal to become accessible by 2025, Ontario has become a global leader.

Across the province, communities, businesses and not-for-profits are implementing important accessibility standards.

Our accessible employment standard is helping to shift the way employers approach recruitment and retention.

It includes requirements to incorporate accessibility into hiring processes, workplace information and career development.

As we move forward, we will continue to highlight how simple and beneficial accessibility can be.

Inclusion should be a standard part of doing business in Ontario, Mr. Speaker.

We want all Ontarians to embrace accessibility.

Not simply as a legal obligation but as an exciting business and community-building opportunity.

That’s why our government is developing a cross-cutting, multi-ministry employment strategy for people with disabilities.

This new strategy will not only fulfill a major budget commitment.

It will also address recommendations made by the Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities and the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Panel.

By taking a whole-of-government approach and by listening to people with disabilities – it will help connect more people to the labour market while helping more employers to become accessible and meet their labour needs.

The idea is to offer streamlined services and in-demand training to address the requirements of job seekers and businesses.

We also understand that to achieve an accessible province by 2025, we need to change perceptions.

That’s why promoting a cultural shift is one of the three pillars in Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan.

It will help to eliminate stigma, entrench inclusive values and lift expectations.

And we’re proud to partner with forward-thinking employers and organizations that can help spread the word.

The Ontario Disability Employment Network – a provincial accessibility champion – is hosting a number of employer events this month to promote the contributions people with disabilities make to workplaces.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is also reaching out to employers, organizing discussions that highlight how inclusive employment can boost a business’s bottom line.

Then there’s Dolphin Digital Technologies, Mr. Speaker.

The award-winning Ontario IT company has hosted an employment mentoring day for people with disabilities for the last six years.

This year’s mentorship day is expanding to six communities across the province.

Dolphin knows workers of all abilities would help companies reach a diverse global market.

And we know our economy would benefit from a larger tax base, increased innovation and competitive new sectors.

This is how inclusion can grow our economy, while strengthening our society.

Mr. Speaker, accessibility will build Ontario up.

It will help people of all abilities in their everyday life.

Monsieur le Président, l’accessibilité permettra de faire progresser l’Ontario.

Elle aidera les gens de toutes capacités au quotidien.

I invite everyone to join me in observing National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Let’s work together to break down employment barriers this month and every day of the year.

Thank You.

-end-

For more Disability Employment Awareness Month resources, visit the DEAM section of the ODEN website.

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(Video) The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Champions for the Disabled


(From tvo.org) “The Agenda with Steve Paikin is TVO’s flagship current affairs program offering in-depth analysis and intelligent debate on issues of concern in the rapidly changing world around us.

In one of the rare moments of perfect harmony at Queen’s Park, all three parties voted in favour of making Ontario barrier-free by 2025. However, there are concerns among some that the province isn’t on track to make that goal. David Onley, Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor from 2007 to 2014, and David Lepofsky, Volunteer Chair of The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance join Steve Paikin to discuss what’s needed to make this goal a reality.”

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NDP rejects budget


Ontario heading for election next month as NDP rejects budget

 

We just got word.  A June election is a certainty after NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party could not support the budget tabled by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minority.

The Network will continue to act as a resource for government ministries and branches as we work to improve employment outcomes for people who have a disability.

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Ontario Budget 2014


Budget – 2014

 

While yesterday’s Ontario budget didn’t contain much for the disability sector we didn’t already know, there are a few areas that confirmed recent conversations, announcements and speculation.

First with respect to the equalization between ODSP and Ontario Works income supports the budget announced a 1% increase to both ODSP and OW, effective Sept 2014. In addition, Ontario Works recipient will receive a further ‘top up’ which will increase their total monthly income by $30 for a single person with no dependents. The combination of the 1% and the top up equals a total increase of 4.8% for these recipients.

A second issue, that has no financial impact from a budget perspective – I.e. will neither require additional revenues nor cut backs – didn’t garner much attention, however should be followed closely. Under the heading ‘Streamlining Employment Benefits’ the government announced the merging of 7 different employment benefits into one, consolidated work related benefit program. These include 3 benefits within ODSP and 4 for Ontario Works. For ODSP, these include the Employment Start Up Benefit (ESUB), Work Related Benefit (WRB – the $100 per month benefit for those who report income) and the Employment Transitions Benefit (ETB). This takes effect Jan 1, 2015 with a 6 month transition for the WRB. Essentially this means the 1% increase to ODSP Income Support will be offset by an approximate 10% loss for those people with disabilities who report income from non-employment sources e.g. sheltered workshops and a $1,200 per year loss to those working who still require some financial support from ODSP. This is of major concern for all those who have become dependent on that income, whether working or not.

The Minister will be working with the General Advisory Council on Social Assistance Reform and other stakeholder groups to determine how to implement this and the details of the 6 month transition period. Fortunately, the Network’s Executive Director, Joe Dale, is a member of the General Advisory Council and will have some input into this process.

The government also announced the continuation of existing initiatives related to employment, including the Partnership Council under the leadership of Dr. Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, and various activities planned within that body – Engaging Employers, Valuing Ability Campaign – a public awareness campaign – and Supporting Compliance with AODA (working with business by providing tools and assistance to help them meet the AODA standards)

The Network is very fortunate to have three representatives of the Champion’s League, along with its Executive Director as part of this 12 person team.

The Developmental Services Budget was released as previously announced without any changes.

Building on the Poverty Reduction Strategy the government announced:

  • Increases to Ontario Child Tax Benefit to $1,310. Indexing this to the Ontario Consumer Price Index, starting July, 2015
  • Apr, 2014 – Expanding program eligibility to Healthy Smiles Ontario & Health benefits for children in low-income families
  • Expanding the Ontario Student Nutrition program from $20 million to $32 million.

Of course, this is all dependent upon the budget being passed and the government remaining in power. The Ontario Disability Employment Network will continue to monitor this and keep you informed as things unfold.

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$810M Pre-Budget Announcement


ODEN Executive Director, Joe Dale, and ODEN Employer Champion League member, Mark Wafer, were invited to a pre-budget event in Hamilton this morning where MCSS Minister McMeekin just announced $810 million in funding over the next three years.

If approved, this will be the largest spending bump in history for the Developmental Services sector.  Five priority areas were discussed for allocation of funding:

1.            Support for elimination of wait lists for direct funding programs such as ‘Passports’ and ‘Special Services at Home’

2.            Support for life transitions, particularly leaving school

3.            Support for improvements in Residential Care, providing 1400 new residential spots

4.            Supporting and promoting innovation and community partnerships, by:

5.            Expanding Host Family Program and Supported Independent Living

6.            Providing support for employment opportunities such as pre-employment training; and, employer awareness as young adults leave school and look to enter the job market

7.            Providing and supporting innovative partnerships that lead to shared community living solutions and cost efficiencies

8.            Support for front-line workers providing community services

 

Please keep in mind that all of these changes are dependent upon the budget being passed in the legislature.

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Metcalfe Foundation Report: The “Welfareization” of Disability Incomes in Ontario


Metcalfe Foundation Report: The “Welfareization” of Disability Incomes in Ontario

    Click here to access the document

    A couple of excerpts from the document:

    On page 22:

    The increase of ODSP expenditures is a complex issue. Of the many intricate factors causing the spike in ODSP, I believe the most significant one is the current labour market. It has become precarious with an increase in part-time, temporary, and contract work. Fewer people in stable salary and wage jobs means that employer-triggered disability income systems have fewer wage and salaried employees to support while they tighten eligibility requirements for their services. This is especially true for workers’ compensation.

    A significant number of individuals with disabilities are discovering that they are not eligible for employer-triggered disability income programs — private insurance, workers’ compensation, CPP-D, veterans’ disability, and EI sickness. And many who are eligible for employer-triggered disability income programs exhaust their benefits. Once their savings and assets are depleted, ODSP becomes the only possible income support program.

    On page 27:

    The perception remains that if you are active in the labour market you have systems at your disposal to support you in dealing with a disability. There is also an important message here for workers who do not have disabilities — particularly contract and part-time workers. The message is that whether or not you are an active member of the work force, if you do not have payroll deductions or pay into a private disability plan, you are not protected against the hazard of future disability and you risk looking to ODSP as the only option for an ongoing stable, but low, income.

    As noted earlier, one advantage of ODSP carrying a larger load is that social assistance permits a recipient to work and receive benefits. Unlike employer- triggered programs, there is no automatic cut-off when a recipient engages in paid employment. For this critical reason alone, there is a case to be made that other disability income systems should consider aligning themselves more closely with approaches taken by social assistance. In addition, social assistance benefits are statutory, not time limited (except once the recipient reaches age 65), and often come with good ancillary benefits such as medical transportation, disability-related supplies, and dental care. It is important to note that most other disability income programs do not provide similar benefits.

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Update! Oct. 22, 2013


The Government Relations Committee met last week and among the topics discussed were: the status of the ‘On-hold’ disability service providers under Employment Ontario; and, the Canada Jobs Grant status that could have a major impact on the Federal-Provincial Labour Market Agreements (LMA) and subsequently, employment services provided for people with disabilities.

The Federal Throne Speech referenced the LMA’s: “take further steps to see that those traditionally under-represented in the workforce, including people with disabilities, youth and Aboriginal Canadians, find the job training they need.” The Speech went on to say: “Our Government will work with provinces and territories on a new generation of labour market agreements to more effectively connect Canadians with disabilities to employers and in-demand jobs.

The Network will continue to monitor the LMA negotiations and will keep you informed of our key messages and strategies going forward.

Don’t forget to to mark your calendar as The Network will be hosting the ‘Employment First’ Day Conference on December 4, 2013. The event will be held at the Eaton Chelsea, Toronto.  Further details and registration information are coming soon.

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2013 Provincial Budget Synopsis


2013 Provincial Budget Synopsis

As it relates to enhancing employment opportunities for people who have a disability

The ‘Up’ Side

First of all, it should be seen as significant that employment for people with disabilities received the attention it did in the provincial budget. The spotlight, so to speak, is encouraging in that the importance of this issue has risen to the surface with the provincial government.

The budget also announced that people who have a disability who are working or who take new jobs will be able to retain the first $200 earned before the claw back of 50 cents on each dollar earned. While not stated in the budget, Ministry of Finance confirmed that other employment-related benefits will be retained including the $100 monthly work-related benefit. This is a move in the right direction with respect to providing incentive for people to work and allowing them to keep more of what they earn. This will take effect September, 2013.

On the benefits side, ODSP Income Support will increase by 1%, effective September, 2013 as well. Ontario Works candidates will also receive the 1% increase and those without children will receive an additional top up of $14 per month. This will take effect in October 2013.

Cautiously Optimistic

The Government announced “a new Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, composed of government and corporate leaders, to champion the hiring of people with disabilities”. This appears to mirror the work of the Ontario Disability Employment Network with the development of the Champion’s League and, obviously, we believe that Champion Employers can be a great asset in moving the employment agenda forward. At this stage, our only reservations are to determine the makeup of this Council, the role that Government will play in it, and to ensure we don’t have too many vehicles of this type that are not coordinated or that seem to compete with each other. Our preference is that they should explore the option of tapping into and supporting existing structures.

Of Concern

The Finance Minister announced an investment of $295 million over 2 years to bolster an Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy. In the text they state: “Employment opportunities would be available across Ontario, with an added focus on areas with high youth unemployment, including at-risk youth (e.g. youth leaving care, youth receiving social assistance), Aboriginal youth, recent immigrants and visible minority youth, and youth in rural and northern communities.” Nowhere is there mention of youth with disabilities. In conversation with Ministry of Finance officials, this was an omission that had not been picked up on. We will need to pursue this with MTCU managers, who will be responsible for the implementation of these programs.

Service integration is still not clear. While there are lots of references to service integration, integrating employment services with Employment Ontario, it is not clear that this includes those employment services operated by ODSP.

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Joe Dale Presents To The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development


The following was presented to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development on Thursday March 7, 2013 by the Executive Director of the Ontario Disability Employment Network, Joe Dale.

(Click here to download a PDF version)

Good morning.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee today. My name is Joe Dale. I have worked in the disability field for over 35 years, spending much of that time working in, training and consulting on issues related to employment opportunities for people who have a disability. Currently, I am the Executive Director of the Ontario Disability Employment Network, a professional network of employment service agencies from across Ontario, and I am the founder of the Rotary at Work initiative in Ontario which has been a catalyst for a number of employer engagement initiatives and strategies.

I have three key issues I’d like to speak to this morning. They are: ensuring effective services and supports for people who have a disability; employer engagement and support; and, youth employment for kids with disabilities.

Providing Effective Services and Supports

People who have a disability can work and have the capacity to make a significant contribution to the workforce. This is a fundamental fact that we must understand and accept. Another fact is that we, in the non-disabled community – in both government and in the disability profession – have only just begun to scratch the surface in our understanding of how to recognize this capacity and how best to exploit it.

There is no tool or instrument, that we have today that can effectively measure or assess capacity or help us determine the ‘employability’ of people who have a disability. Whenever we set out to measure employability or capacity to work, we invariably set the bar too high and discriminate against those who we deem to be too severely disabled to work.

This was made imminently clear to me recently when I was fortunate enough to travel to Connecticut and visit a Walgreens Distribution Centre where 47% of the employees have a disability. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Walgreens story.

What was of particular interest to me was a statement made by Executive Vice President, Randy Lewis. Mr. Lewis recounted their early hires when they embarked on this journey of hiring people with disabilities. He talked about a young man with severe autism and significant behavioral problems who was to be their first hire. Mr. Lewis was asked the question: “Mr. Lewis, it seems that you deliberately started out by hiring someone with very significant challenges. Was that intentional?” Mr. Lewis responded: “Yes, we did, because we thought if we could get that first, difficult one right, the rest would be easy. What we learned though, is that we didn’t go low enough because the capacity of people was far greater than anything we had ever imagined.” A very profound statement!

Indeed, perhaps the most effective measure of employability is more properly gauged by each individual’s motivation to work.

Having said that, it is important that the services and supports each person needs is available and available in a way that makes sense.

We need to consider ease of access to employment services and supports. That it makes sense to the individual job seeker and that when they show up at the door looking for help, they can get that help as soon as possible and in a seamless way. Nothing takes the motivation out of someone faster than being bounced around from service to service, process to process, assessment to assessment and so on.

If the job seeker comes looking for help and they are sent to one door for an assessment or an eligibility determination, a different door to get an employment plan, another to get the case manager they didn’t even know they needed and so forth, not only have we lengthened the process out and made it extremely costly to deliver, but that person is at very high risk of losing their initial motivation and much less likely to follow through to the end goal of getting a job. Even those who endure it all, often end up back at the original door they first went to with the agency that offers the employment support services of job preparation and job development.

Services should be available using a wrap-around process. There is little, if any value in having silos of service with multiple agencies each providing a different part of the service. Employment agencies should be entrusted with providing as much of the supports as are needed to assist people to meet their career and job goals. If through the career exploration process, it is determined that a competency-based assessment or specialized training is required, the employment agency should broker or case manage these services on behalf of the job seeker to ensure continuity.

Job seekers with disabilities need access to the full spectrum of services and supports – pre and post-employment.

Those with limited education, training and work experience often need pre-employment supports. This includes employment-related life-skills, an understanding of workplace culture and responsibilities, resume preparation and interview skills training and so on. This should be based on time-limited, curriculum-based programs or training modules. These programs also serve to help the employment agency assess motivation; help determine the skills, abilities and aspirations of the job seeker; and, give a solid understanding of the supports needed to ensure a successful job match.

Supports don’t stop at the point of job placement. Employers also need support and it is the post-placement support that has the greatest impact on job retention and career growth. Employers need to see the employment agency as a specialist or  as a disability consultant. As one employer once told me; “I’m an expert at making coffee, not at understanding disability”. Workplaces evolve and jobs change. Often retraining and even revisiting and revising accommodations are necessary.

Preventative maintenance, in the form of customer service with the business owner or manager can often prevent terminations, nipping problems in the bud before they become too much for the business to contend with.

The Ontario Disability Employment Network recommends that the HRSDC Opportunities Fund ensures that the full range of employment supports be available to people who have a disability, including both pre and post-placement services. Secondly, we recommend that services not be carved off into silos with different services provided by different agencies, particularly case management and assessment.

Employer Engagement

Through the Rotary at Work initiative we have learned two very important lessons:

First, that we must make a solid business case for hiring people who have a disability. We can no longer soft sell on the basis that ‘It’s the right thing to do’ or by appealing to charitable and feel good notions.

And secondly, that the peer-to-peer method of delivering the message works best. People respect and listen to their peers. In the broadest sense, this is evident when we use the business-to-business approach. Business operators speaking to other business operators, in the same language and understanding each other’s motivation of profitability gets traction.

On another level, however, the peer-to-peer method can be used within employment sectors as evidenced by the Mayor’s Challenge, where we have the Mayor of Sarnia challenging his colleagues and peers in other municipalities to hire people with disabilities within the municipal workforce; or the Police Chief’s Challenge, where London’s police chief, Brad Duncan has put out the challenge to other police chiefs across the province. These challenges are followed up with in-person contact and support from the Champion.

This peer-to-peer approach is also transferable on a more micro level. Using the peer-to-peer approach, we are now working with some major Canadian Corporations to develop strategies within their own ranks. Deliberate strategies that have department managers talking to their counterparts and peers in other divisions, departments and branches not only about why they should include people who have disabilities in their divisions, but also about how to successfully on-board new hires.

There is still a lot of work to be done to engage employers in many segments of business and industry but we are now seeing the tide turning on this issue. For many businesses, the question is changing from why hire to how do I hire.

In this regard we would recommend establishing a business-driven association of experienced employers, along the lines of the UK Forum on Abilities. Such an entity could carry on the important educational work that has begun while adding to its capacity, peer support, advice and consultation services to assist those who are having difficulty with implementing pro-active recruitment strategies and on-boarding new employees from the disability sector.

Wage subsidies, as a strategy to gain employment opportunities for people with disabilities is hotly contested across the country. The Ontario Disability Employment Network, and its members, does not support wage subsidies as an employment strategy. We have seen far too many abuses, where there was no intention to retain an employee beyond the term of the subsidy. Wage subsidies also undermine the ‘value proposition’ of hiring from the disability sector and set people up to be seen and often treated differently from their co-workers.

Employers, who understand the value that people with disabilities bring to the workplace, rarely, if ever, access wage subsidies. Smart employers tell us that, when they pay wages, they are, in fact, investing in that employee and through this investment, are more vested in achieving a successful outcome. When it’s free or subsidized the relationship is not the same.

If we are doing a good job at making the business case for hiring people who have a disability, wage subsidies should not be required. We believe these precious resources could be better utilized in other areas with greater impact.

Rather than wage subsidies, consideration should be given to accommodate businesses for any ‘real’ out of pocket costs that may be incurred by hiring someone with a disability. Consider financial support for accommodations, whether they be physical accommodations, technical accommodations, personal supports and job coaches, skills training and so on.

Perhaps consideration can be given to provide a subsidy where an individual, due to their disability, may take longer to learn the job than would be expected. But, a blanket approach where employers are paid to hire people who have a disability, without any long-term commitment is bound to end up with abuses and less than desirable outcomes.

Student Employment

Much greater emphasis and resources must be invested in kids who have disabilities. Students with disabilities are also shut out of the labour market. They graduate from high school, colleges and universities without any work experience on their resume. We must get kids engaged, at 15 and 16 years of age, in summer jobs and part-time after school jobs so they can gain the experience they need to learn workplace culture and life skills, and to establish career goals and paths.

A 2012 US study found that the number one indicator of successful labour market attachment for people with severe disabilities, upon graduation from school was having had a paid job while in school.*1 Through the Rotary at Work initiative, we have experienced this first hand. In 2010 we were approached by a young man,

Adam, seeking help to find a job. Adam had been called to the Ontario Bar in 2004 but due to his disability, had never worked. Not just in his chosen profession, never worked in any job and he was willing to do anything including serving coffee if that’s what it took. We were fortunate in connecting Adam with Deloitte, where he was eventually hired to work in one of their legal departments. Adam’s manager, however, clearly stated that they went out on a limb for Adam. That he was sorely lacking in the ‘soft’ skills and had a poor understanding of workplace culture. Fortunately Adam was a quick study and has maintained his position with Deloitte.

We have seen this example over and over again – accountants, computer programmers and many other qualified professionals as well as those simply looking for entry-level positions. In the HRSDC report, Rethinking Disability in the Private Sector, there is a notation about the significant increases in the proportion of adults with disabilities that have post-secondary degrees. If we can’t do better than a 51% labour market attachment for these individuals once they graduate, we have wasted, and are continuing to waste a lot of resources and talent.

We must engage kids with disabilities in the labour market, just as we do with kids who are not disabled.

We have an excellent example of where this is being done. Community Living Sarnia Lambton has operated a summer employment program for people who have a disability for over 15 years and it has been growing exponentially in recent years. In the summer of 2011 they found paid summer jobs for 82 kids with disabilities. All types and degrees of disability, students from high school, colleges and universities, and all types of jobs – 95 jobs in total as some kids had more than one job.

There are many benefits and layers to the successes of this program. The agency accesses multiple funding opportunities through the provincial government and federal Opportunities Fund, along with corporate sponsorship and agency fund-raised dollars. In this way, public funding is leveraged to maximum benefit.

Another element is that the ‘job coaches’ are themselves University and college students, without disabilities, and hired through federal and provincial summer jobs programs. These future business leaders also learn about the benefits of including people who have a disability in the workplace.

The most telling aspect of the program, however, is the change in dynamics within the families of those with disabilities and educators. The agency notes that the greatest change is in families who suddenly gain a sense of hope and expectation as they realize their kids can work and will have a place in society. This change in expectation that work is the next logical step after school is significant. Young people with disabilities in Sarnia are now graduating from school and approaching the agency immediately for assistance to find work. No longer is social assistance the first step. For many, it has become the fallback, as it rightfully should.

At the end of the summer the students created a video to celebrate their success. It can be accessed at: http://tinyurl.com/2b56zh8

While Community Living Sarnia’s summer employment program supports people with all types of disabilities, the agency was asked by Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services to track the movement of those in the program who had an intellectual disability. Those results are in the table below:

In summary, I would like to say that we need to invest in youth with disabilities; we must engage the private sector in a different way and ensure that we can support them to be successful; and, that we need to ensure efficient and seamless access to the services and supports people who have a disability need in order to be successful contributors to the Canadian economy.

For more information, contact:

Joe Dale, Executive Director

Ontario Disability Employment Network

Jdale.odenetwork@gmail.com

905-706-4348

Sources:

*1 Carter, E.W., Austin, D. & Trainor, A. (2012). Predictors of Post school Employment Outcomes for Young Adults With Severe Disabilities. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 23(1), 55-63.

 

(Click here to download the .PDF version of this document)

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Rethinking DisAbility in the Private Sector – Report from the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada)


(From www.hrsdc.gc.ca) The Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities engaged private sector businesses, other organizations and individuals, online and in person, to identify best practices, successful approaches and barriers to employment from employer’s perspectives. For more information on the Panel, please:

Click here to access the PDF Document
Click here to access via website

 

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Submission to the Social Assistance Review Commission (Revised )


To view/download the full document in PDF format click here

Introduction

The Ontario Disability Employment Network (the Network) is a professional body of employment service providers that operate in Ontario. Our vision is that all people who have a disability in Ontario have access to the labour force and the ability to achieve meaningful employment. By ‘meaningful employment’ the Network subscribes to jobs that meet the requirements of the Employment Standards Act; are paid at commensurate wages and that add value to the economic and social well being of people who have a disability.

Member organizations represent all disability groups and types. Some are specialized (service one specific disability group) while others service a broader range of disabilities. They also represent agencies that access the full range of employment funding options – Ontario Disability Support Program Employment Supports (ODSP-ES), Employment Ontario (EO), Service Canada Opportunities Fund (Service Canada OF), Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC), Ministry of Community and Social Services Developmental Services Act (MCSS DSA) as well as private grants and donations. Some agencies access only one funding source, e.g. MCSS DSA funding, while others access multiple funding sources.

The Network facilitated, and participated in, group discussions with service providers, advocacy groups and service users from across the province. This is a summary of our findings.


Index

Executive Summary

Principles and Values – Employment Services 4

Principles and Values – Income Support and Benefits 8

 

Features of Effective Services and Supports

Consistent Assessment and Case Management 9

Integrated pre- and post-Employment Services and Supports 10

Access to the Same Level of Services and Supports10

Strong Connections with Employers 12

 

Discussion Questions

How Can Employment Services be Made More Effective 13

Encouraging Greater Consistency 15

Standard Assessment Tools 16

Employment-Related Participation Requirements 17

Tools to Assess Work Capacity 18

Engagement Strategies and Incentives for Employers 18

 

The Options

Improved Provincial – Municipal Relations 19

Municipalities Deliver all Employment Supports 20

Employment Ontario Delivers all Employment Services 21

 

Appropriate Benefits Structure

Adequacy and Wage Benchmarks 23

Setting Rates 24

Health Benefits for All Low Income Ontarians 24

Two Rate Approach 25

Earned Income Supplements 25

Housing Benefits and Fairness 26

 

Discussion Questions – Disability Specific

Income Supplements for low-Income People who have a Disability 26

Separate Basic Income Program for People with Severe Disabilities 27

 

Discussion Questions – Rate Structures

Rate Structures, Verification and Monitoring 27

Dietary Needs 28

 

Easier to Understand

From Surveillance to an Audit-Based System 28

Penalties 29

Risk Tolerance 29

 

Recommendations

Short-term (Immediate to 2 years) 30

Medium-term (2 years to 5 years) 31

Long-term (5 years +) 32

 

Appendices/Attachments

Appendix A – Path to Employment

Appendix B – Barriers to Employment

Appendix C – MCSS Supported Employment Code Explanation


 

Executive Summary

The Ontario Disability Employment Network would like to commend the Commission for under-taking such an in-depth and detailed review of Ontario’s Social Assistance system. There are many concepts and ideas within the second discussion paper: Approaches for Reform that the Network supports.

Everyone seems to agree that the status quo is not acceptable and a major overhaul of the system is required. As the Commission stated; “we need to transform the social assistance system; small fixes will not be enough.” The challenge is to turn what some feel is the ‘impossible’ into manageable steps and actions that will move the system forward.

In the final chapter of this report, the Network has made 37 specific recommendations. These recommendations have been divided into short- (immediate to 2 years); medium- (2 – 5 years); and, longer- (5 years +) term actions. We believe these actions will help transform the employment service delivery system to one which is stronger, more responsive and more effective without de-stabilizing the lives of people who have a disability who depend on these services or the employment service agencies that have decades of experience to contribute.

Many of these recommendations will not require financial resources. Rather, we believe they will create immediate and transformative improvements to the system. At the same time, many of these recommendations will result in significant financial savings that can be re-invested in the system. With significant improvements to the employment services system, more people will be encouraged to pursue this option. The system, in turn, must build its capacity so that it can respond accordingly.

Principles & Values – Employment Services

First and foremost it is important to recognize that ‘employment services’ is more than just the transfer payment agencies that provide direct services to people who have a disability. Government Ministries that set policies, regulations, funding mechanisms and manage both people who have a disability who want to work and relationships with transfer payment agencies must also be viewed as ‘employment services’ in this context. To state that employment services are ineffective in Ontario, in turn, means that ‘Government’ is complicit in this ineffectiveness.

Affecting positive changes that will improve employment services and lead to better employment outcomes for people who have a disability, will require a collaborative effort by Government, employment service agencies, people who have a disability and business.

People who have a disability must be viewed as a distinct target group, separate from general welfare (OW) recipients. While they may share the commonality of dependence on the state for financial assistance and benefits, services and supports for people who have a disability are very different and highly specialized. So much so, that the degree of specialization is often unique and based on the specific disability. At the same time, disability is typically ‘for life’ as opposed to short term or intermittent.

We applaud the Commission for recognizing the essential elements of effective services and supports that must be available to people who have a disability. Many people who have a disability can work and want to work, provided they have access to effective services and supports.

These services and supports must be integrated and coordinated in order to achieve better employment outcomes. It must also be recognized that not all people who have a disability will need all of these services. Nor are they necessarily linear from a delivery perspective. People who have a disability must simply be able to access the services they need, when they need them.

As a general principle, the Network believes that government, whether provincial or municipal, should not be in the business of direct service delivery. Rather, it should retain the role of ‘service manager’ and contract direct services to third party delivery agents.

Assessments must not be used to determine eligibility or to screen people out. People must not be denied access to employment services and supports based on the severity of their disability. Assessments must be individualized and flexible as a means to assist people to determine a career goal and path and to identify the supports they will need to be successful. A variety of assessment tools and formats must be available ranging from pre-employment preparation programs and time-limited work experience programs to more formal assessments.

The Network believes that both Assessment and Case Management should be managed by the primary service provider with an option to contract out or purchase formal assessments where appropriate.

Capacity assessments, on the other hand, are fraught with problems and should not be considered at this time. There are many improvements and savings to the system that can be achieved before considering this question and approach.

Employment outcomes should be broadened to include a greater range of performance measures. The Network concurs with the conclusions of ‘When the Bough Breaks’ and believes these apply equally to people who have a disability. It is to everyone’s advantage to support people for a longer period of time. Given the nature of the labour market, people will need additional supports (beyond placement) to grow their careers and further reduce or eliminate their dependency on the income support system. Employers will be more open and willing to hire people who have a disability if they are confident that support will be available to them over the long term.

Employment service providers must be compensated for providing these additional supports through a more integrated funding system.

Should ODSP continue to be a primary support for people who have a disability in the future, they must put more emphasis on helping people prepare for and find employment. Services and supports must be better integrated and available from a single employment service provider with an option to outsource specific services and targeted interventions, I.E. formal assessments, skills training, etc. People who have a disability must also have access to mainstream services and supports that are available to others with employment barriers. They must have a choice as to where and when they access these services and supports.

Early intervention is the key to helping people bypass the Income Support system. It is critical that government give serious consideration and make strategic investments in youth employment initiatives. At the same time, employment service agencies must be compensated at the same level for supporting eligible non-income support recipients.

The Network strongly supports the Commission’s goal ‘to make recommendations that will respond to the work aspirations of people with disabilities and support their participation to the maximum of their abilities.’ However, we do not believe that people who have a disability should be compelled to work through mandatory participation regulations given the number of barriers that are beyond their control.

If conditions are favourable and quality services and supports available, many more people who have a disability will chose to pursue employment.

Strong connections with employers are critical to success. Employers must be seen as a ‘customer’ and additional resources are needed to adequately and appropriately service this customer. The greatest incentives for employers are often those that alleviate their fears and reduce their perceived level of risk. This, in conjunction with the trust and knowledge that the agency’s services are of high quality and available over the long term are often enough to convince an employer to hire.

More effort is needed in the area of employer education and awareness. While there is speculation that the AODA will enhance employment opportunities, there is also speculation that it may have a short-term negative effect as employers attempt to ‘duck’ government involvement and compliance requirements. Many of today’s, business-to-business campaigns like the Network’s Champions League and Rotary at Work, attempt to show businesses the ‘carrot, rather than the stick’ when it comes to the benefits of hiring people who have a disability.

Marketing to business should not be designed and delivered by government. Business is generally shy of government initiatives. Rather, government should support marketing initiatives developed and implemented by third party providers.

Revisions and improvements to the employment services system must ensure employment service providers spend more time on service delivery and less time on administration. Managing multiple service contracts, reporting relationships, data bases and accountability processes is not efficient and takes time and resources that could be better spent on delivering services and supports. This will require a single source funding relationship. Further administrative efficiencies can be gained by moving to an audit based accountability system for those people who have a disability who work.

Supported Employment, which has some distinct service characteristics, is defined as paid employment – ‘real work for real pay’. While it was initially launched as a strategy to engage people who have an intellectual disability in employment, it has been adopted by a much broader audience as a successful service technology. The Commission should not overlook the impact of the DS Sector and DS Branch of the MCSS in its review of employment services in Ontario.

The Network agrees that Government must make a greater investment in employment services for people who have a disability. Much of this investment can be found in the administrative efficiencies identified in this report. Investment is needed to increase the capacity of service providers as well as in professional development and innovation. Funding for employment service agencies need to balance core operating costs with performance-based incentives.

Once an effective operating environment is achieved, employment service providers that consistently under-perform should be phased out.

People in receipt of ODSP need greater incentives to work and the security that they will not be financially worse off by working or penalized if they fail in the workforce.

The Network strongly supports the Drummond concept that government must invest more money in people that need more support. At the same time, if Government wants to see more people get jobs, they must build the capacity of the employment service sector to respond. There is no value in assessing people as to their needs, if appropriate services and supports are not available.

The Network does not believe that employment services should be consolidated under EO. Fundamentally, we believe the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities does not have a good understanding of the unique needs of people who have a disability when it comes to employment services and supports. Furthermore, the types and amounts of services and supports people who have a disability need does not fit the One-Stop model that MTCU is mandated to provide. We strongly believe that under this model, people who have more significant disabilities will fall even further behind.

Irrespective of which delivery option is chosen, inter-ministerial collaboration is a fundamental requirement. All government ministries and departments that touch on any aspect of disability is in a position to positively or negatively impact employment outcomes for people who have a disability. One ministry or department should not be initiating programs or services that compete with or undermine employment options and opportunities.

Service participants and employment service providers must have significant input into what the new system should look like.

Principles & Values – Benefits

Adequacy levels are an overriding and dominating issue that needs to be addressed. As the Commission has pointed out, this exercise must unfold through a poverty-reduction lens. For people to consider pursuing employment there must be a sense of financial stability and security. In addition, consequences for failure in the workforce must be minimized or eliminated.

The Commission must look at the combination of income support and wages with improved incentives that encourage people to try working. Adequacy and financial stability/security must also consider; medical benefits, specific disability-related supports (E.g. special diet allowance), child care and housing. People with disabilities need the security of knowing that health benefits will be stable, irrespective of their status in employment or social assistance. In some cases the disability itself will result in a higher dependency on medical benefits.

The Network believes, in principle, that health benefits should be available to all low-income Ontarians. There is a cost of providing health benefits, but there is also a cost of not providing health benefits.

The Network does not support a two-rate approach. Instead, we support a system that ‘increases asset limits for an initial period of time when an individual first enters the program’.

There should not be a separate, basic income program for people with severe disabilities. Supplements, due to additional costs associated with the disability may be considered as should different services and supports. However, the Network and its members believe the notion of dividing disability into two groups based on employability has some severe consequences. The proposed concept will entrap people in the social assistance system for life.

While there is some concern that record keeping may be a bigger problem for people who have a disability, most people seem to be satisfied that, with proper support, people who have a disability should be held to the same standard as other citizens.

It is imperative that people understand the rules that govern the income support system. This includes those who manage the system, service recipients and the support organizations and advocacy groups that act on behalf of people who have a disability. Materials and documents related to the income support system must be available in plain language and in alternate formats.

Chapter 1: Reasonable Expectations and Necessary Supports to Employment

Features of Effective Services and Supports

We applaud the Commission for recognizing the essential elements that create effective services and supports. The overview of these services and supports is very much in keeping with those identified by the Network (see Appendix A – Path to Employment). The following reflects some of the comments/clarifications and recommendations from our constituents:

Consistent assessment and case management:

Assessments must be individualized and flexible. The type and intensity of assessment must respond to a variety of situations – the type and/or level of disability; career goals; degree to which the individual is self-directed; etc. Often, for people who have a disability, the most critical assessment is the determination of individual motivation, reliability and dependability (MRD). This is often determined through participation in pre-employment preparation programs. Pre-employment preparation programs are also valuable in assisting the service provider to get to know the candidate. This greatly assists in ensuring a good job ‘match’.

Work experience should also be considered a form of assessment and is often built into pre-employment preparation programs. Guidelines are needed to ensure work experience placements are time-limited and curriculum-based and not simply ‘free labour’ or never-ending.

Formal assessments are more common where the individual wishes to pursue a particular career goal, skilled trade or profession; or, where there is question about the stability of someone who has a mental health or medical disability.

Assessments must not be used to determine eligibility or to screen people out. Everyone who is motivated to work must have access to the employment delivery system. It is not uncommon to find employment for a highly motivated individual with an accommodating employer even though the severity of their disability may seem impractical or insurmountable on first encounter. In a 2003 study of over 2,500 people who had a disability and who engaged service agencies for assistance to find paid employment, the most successful disability group was people who have an intellectual disability. On a per capita basis, this group was the most successful at both getting jobs and in their job retention. (See http://www.odenetwork.com/library/employment-outcomes-project-report-sept-2003/ for details.)

Case management must be provided by the primary service provider. Again, this is an individualized and flexible service that is very dependant on the individual’s needs and ability to self-manage their services and supports. Case management is more successful when provided by the primary service provider as the service provider is a ‘constant’ in the employment delivery process and most often is the one that is setting up appointments and interviews and assisting the candidate to achieve their goals. Often third party case management is not readily available and typically is not responsive to the needs of the individual in a timely way. This service is best provided by those who work with the individual on a day-to-day basis.

In the early launch of ODSP ES, Assessments were routinely performed as a separate, stand alone service and often by third party assessors. Experience has shown that these assessments tended to be ‘formula-driven’, were often unhelpful to the employment process, irrelevant and rarely addressed the match between a motivated candidate and an available opportunity. Valuable resources were wasted when each individual was required to undergo a mandatory assessment by these third-party assessors. Third party assessments should be available by exception rather than the rule.

The Network believes that both Assessment and Case Management should be managed by the primary service provider with an option to contract out or purchase formal assessments where appropriate.

Integrated pre- and post-employment services and supports:

The Network agrees that outcomes ‘should be broadened to include performance measures related to pre-employment activities and addressing barriers to employment’ for people who have a disability. In general, it would be advantageous to support people for the long run and in a more holistic way. In this respect the conclusions of ‘When the Bough Breaks’ apply equally to people who have a disability.

Despite the funding limitations of ODSP-ES and EO, some service providers offer on-going support to people who have a disability and to employers through pre-employment preparation programs, job coaching and trouble-shooting. These service providers often have access to other resources and/or supports, financed by Service Canada, DSA or MOH funding. In addition they frequently address ‘off the job’ issues like housing, transportation, budgeting, financial reporting, etc. These service providers tend to have better employment outcomes than those who operate with only one funding source. (See http://www.odenetwork.com/library/employment-outcomes-project-report-sept-2003/ for details.)

Given the changing labour market, people who have a disability often enter the workforce in low, entry-level positions, often working part-time without benefits. While this is a good first step, in order to reduce and eventually eliminate people’s dependency on ODSP-IS, additional supports may be needed. This will help people grow in their career and/or assist them to get new or second part-time jobs. This is particularly important in the current labour market.

Access to the same level of services for people who have a disability:

ODSP must put more emphasis on helping people who have a disability prepare for and find employment. People who have a disability can work and want to work. They must have access to the same range of services, including skills upgrading and training as other groups, in addition to disability-specific services and supports.

People who have a disability need access to the full range of services and supports, from pre-employment preparation & training to job placement and post-employment supports. These services and supports must be better integrated and, in general, available from single source service providers. Employment service providers may need to outsource specific services for targeted interventions as needed; E.g. skill specific training.

We support the Commission’s conclusion that early intervention is important for people with mental illness. In fact, we believe early intervention should be seen as a critical investment for all people who have a disability. Early intervention is key to helping people bypass the Income Support system. People who have a disability often graduate from high school, college or university with little or no work experience, no practical experience for their resume or understanding of realistic career goals. The need for financial security while the individual is struggling to gain employment typically ‘drives’ them to the Income Support system and the longer a person is receiving ODSP-IS, the more difficult it is to help them leave that system.

Graduating from school with practical work experience raises the expectation that work is the next logical step for people who have a disability. Service providers are seeing more people who have a disability who are not in receipt of Income Support in cases where those individuals have had access to co-op placements, summer employment and after school jobs.

We appreciate the Commission’s goal ‘to make recommendations that will respond to the work aspirations of people with disabilities and support their participation to the maximum of their abilities.’ This aligns with the Network’s position that people who are motivated should have access to the labour market and the services and supports that will help them achieve this goal. However, we do not believe that people who have a disability should be compelled to work through mandatory participation regulations.

There still remain too many barriers, many of which are beyond the control of people who have a disability, to mandate participation. (See Appendix B – Barriers to Employment) Business and the labour market are not yet ready to support full participation and the service system does not have the capacity to support full participation. Current, government policy frameworks and funding do not support full participation and many families and individuals with disabilities are very risk adverse with respect to the loss of income support and benefits. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult and costly to force ‘motivation’ with people who have no desire to work. Who would be held responsible for a lack of success due to lack of motivation, and who would be covering the cost of providing these services?

At this time, active engagement in the labour market should be limited to and focused on youth through further development of youth employment programs and mandated work co-op placements while in school.

The Network would like to caution the Commission with respect to capacity assessments. This could have a number of negative impacts on the system. Assessment tools tend to be unreliable when it comes to determining employability and can create a dependency for life for many people who might otherwise work. Often the impact of disability changes, technology advances and new and creative ways to construct employment emerge. Additionally, opportunity often emerges when least expected. These opportunities should not be overlooked.

Finally, it is our experience that capacity assessments are often used to screen people out or to determine that people are too costly to serve. Assessors, particularly government case workers, are often out of touch with the business environment and the opportunities that may be available.

Strong Connections with Employers

The Network and its members strongly support the direction of the Commission with respect to employer engagement. Current funding models do not provide sufficient resources for effective marketing campaigns and often limit longer term coaching, trouble shooting and other interventions, customer service and quality assurance. The relationship with employers and the business community is critical in terms of creating employment opportunities, repeat business, and ensuring job retention, including career advancement and growth.

The connection with employers needs to be done at the local level. While there is a need for ‘big picture’ marketing and education campaigns, it is the relationship at the local level that ensures a strong relationship and that businesses trust the service agency and have access to the on-the-ground services and supports that both employees with disabilities and businesses need.

Business-to-business educational programs have proven to be successful and government should support these types of initiatives. Unfortunately, government-led initiatives like ‘Don’t Waste Talent’ have been less successful. Business operators tell us the message just doesn’t resonate with them.

There are mixed reactions to programs that provide incentives like tax breaks and wage subsidies to employers. Many of the Network’s members find that wage subsidy programs help create opportunities for people who have a disability but that these opportunities too frequently end when the subsidy runs out. As a result many don’t utilize wage subsidy programs or use them only as a measure of last resort. The principle is that when an employer pays the individual, they are, in essence, investing in that person and therefore more committed to a successful outcome. Wage subsidies may be considered legitimate where there is a real cost to the employer that is directly related to the disability.

The incentive for many employers is the trust that the agency’s services and supports will be available over the long term. The security of knowing that support is just a phone call away, is often all the reassurance the employer needs.

The Network recommends that an independent review of wage subsidy initiatives be undertaken. Such a study could examine which employers use wage subsidies and why, how many jobs were created as a direct result of wage subsidies and, what the job retention rate was after the subsidies ran out. With resources so scarce, we need to justify where they are spent and ensure they are being put to good use.

 

Discussion Questions

How can employment services be made more effective?

First and foremost it is important to recognize that ‘employment services’ is more than just the transfer payment agencies that provide direct services to people who have a disability. Government Ministries that set policies, regulations, funding mechanisms and manage both people who have a disability who want to work and relationships with transfer payment agencies must also be viewed as ‘employment services’ in this context. To state that employment services are ineffective in Ontario, in turn, means that ‘Government’ is complicit in this ineffectiveness.

Employment services must be coordinated and integrated at the government level as well. The Ontario Disability Employment Network strongly recommends that government create a policy framework related to employment for people who have a disability. Such a framework must set the parameters that all Ministries and departments that fund services for people who have a disability (not just employment services) must adhere to.

Recognizing that the implementation of a policy framework will be a longer term proposition, the Network recommends the Commission set out short-, medium-, and long-term goals. These might include:

  • Creating an inter-ministerial committee with a mandate to look at employment issues, policy and funding as well as the relationship to other non-employment services for this target group (including Ministries of; Education, Training Colleges & Universities, Community and Social Services, Health and Labour)
  • Enhance the provincial Accessibility Advisory Committee guidelines to include accessible employment (currently, accessible employment is not included in the provincial mandate for Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees)
  • Including summer and after school employment for students in the new employment delivery system
  • Create policies that any ‘new’ money allocated for daytime activity programs is to be directed toward employment programs
  • Develop a transition strategy for existing sheltered workshops and day programs that want to convert to employment programs
  • Ensure other funding programs for people who have a disability do not conflict with, undermine or otherwise compete with employment programs (Currently individualized funding models for people who have an intellectual disability are largely unregulated and often used to establish unpaid work in the private sector. As recently as February 2012 the DS Branch of MCSS set out service code guidelines for its transfer payment agencies that not only condone, but promote, unpaid work in the private sector. Given the recent Human Rights case http://canlii.ca/en/on/onhrt/doc/2012/2012hrto68/2012hrto68.html where a private business owner was found to be in contravention of Ontario labour law for such practices, it is difficult to understand why one branch of government would promote activities to its Transfer Payment Agencies that clearly contravene the law. (See Appendix C – MCSS Supported Employment Code Explanation)
  • A mandate to provide co-op work experiences to all students who have a disability
  • Review funding of day programs under the DS Branch and Ministry of Health to determine the extent to which these Ministries are supporting employment programs* The Commission should not overlook the degree and potential impact of these two funding streams if we are to achieve a single funding stream for employment services.

Along with this policy framework, the Network also recommends moving to a single source funding stream for employment services for people who have a disability. A move to single source funding will achieve efficiencies both at the service level and financially for both the Government and transfer payment agencies. The savings and efficiencies must then be reinvested in the service delivery system.

We must find ways to ensure employment service providers spend more time on service delivery and less time on administration. Service agencies that currently spend countless hours managing multiple funding contracts; administering several different databases; managing different reporting and accountability measures; and, managing relationships with various Ministry program officers, could redirect those resources into providing more services and/or creating effective marketing initiatives, training staff and managing quality assurance programs. Entire departments within Government Ministries that manage service contracts and client case workers could be reduced or eliminated, again, saving precious resources that could be re-invested into increasing and improving employment services.

There needs to be standards of practice for employment service agencies. Such standards go beyond current Ministry requirements and should include business practices such as: ensuring operators have annual work plans; marketing initiatives are in place; training and professional development for staff; quality assurance programs; client satisfaction programs; customer service standards; and, etc.

Recognizing there will always be resistance to standards, this will be minimized if they are developed by the sector in consultation with service participants, employers and government rather than being developed by government alone.

Government must make a greater investment in employment supports for people who have a disability. As noted in the Commission’s report, ‘there is little focus on helping people receiving ODSP prepare for, and find employment. Investments must be made in professional development and innovation. Since the advent of ODSP’s outcome based funding model, professional development has all but been eliminated. We are now seeing the consequences of this as staff skill levels are not maintained and turnover has meant many more people are working in the sector without the pre-requisite skills. At the same time, without innovation, and resources to encourage and support innovation, service models stagnate and new service technologies fail to emerge as people retrench around old ways of doing business. Since the advent of ODSP-ES, this has become the current state of the industry.

People in receipt of ODSP need greater incentives to work (see chapter 2) and security that, if work fails, they will not be destitute. Employment service providers also need incentives and an understanding that excellence in performance will be rewarded. This comes with the caveat that a 13 week job is not the only performance indicator.

Once improved policy structures and funding frameworks are put in place, service providers that consistently underperform should be phased out.

While the Commission’s report takes an in-depth look at Income Support, including incentives to work, there needs to be a more detailed and comprehensive study of best practices in employment services to identify the key factors that contribute to superior performance.

 

What should the Commission recommend to encourage greater consistency in effective employment services and supports for social assistance recipients, while still allowing for local flexibility and innovation?

Some suggestions that have already been made will encourage greater consistency while allowing for local flexibility and innovation.

  • Enhance the mandate of Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees
  • Engage the employment service sector in the design and development of standards of practice
  • Create a provincial resource that is designed to support innovation
  • Better coordination between various departments of government by establishing an inter-ministerial committee on employment for people who have a disability

Additional strategies might include creating a Provincial advisory/oversight body. This could be similar to an ‘Ontario College of Employment Services’ with input from service participants, advocacy organizations, employers, service providers or their networks and Government. This body could be responsible for creating and monitoring service standards, addressing issues related to training and professional development, complaints and appeals, etc.

Alternately or perhaps, in addition, an advisory body of self advocates would be very helpful.

Further comment on consistency, local flexibility and innovation will follow in discussing the preferred delivery options.

Should standard assessment tools be used to identify people’s needs and match them to appropriate services and supports?

Every individual is unique, as are the circumstances that surround them – the nature of their disability, their life circumstances, personality traits, family environment, external environment and the opportunities before them. It is not realistic to expect a single, standard assessment tool that can assess the needs of all people and match them to the services and supports they need.

There are some basic principles that the Network subscribes to, with respect to Assessments. They are:

  • Focus on ability, what the person has to offer rather than their limitations
  • Assessment tools should not be used to screen people out
  • Pre-employment programs are vital and, in most cases, provide important assessment information
  • There must be flexibility and a variety of assessment tools available
  • People should be able to request a re-assessment at any time

In general, there are two levels of assessments – one which assesses basic employability based on MRD (motivation, reliability and dependability) and a second that is more formal to assess skills and aptitudes for skilled jobs, trades and/or professional careers.

One of the critical factors related to assessments is that once an individual has been assessed as to their needs, they must then have access to the services and supports needed to be successful. Too often people are over assessed only to determine the appropriate services and supports are not available.

The Network strongly supports the Drummond concept that government must invest more money in people that need more support.

What should be considered appropriate employment-related activity participation requirements for people with disabilities? Should participation requirements for people with disabilities be different from those for other people receiving social assistance?

As previously noted, we do not believe people who have a disability should be forced to participate in employment. Many of the barriers faced by people who have a disability are out of their control. There are still many businesses that do not welcome people who have a disability as well as challenges in accessing the labour market. There are physical accessibility issues, transportation, personal support needs, etc that create barriers. In addition, it will take time to improve the employment delivery and income support systems in order to assure people who have a disability that the risk-reward scenario is in their favour.

Forcing people who are not motivated to work or insecure with other aspects of their lives, will drive up costs due to increased efforts by service providers, higher failure rates and poor job retention.

As previously noted, active engagement in the labour market should begin earlier while people who have a disability are still in school

If conditions are favourable and quality services and supports available, many more people who have a disability will pursue employment. Having said that, it is imperative that more emphasis is placed on demonstrating that employment is a viable outcome for people who have a disability.

One of the simplest things that could be done to increase efficiency is to grant eligibility for employment at the same time that eligibility for income support is determined. Time and time again, we hear about lost opportunities. Employment service providers have employers willing to hire and candidates available to fill those positions, but by the time the ODSP Case Worker determines eligibility for the participant the job is lost. This can take as long as six weeks and employers just won’t wait. This is a needless step. Given, under the current ODSP outcomes-based funding model, the risk is on the service provider (as to whether or not they receive funding), we are unable to ascertain why this step is necessary. It is time consuming, an administrative burden and causes a loss of many employment opportunities.

It should be noted that once we increase the demand for employment outcomes, we must be able to respond with appropriate services and supports. The service delivery system will need to build its capacity to respond to that increased demand. Mandatory participation would add significantly to that capacity requirement.

Our recommendation is that the Commission focuses on other barriers within the system e.g. improving the delivery system, increasing employer engagement and acceptance, income security, housing etc. With such improvements in place, this may be a reasonable question for the future.

Should a tool be developed to assess the work capacity of people with disabilities? If so, how should the tool be developed and how should it be used?

The Network believes that capacity assessments are fraught with problems and should not be considered at this time. There are many improvements and savings to the system that must be achieved before considering this approach.

What kinds of engagement strategies and incentives would be most effective in encouraging and supporting employers to hire more social assistance recipients?

As previously noted, the Network believes that an independent study on wage subsidies should be conducted. It is important to understand the level to which employers are also, if at all, investing in these employees and, therefore, vested in a successful outcome.

Alleviating employer fears with low risk options has had much success.

Some employment service providers have found that setting up time-limited work experiences has led to successful job offers. Often, at the end of the work experience, the employer is convinced that the individual can contribute to the workplace and commits to an on-going hire.

Some service providers offer options where they become the ‘employer of record’ for a short period. In these cases the service provider contracts with the employer and uses the contracted revenues to pay the individual. After a pre-agreed to time frame (4 to 6 weeks), the employer then decides as to an on-going hire.

Summer and after school employment has a double benefit. It is generally viewed by the business as a risk-free way to try a candidate who has a disability as there is an ‘end in sight’. At the same time, this offers valuable experience to a young person who needs to build their experience, capacity and expectations with respect to work.

Some agencies offer on-going support for as long as the candidate is employed including ‘out-placement’ assistance if the hire doesn’t work out. Many employers have told us that the greatest fear in hiring is the fear of firing. Alleviating this fear is a great relief to many employers.

In general, more work needs to be done to ensure and support employment service providers to view the employer as a ‘customer’. Work places and jobs evolve over time and employers look to the ‘disability experts’ for on-going support. On-going customer service, including job coaching, trouble shooting and longer-term support such as re-training must be available. Local service providers must have the capacity and resources to build strong relationships with employers.

Much more effort and work needs to be done on employer education and marketing initiatives. Routinely we hear about labour shortages and the need to boost immigration as a primary solution to these shortages. We need to replace this mantra with one that suggests ‘a ready and willing labour source already exists, here in your own backyard’.

Business to business models of educating and marketing work very well as evidenced by groups like Rotary at Work, the Network’s Champion’s League, JOIN’s Business Leadership Network and others. These initiatives should be supported and developed further. There is a role for service providers to coordinate and support these efforts. However, if government assistance is provided, they must be held accountable through measures that assess their effectiveness, such as the number of businesses that have hired and the number of people employed as a direct result.

In general, marketing to employers should not be designed and delivered directly by government. The business mindset is that they want government ‘out of their face’ and attempts by government to gain business’s favour are typically rejected.

 

 

The Options

Improved Provincial-Municipal/First Nations Collaboration

While there is always room for, and a need, to improve Provincial-Municipal/First Nations collaboration, the Network does not believe this will result in the desired outcomes necessary to make significant improvement in the delivery of social assistance and employment services.

It is clear that no one is happy with the status quo and that major improvements are required. As the Commission has stated; we need to transform the social assistance system; small fixes will not be enough.” It is difficult to mandate and regulate collaboration and, based on past history, the Network’s members are not convinced this will achieve the wholesale changes we need to make to the system.

Still, inter-ministerial collaboration is a must. There are many Provincial Ministries that have a steak in employment and disability – Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, Ministry of Community and Social Services, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour and others. There must be an over-riding employment policy framework that each of these Ministries will operate within, regardless of which Ministry has the lead responsibility for employment services.

Service participants and employment service providers must have significant input as to what this system should look like.

Municipalities Deliver all Employment Supports

While Municipalities tend to be more in touch with local issues and can be more flexible and supportive of the people who live in their communities the Network has a number of concerns and reservations about this option.

The Network fundamentally believes that government, whether provincial or municipal, should not be in the business of direct service delivery. Rather, it should retain the role of ‘service delivery manager’ and contract direct services to third party delivery agents. Municipalities do both. In some cases they directly deliver services e.g. OW employment services and in other cases they contract with third party service agencies. We believe this creates a conflict while keeping government in the business of service delivery.

Secondly, there is a concern that if services are moved to Municipalities, there will not be a separation of income supports from employment supports. The Network believes these two programs – income and employment – should be managed separately and to maintain both programs within one management stream would result in the continuation of the current challenges and conflicting priorities of policy, funding and client service management.

People who have a disability need access to the full range of employment services, including training. If employment services are managed by Municipalities while training is managed by Employment Ontario, there would be barriers, time delays and inefficiencies of additional referral processes that individuals would have to contend with. It would make more sense for all related employment and training services to be managed by one government department and/or Ministry.

This will require all monies earmarked for disability and employment, regardless of source, be funnelled through the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities. This should include the Service Canada Opportunities Fund. Service Canada could determine where the resources are to be directed, but day-to-day management of these funds should be by MTCU.

For service operators and government, it would be much more efficient and cost effective to have all employment and training services within a single Ministry. We need to ensure that agencies don’t need multiple funding contracts, multiple program officers, multiple data bases and accountability processes in order to provide the full basket of services people who have a disability need. This would be much more efficient within one Ministry department.

Finally, there is concern that the Ontario Municipalities Act gives Municipalities full authority and autonomy to manage programs in the manner they see fit. This creates concern that services and service delivery may lack consistency from community to community across the province. There must be standards of practice and approach that an individual can depend on, regardless of the community in which they reside.

There is an important role for Municipalities to play when it comes to local planning, service coordination and community collaboration.

At the same time, people who have a disability must have access to mainstream employment supports provided by EO or other employment services. This will be particularly important to individuals who are self-directed or who want to pursue professional designations and/or certifications.

The key is to have a choice of service delivery agents and methodologies to ensure people who have more significant disabilities – people needing more intensive employment supports, those who need pre-employment preparation supports and those who are not self directed – have access to the labour market and are not screened out based on the severity of their disability.

The Municipality could be the primary point of access for people who have a disability. In this way, the Municipality will be the first point of reference for information about employment services and will provide referrals to the employment service providers.

We caution, however, that the concept of ‘job ready’ is highly subjective and can create its own barriers. Job Ready is often used as the rationale to screen people out and the concept overlooks ‘opportunity’ (the right place at the right time and/or the right ‘match’).

It also tends to lead to service options where people must be deemed ‘job ready’ before being referred into the employment stream and many valuable resources are spent on ‘getting people ready’. Experience has shown that many people are successful learning on the job when this is combined with time limited pre-employment preparation programs that work toward finding the right ‘match’ and effective job coaching supports.

We recommend, rather, that people are given ‘choice’ as to service providers/streams and that employment service providers are best suited to assess and determine ‘job ready’. As noted, this is often a case of matching the candidate to an opportunity available in conjunction with the service provider’s capacity to provide the necessary services and supports.

Employment Ontario Delivers all Employment Services

The move of ODSP Employment Supports and other funded Disability employment supports to Employment Ontario may, indeed, be the most cost effective and efficient way to manage employment services. This may not, however, be the most effective way to deliver employment supports and services to this particular target group.

People who have a disability require great flexibility in the types and amounts of services and supports they need to be successful. This does not fit the current One-Stop model that MTCU is mandated to provide. The EO model and resource base, as calculated on per unit costs of specified interventions, is not flexible enough, nor does it provide sufficient resources to support people who have a disability. As noted in the Drummond report, Government must invest more money in people that need more support. This concept is at odds with the EO method of operating where unit costs are based on interventions rather than on people.

One-Stop service models existed in the 70’s and early 80’s, known then as Canada Manpower Centres. Similarly, these Centres were not able to service people who had a disability. The vast majority of people who had a disability that went to Canada Manpower Centres looking for assistance were referred to sheltered workshops or specialized disability agencies. Their capacity to service this group, both in terms of available resources and expertise, was insufficient.

The Network has serious concerns that people with more severe disabilities will fall even further behind in this service model.

For the past two decades, the disability service sector has been phasing out sheltered workshops in favour of community-based employment and other community options. Sheltered workshops contribute to lifelong dependency on Social Assistance and generally provide menial and repetitive tasks with little benefit for participants. Government should continue to support efforts to phase these programs out, in favour of competitive employment. Transition supports may be needed to do so.

To ensure people who have a disability will be well served within the Employment Ontario umbrella and that more people who have a disability will gain competitive employment, certain conditions and compromises will be required:

  1. EO must to maintain specialized services for people who have a disability.
  2. EO must retain a separate service delivery stream for people who have a disability. This will be within the context of a ‘no wrong door’ approach, giving people who have a disability ultimate choice of service delivery agent.
  3. The disability stream must capture all eligibility status, e.g. EI, ODSP, CPPD, etc.
  4. Government should not directly deliver services and supports. Rather, its role should be to fund and manage systems through transfer payment agencies and to ensure accountability.
  5. The Network rejects any notion of ‘Capacity Assessments’ that may be used to determine employability. All persons who are motivated to work must have access to the services and supports they need in order to be successful.
  6. Benefit entitlement (income support) should be separate from employment supports.
  7. Ontario needs a clear Employment First Policy Framework for people who have a disability that identifies that all new program investments will be directed at employment service models and initiatives.
  8. There must be a clear and transparent selection process for Transfer Payment Agencies that takes into account their area of specialty and track record of successful service delivery, not just their administrative capacity.
  9. EO must ensure there is capacity for innovation, creativity and flexibility in the new system.

At the same time, the Network believes that an employment system managed by Employment Ontario will lead to a more efficient single funding stream for all employment services, give greater consistency to the way services are applied across the province, and give people who have a disability access to the same range of services and supports that other job seekers have.

Regardless of options, there must be sufficient resources to provide the full range of services and supports for people who have a disability, as the Commission has so clearly identified.

 

 

Chapters 2 & 3

The Network focussed its discussions related to ‘benefits’ primarily on those issues that will reduce the barriers to employment. While many of the following questions are focussed on all income support recipients, the Ontario Disability Employment Network has responded specifically from a disability perspective.

Chapter 2

Appropriate Benefits Structure

Discussion Questions – General

Which adequacy & wage benchmarks should be used to set rates? Are there other measures that should be considered?

Adequacy levels are overriding and dominating issues that need to be addressed. As the Commission has pointed out, this exercise must unfold through a poverty-reduction lens. For people to consider pursuing employment there must be a sense of financial stability and security. In addition, consequences for failure in the workforce must be minimized or eliminated.

In a methodology for setting rates, what proportions would balance adequacy, fairness & incentives?

In looking at rates, the Commission must look at the combination of income support and wages with improved incentives that encourage people to try working. Adequacy and financial stability/security must also consider the total package including; income support, wages, medical benefits, specific disability-related supports (E.g. special diet allowance), child care and housing.

Even though the current system provides some level of financial incentives, the negative impact on subsidized housing often removes this incentive and can place the individual in a negative financial position.

If responsibility for the employment service delivery system were to move to the Municipality, it would be easier to manage an adjusted benefit structure that recognizes all financial elements of people who are in receipt of income support.

Once adequacy and the total financial package issues are addressed, the Commission should build in additional incentives such as an adjustment to the claw back formula or an earned income supplement.

Some incentives would be non-monetary. That is, if the system were easier to manage and understand and was more fluid, people would be more likely to pursue employment. (See discussion re: rate structures)

 

Should health benefits be provided to all eligible low-income Ontarians? If so, how should the cost be covered?

The Network believes, in principle, that health benefits should be available to all low-income Ontarians. There is a cost of providing health benefits, but there is also a cost of not providing health benefits.

People with disabilities need the security of knowing that health benefits will be stable, irrespective of their status in employment or social assistance. In some cases the disability itself will result in a higher dependency on medical benefits. In an employment setting, this may result in higher costs to the employer and such costs should be off-set in order that a person who has a disability is not seen as a greater financial burden than other employees.

Additionally, ODSP should review eligible prescriptions, relative to the disability-related needs of people who have a disability.

Government needs to look at revenue streams as a part of the resolution to this issue. It is unfair that each time government faces a revenue shortage that it is people who are most vulnerable who pay the price through cost cutting and cost containment measures rather than looking for new revenue sources.

Consideration should be given to folding the cost of medical benefits into the Ontario Health Tax base so that there is only one program of this type for employers to be concerned about.

 

Should Ontario use a two-rate approach, based on how long someone requires social assistance? If so, should there be exemptions from starting at the lower short-term rate?

The Network does not support a two-rate approach. Instead, the Network supports a system that ‘increases asset limits for an initial period of time when an individual first enters the program.’ Consideration should be given for people, disabled or otherwise, who run into emergency or dire, short-term difficulty. This will mean setting a maximum time limit on receiving financial assistance, e.g. 3 months, without having to reduce assets beyond a reasonable level. This might include maintaining a primary residence & vehicle (to a certain value), pension plan, registered education savings plans, etc. At the end of the time frame, the traditional asset rules would apply.

The concept of this approach is to assist people from falling into long-term dependency by not forcing them to liquidate, within reason, those assets that can help maintain their longer-term financial stability and independence.

This approach will require further study and consideration, in terms of establishing the right amount of support (insufficient support may not help people get out of their circumstances); how the length of time is determined; and, what assets are allowable and the appropriate limits of such assets.

 

Would an earned income supplement be a good mechanism to increase the incentive to work? If so, how should it be designed?

We have had a mixed response to this question from the Network’s members. Some think that while a tax-based program would be more universal and easier to manage, others believe the relief needs to be more immediate for people who live in poverty. People who live ‘hand to mouth’ need those incentives to be more immediate and responsive.

Other members feel that ‘a better-designed earned income supplement, with a higher actual value and later withdrawal as income rises beyond a reference wage’ would be effective, although the proof lies in the detail and the Network would like to see some proposals with realistic figures in order to fully evaluate the merits of this approach.

Still others believe that the Government should reduce the ODSP claw back amounts or provide greater cash bonuses to people who work. Members generally concur that tax based programs are not as much of an incentive as changing the claw back formula.

Other recommendations include improvements to educate service participants about the benefit system, simplifying the language and moving away from the intrusive and punitive surveillance system that currently exists.

Amortizing income and reducing administration in chasing down paper work would add great efficiencies to the system while making it easier on service recipients to manage their budgets. (See How should the current rate structure be changed… Pg 26)

 

Would a housing benefit improve fairness and the incentive to work? If so, how should it be designed?

When considering personal and emotional priorities, a safe and secure place to live, personal health and food are paramount. People who do not have these three basic necessities are not generally well positioned to successfully pursue employment. The shortage of subsidized housing and loss of housing subsidies due to earned income is a deterrent to working. The Commission should address housing issues if it wants to see more people who have a disability pursue employment.

Housing subsidies should be managed as part of the total income security package. Reductions of housing subsidies should be on a sliding scale, initiated at a much higher level, where the combined family income of wages and income support is much closer to the reference wage or other poverty-level indicators. In this way, the housing subsidy would be reduced as the person or family makes there way beyond the reference wage or poverty level that is established.

 

Discussion Questions – Disability Specific

How should income supplements for low-income people who have a disability be designed and delivered? Should such supplements be provided outside the social assistance system?

Disability income supports need to be maintain as a distinct and separate system from other social assistance recipients. Income support for people who have a disability is not a short-term requirement – generally, disabilities are for life. People who have a disability should be seen as different from other social assistance recipients and resources should be directed at responding to the support needs of the individual due to their disability and the barriers that society has created for them, including the barriers to earn a reasonable income.

Should there be a separate basic income program for people with severe disabilities who are unlikely to generate significant earnings?

No. The notion of dividing disability into two groups based on employability has some severe consequences. As previously noted, emerging technologies, changing labour markets, improved service delivery technologies and greater employer acceptance will impact future job opportunities for people who have a disability. The proposed concept will entrap people in the social assistance system for life.

 

Discussion Questions – Rate Structures

The Network will answer the questions about changing the rate structure and moving from a surveillance system together as we believe the solution is inter-related.

How should the current rate structure be changed to reduce complexity?

Should the social assistance system move from a surveillance approach toward an audit-based system of verification and monitoring?

The Network envisions a reporting and rate structure that is like an equal billing process, similar to one used by Ontario Hydro or Enbridge Gas Company. That is: a system where people report their income monthly and their ODSP Income Support payments are calculated and adjusted annually. This should incorporate the following features:

  • The individual will report any major income adjustments adjustments (up or down) or other change in life circumstances that would ‘trigger’ an equal billing re-calculation.
  • A deviation factor/range can be pre-set. In the event that a monthly report exceeds this range an equal billing re-calculation is triggered.
  • In the event that an individual misses a monthly report, an average is calculated based on the previous 3 months to determine if any adjustments are required.
  • Income reporting & social assistance payments will be reconciled annually (validated by a copy of the individual’s annual T4 slip) This means service agencies will no longer be required to chase down paperwork for every candidate on every pay period, which is the current practice
  • Overpayments and required reimbursements will be calculated and paid back on a similar ‘equal billing’ basis.
  • This will be an automated, computer-driven system which will create significant administrative efficiencies.

In conjunction with this ‘equal billing’ system, the Network recommends moving to an ‘audit’ based system. Such a system should be applied in similar proportion to current tax audits and people who are audited should be entitled to the same rights of legal council and the ability to ‘negotiate’ re-payments in the same way other people negotiate tax settlements.

We believe that together, these changes will achieve a number of outcomes:

  1. This will be much easier to administer, creating significant savings within Government. These resources can then be re-invested in service delivery.
  2. This will be more efficient for service providers, allowing them to spend more time on service delivery and other operational activities that benefit the people they serve.
  3. This system will be more dignified and less intrusive for people who have a disability.
  4. People will have a more consistent and stable income stream.
  5. This will streamline rules and be much easier to understand as equal billing is a familiar concept.
  6. This will also reduce administrative errors, which are not uncommon, that trigger letters that threaten to ‘cut people off’.
  7. Other efficiencies may be found through this change, allowing for greater investment in employment services for people who have a disability.

Should the special dietary needs for all low-income people, including those receiving social assistance, be addressed through the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care?

This may be a consideration longer term but at this juncture, why get another level of government involved? This change is not deemed by the Network to be a critical issue that demands immediate attention.

 

Chapter 3

Easier to Understand

Discussion Questions – Managing Risk

Should the social assistance system move from a surveillance approach toward an audit-based system of verification and monitoring?
As noted, the Network believes that an audit system would be more efficient, much simpler and less intrusive. Along with this there must be reasonable ways to deal with overpayments and other potential abuses. Our concern is that Government tends to adopt the points they like and leave others out. To move to an audit system in isolation of the other items discussed would be unfair and could cause undue hardship to the people intended to be supported.

It should also be noted that abuses are not necessarily in the hands of the recipients. Administrative errors and mistakes are often made by the Ministry’s own staff as well.

What penalties would be required and feasible in an audit-based system?

As noted, overpayments would be reclaimed on an ‘equal billing’ basis, presumably over the following 12 month period or longer if deemed appropriate. Deliberate abuses should be dealt with within the legal framework.

What is the right level of risk tolerance, in either the current system or an audit-based system?

The current system seems to work on a presumption that abuses are rampant and people need to be kept in check. There is a cost to both a surveillance and an audit system. One would wonder, however, what this cost is and how much of our resources are going into the current surveillance system. When reviewing ‘risk tolerance’ we would be better informed if we knew what the cost of monitoring is, relative to the cost of presumed abuses.

The Network recommends that the Commission undertake a study that looks at the cost of monitoring vs. the number (and cost) of abuses that exist. In this way Government can assess the level of risk involved and build an appropriate audit system.

It is imperative that people understand the system and the rules that govern the income support system. This includes those who to manage the system, service recipients and the support organizations and advocacy groups that act on behalf of people who have a disability.

Materials, guidelines and guide books must be developed in plain language and alternate formats so that everyone can understand the rules and regulations.

Consideration should be given to support third party aides who can guide people though the income support system. These guides could also act as advocates in the event of audits and/or reviews.

While there is some concern that record keeping seems to be a bigger problem for people with disabilities in an audit based system, most people seem to be satisfied that people who have a disability should be held to the same standard of accountability as other citizens. In moving to an annual reconciliation, based on a T4 slip, this risk factor would be reduced greatly.

 

Ontario Disability Employment Network Recommendations

Recommendations – Short-term (immediate to 2 years)

  1. Disability supports – both income and employment – must be maintained as distinct and separate from other income support recipients I.E. Ontario Works. Disability is a life-long issue and a great number of the barriers faced by people who have a disability is beyond their personal control.
  2. Government should support business-to-business educational and marketing initiatives. These must include accountability measures to validate their achievements and effectiveness.
  3. An independent study of wage subsidy initiatives should be undertaken to determine if this is an effective use of resources. The study should review who uses subsidies and why and the percentage of people who retain their jobs once the subsidy is exhausted.
  4. An independent study of ‘best practices’ in employment supports should be undertaken to learn about creative and innovative approaches and how these can be replicated in the employment services sector.
  5. Create an inter-ministerial committee with a mandate to coordinate employment for people who have a disability as well as the integration of employment services with other non-employment disability departments and programs.
  6. Enhance the provincial mandate for Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees to include accessible employment. This will by timely considering the introduction of the AODA Integrated Standards.
  7. Modify the eligibility requirements for ODSP Employment Supports such that once an individual is deemed eligible for ODSP Income Support, they are automatically eligible for employment supports, eliminating the need for employment service agencies to get additional approvals prior to assisting these individuals to find employment.
  8. Streamline the approval process for people who have a disability who are not in receipt of Income Support so that they are not forced to become Income Support recipients in order to access employment services.
  9. Conduct a review of funding for day programs within the MCSS DS branch and MOH, to determine the extent to which these funds are financing employment programs.
  10. Review other funding programs for people who have a disability and ensure they don’t conflict with, compete or undermine the objectives of employment services e.g. individualized funding, DS supported employment service guidelines, etc.
  11. Create a provincial resource to support innovation.
  12. Employment Ontario agents should begin to engage and collaborate with Municipalities, local Workforce Development Boards and Employment Sector Councils.
  13. Ensure better education for people who have a disability and their advocates to ensure they understand how the Income Support system works and the effects of earned income on their income supports and benefits.
  14. Materials and guidelines must be developed in plain language and alternate formats to assist everyone to understand the rules and regulations related to the income support system.
  15. Create a system of third-party aids (or bolster and expand upon the APSW concept) who can guide people through the income support system to ensure everyone knows and understands the rules and regulations.
  16. Eliminate the ‘punitive’ approach to people who make mistakes in income reporting.
  17. Housing subsidies should be managed as part of the ‘total’ income security package. Reductions of housing subsidies should be on a sliding scale and initiated when the combination of income supports and wages is much closer to the reference wage or other poverty-level indicators. To earn extra income from wages is pointless if it triggers an off-setting increase to costs.
  18. Do not create a separate basic income program for people who have more severe disabilities. The negative consequences of such a move far outweigh the benefits.
  19. The Network does not believe that moving the special dietary allowance to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care is a critical issue at this time.
  20. The Network recommends the Commission undertake a study to determine the cost of monitoring income support abuses vs. the number and costs of abuses that have been reported in order to assess an appropriate response and level of risk management.

Recommendations – Medium-term (2 to 5 years)

  1. Government must create an employment policy framework that sets out the parameters – policies, programs and funding – that all ministries and government departments must adhere to.
  2. Government must move to a single stream of funding for all employment services for people who have a disability and this funding should be managed by MTCU. This should include ODSP-ES, MTCU EO (disability funds), employment programs for students who have a disability and Service Canada Opportunities Fund. This should be done under a discreet and protected framework specified for the delivery of employment services for people who have a disability. Employment Ontario must become the service delivery manager and contract out the delivery of direct services to third-party delivery agents that specialize in providing employment services for people who have a disability.
  3. Develop and include youth employment programs – summer and after school jobs – as a legitimate stream within employment services for people who have a disability.
  4. Create policies that direct ‘new’ investments for daytime support services to prioritize those programs and initiatives that promote employment and/or employment preparation
  5. Create a transition strategy to assist existing sheltered workshops to transition to employment programs
  6. Create a provincial mandate that all school boards must ensure co-op work placements for high school students over the age of 16.
  7. Support and work with the employment service sector and service participants to establish standards of practice for employment service agencies.
  8. Further investigation is needed with respect to incentives and the Income Support/earned wages balance. Today we still seem to have more questions than answers. Focus on fixing those aspects of the system that can readily be improved.
  9. Consider changing the asset rules and limits for people newly entering the Income Support system.
  10. Provide further studies and consultation on an ‘earned income supplement’ approach. Propose some realistic scenarios, with dollar values included, to help fully evaluate the merits of this approach.
  11. Change the reporting and rate structure to a technology-based system that mirrors an ‘equal billing’ process similar to that which is used by utilities companies. The potential savings from this action alone will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly millions. These precious resources can be re-invested in the delivery system to help more people get into the workforce.
  12. In conjunction with this ‘equal billing’ system, Government should move to an audit-based accountability system. This will also create substantial savings in government efficiencies and in the service system that can also be re-invested in the service delivery system.

Recommendations – Longer-term (5 years +)

  1. Investigate the potential and benefits of establishing an ‘Ontario College of Employment Services’ for people who have a disability as a possible oversight body. This could include an advisory body of service recipients, employers and government.
  2. Investigate and consider an accreditation process for employment service providers to ensure service quality and conformity to established standards of practice.
  3. Further study is needed with respect to creating a health benefit program for all low income Ontarians. In principle the Network supports this move but more details are needed in terms of how this will be financed and the impact of this benefit.
  4. Assess and evaluate the impact of the actions taken in the short- and medium-turn recommendations, and resulting changes to the employment and income support system for people who have a disability.
  5. Establish the next level of strategic analysis and actions necessary to continue to improve the employment options for people who have a disability.


Appendices
Appendix A – Path to Employment

Appendix B – Barriers to Employment

Appendix C – MCSS Supported Employment Code Explanation

 


* Note: there seems to be a common misconception that Supported Employment is unpaid or work paid at less than minimum wage. The definition of Supported Employment is ‘paid work at commensurate rates and in accordance with labour law’. While some employment service operators have modified this definition on some occasions, largely due to a lack of monitoring and regulations, most employment service operators adhere to the full wage definition – ‘real work for real pay’.

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Ontario Disability Employment Network reassesses its position . . . (Communiqué)


Ontario Disability Employment Network reassesses its position on the best way to manage employment services for people who have a disability.

London, Ontario, June 1, 2012

The Ontario Disability Employment Network (the Network) has reassessed its position with respect to which level and department of government is best positioned to manage employment services for people who have a disability.

Over the past few months, Employment Ontario has demonstrated a deeper understanding that people who have a disability require a substantially different type of service basket than other job seekers to be successful. At the same time, there is an apparent willingness to be flexible and to compromise on the one-stop model when it comes to meeting the employment needs of this audience. The Network now concludes that Employment Ontario is best positioned to manage employment services for people who have a disability.

This does not alter the fundamental underpinnings of the Network’s position. Those being:

  1. The need to maintain specialized services.
  2. The need to retain a separate service delivery stream for people who have a disability. This will be within the context of a ‘no wrong door’ approach, giving people who have a disability ultimate choice of service delivery agent.
  3. The disability stream will capture all eligibility status, e.g. EI, ODSP, CPPD, etc.
  4. Government should not directly deliver services and supports. Rather, its role should be to fund and manage systems and accountability.
  5. The Network rejects any notion of ‘Capacity Assessments’ that may be used to determine employability. All persons who are motivated to work must have access to the services and supports they need in order to be successful.
  6. Benefit entitlement (income support) should be separate from employment supports.
  7. Ontario needs a clear Employment First Policy Framework for people who have a disability.
  8. There must be a clear and transparent selection process for Transfer Payment Agencies that takes into account their area of specialty and track record of successful service delivery, not just their administrative capacity.
  9. Capacity to ensure innovation, creativity and flexibility must be built into the new system.

At the same time, the Network believes that an employment system managed by Employment Ontario will lead to a more efficient single funding stream for all employment services, give greater consistency to the way services are applied across the province, and give people who have a disability access to the same range of services and supports that other job seekers have.

That said, there is an important role for municipalities when it comes to local planning, service coordination and community collaboration.

The Network has not changed its recommendations with respect to the necessary changes and improvements for the delivery of income support and benefits.

To read the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s full report and recommendations go to: http://www.odenetwork.com/library/submission-to-the-social-assistance-review-commission/

For more information, contact:

Joe Dale

jdale.odenetwork@gmail.com

905-706-4348

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Yes, it’s possible to save taxpayers millions while getting more people who have a disability into the workforce (Press Release)


For Immediate Release

 Yes, it’s possible to save taxpayers millions while getting more people who have a disability into the workforce

 London, Ontario

What is the greatest barrier to people who have a disability finding and retaining jobs? The ‘system’ itself, according to the Ontario Disability Employment Network.

Ontario spends $3.3 billion a year on disability income support, a figure that’s growing at a rate of 5% a year. Yet, it’s frustratingly difficult for many people who have a disability to find a meaningful place in the economy because of systemic roadblocks.

The Network recently released a report to Ontario’s Social Assistance Review Commission that includes 37 recommendations aimed at helping more people who have a disability find work, while also saving taxpayers millions.

 According to Statistics Canada, 15.9% of Canadians have a disability and a staggering 49% of adults who have a disability are not in the workforce. Helping them get jobs is good for all of us because it reduces dependency on social assistance and allows them to contribute to the tax base.

 Fixing the system – an encompassing term for the myriad of government departments and ministries that fund employment – doesn’t have to be difficult. Many of the Network’s practical recommendations identify savings, in many cases without the investment of new resources.

 Some recommendations are simple administrative changes, such as eliminating the requirement for a second eligibility approval for those who receive income support but want help finding a job.

 Some recommendations are more complex and will take longer to implement. The Network’s top 5 recommendations include:

  • Creating a single employment services framework that incorporates all ministries and departments that have responsibility for disability services
  • Moving the five existing funding pots to a single stream for all employment services and transferring responsibility for those resources to municipalities
  • Ensuring other programs that support people who have a disability do not compete with or undermine employment opportunities
  • Changing to an audit-based accountability system, similar to that used in the income tax system
  • Moving to an income reporting and adjustment system that is technology-driven and similar to an ‘equal billing’ system commonly used by utility companies.

 Don Drummond is on the right track with his recommendations to streamline administration. However, his understanding about what’s needed to accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace is somewhat naïve. Services that help people who have a disability get into the workforce have been operating in Ontario for almost 40 years. But the Province’s fragmented approach to disability funding and related policy has made the provision of employment services for this group virtually unmanageable.

 The Network supports the Drummond recommendation to transfer responsibility for employment programs to Employment Ontario given the following parameters:

  1. The need to maintain specialized services.
  2. The need to retain a separate service delivery stream for people who have a disability. This will be within the context of a ‘no wrong door’ approach, giving people who have a disability ultimate choice of service delivery agent.
  3. The disability stream will capture all eligibility status, e.g. EI, ODSP, CPPD, etc.
  4. Government should not directly deliver services and supports. Rather, its role should be to fund and manage systems and accountability.
  5. The Network rejects any notion of ‘Capacity Assessments’ that may be used to determine employability. All persons who are motivated to work must have access to the services and supports they need in order to be successful.
  6. Benefit entitlement (income support) should be managed separately from employment supports.
  7. Ontario needs a clear Employment First Policy Framework for people who have a disability.
  8. There must be a clear and transparent selection process for Transfer Payment Agencies that takes into account their area of specialty and track record of successful service delivery, not just their administrative capacity.
  9. Capacity to ensure innovation, creativity and flexibility must be built into the new system.

“Between projected labour shortages and increasing acceptance of people who have a disability in the workplace, we are optimistic for the future, provided we can get the system on track.”

 While the Network awaits further discussion with the Social Assistance Review Commission, it fears next week’s provincial budget will circumvent the Commission’s work by adopting the Drummond recommendation to transfer services to Employment Ontario.

 To read the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s full report and recommendations go to: http://www.odenetwork.com/library/submission-to-the-social-assistance-review-commission/

For more information, contact:

Joe Dale

jdale.odenetwork@gmail.com

905-706-4348

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Mark Wafer Responds to “Finding jobs for disabled Canadians”


Read the article by Alison Griffiths here

Hello Alison.

I read your article this morning.  I am a Tim Hortons franchise owner and an
advocate for people with disabilities especially in the area of employment.
Your daughter’s story is one I hear all the time.

Having met Jim Flaherty a few times and discussed this issue with him I can
say without question he does get it.  He gets the problem of employment and
he gets the overall cost factor.

I am deaf.  I have about 20% hearing and have been since birth. I could not
keep a job as a young man but became a successful business owner. Since I
understand first hand the barriers people with disabilities face in order to
get work, I began hiring people with disabilities in my first Tim Hortons in
1995 and to date I have hired 82 PWD’s and currently have 33 out of a
workforce of 210 in my six locations.

Why did I do this? Simply because I saw a business benefit as time went on.
Of course it was the right thing to do but that isn’t reason enough for
business owners to hire PWD’s. My employee turnover went down, my WSIB
claims went down.

I quickly realized that employing PWD’s was good for business, low
absenteeism, higher staff morale, lower turnover (very expensive), higher
productivity and so on. Several of my employees with disabilities have been
employee of the year.

All are in meaningful positions, no charity. That means competitive salaries
as well as having to be replaced if sick. This includes every department
from managers to front line staff, production and logistics.

In 2008 I began a program through my local Rotary club along with the
programs founder Joe Dale. This is known as Rotary at Work.

Joe, who is a past director of Community Living Ontario, developed this
program that shows business owners how they will benefit from hiring PWD’s.
Joe and I travel the province speaking at Rotary clubs, chambers of
commerce, HR groups and to private business owners. This is a peer to peer
program as business owners are hearing from myself as a business owner.

The result since 2009 is huge. 137 people with a disability hired in a
meaningful position with many more at Tim Hortons stores as I was able to
leverage my position.

Now we know that this is the way forward. We cannot use the same old message
that service providers have used in the past. The unemployment rate for
people with disabilities is the same today as it was in 1970 so clearly it
isn’t working but if we can show business owners that there is a benefit to
hiring PWD’s we will see a lot more doors opened.

Here are a few more facts, studies show that employees who have a disability
work 97% safer, have attendance records 86% greater, stay on the job up to 5
times longer, increase morale to the point that non disabled staff stay
longer (huge win for me). Accommodations average $500 but in most cases its
zero and best of all productivity is 20% higher.

Why? Because the job is precious, it took a long time to get that job.

I cannot buy the loyalty my disabled staff have for my company. What
business would not want this? Education is going to be key.

Now let’s look at the financial side of this problem. The unemployment rate
for PWD’s is actually closer to 70% because so many have given up or are
considered unemployable. The unemployment rate during the great depression
was 25% and was considered a national tragedy yet society is comfortable
with a 70%rate for PWD’s.  This equates to an ODSP cost to the province of
Ontario of $3.2b. This is growing at 5% per year, totally unsustainable and
this is why the province set up the review commission on ODSP and welfare.

However, even though this number is huge it also means that the maximum
payment for an unemployed person with a disability is about $11,000
annually. Well below poverty and that’s only if they qualify for the maximum.

Taking a person off of benefits and creating a new taxpayer is a win/win.
The 137 people who got employment thru our project saved the province $1m in
this manner.

Employers don’t hire people with disabilities because they buy into a series
of myths and misperceptions. This is exactly why Quinn isn’t getting a job;
it has nothing to do with her work experience and all to do with attitude.

My best baker is deaf. Her ovens have chimes, bells and warnings. This
hasn’t prevented her from being an awesome addition to our staff. In one day
she figured out how to get around those audible warnings.

PWD’s are more innovative. Quite frankly a person in a wheelchair has to be
innovative just to get through the day, imagine how that mindset helps a pod
or team at a workplace.

Alison, we are going to fix this problem. It will take time, education is
the key. The AODA will now be focusing on employment, this in itself won’t
help as the legislation is toothless (story for another day) but it will
provide much needed awareness. Canada has a looming labour shortage with
many companies noticing this already yet still don’t hire PWD’s. There is a
huge disconnect but we will fix it.

Best of luck to Quinn. Her attitude, not an employers, will win at the end
of the day.

Mark Wafer

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Poverty Watch Spring 2012 – via CACL


The Ontario Disability Employment Network was cited in CACL’s recent edition of Poverty Watch.  See the Network’s Top 5 recommendations made to Ontario’s Social Assistance Review Commission.

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2011 Provincial Election Campaign: Election Tool Kit


View/Download the entire document in PDF format here

Note: Portions of this document have been adopted, with permission, from Community Living Ontario’s 2011 Provincial Election Action Kit

Index
  • Political Action by Charitable Organizations                    .…………………………………. 2
  • Strategies for Members – Campaign 2011                  ………………….……………………. 3
  • Prepare a Media Strategy                                               ………….……………………………. 3
  • Working with the Media                                                 ………….……………………………. 4
    • Overview                                                                ………………………………………. 4
    • Making Your Message Newsworthy                 ………………………………………. 4
    • Writing a News Release                            ………………………………………………. 5
    • Preparing to be Interviewed                    ………………………………………………. 5
    • The Interview                          ………………………………………………………………. 6
    • Tips for Working with Television & Radio Reporters       ………………………. 7
    • Organizing a News Conference                            ……………………………………. 7
    • Other Opportunities for Media Coverage                 ………………………………. 8
  • Recommended Approaches to Candidates                 ………………………………………. 9
    • Letters to Candidates                     ………………………………………………………. 9
    • Phone Calls to Candidates                      ………………………………………………. 9
    • All Candidates Meetings                         ………………………………………………. 9
  • All Candidates Meetings and Candidates at the Door                 ………………………10
  • After the Election                              ………………………………………………………………10
  • Feedback                                   ………………………………………………………………………10
  • Appendices
  1. Key Messages – Background and Details                            ………………………………11
  2. Sample Letter to Candidates                              ………………………………………………15
  3. Face to Face Questions for Candidates                                ………………………………17
  4. Fact Sheet – Disability and Employment                           ………………………………19
  5. Election Campaign Checklist                            ………………………………………………20
  6. Media Interview Request Form                                  ………………………………………22
  7. Election Campaign Feedback Form                          …………….…………………………23


Political Action by Charitable Organizations – Do’s and Don’ts
Charities are given special legal status because of their purposes which promote the good of the community. Legally, this status means that the financial and other resources of charities should be used for one or more of their charitable objects. Charities get some tax exemption and can issue tax receipts for donations if they are registered with Revenue Canada.
To the extent that charitable status is important, there are some things a charitable organization should not do in the context of an election. Taking some actions might well put the charitable status of the organization in jeopardy.

A charity should not use any of its financial or human resources to contribute to or campaign for any candidate or political party.

This, of course, does not limit people who are served or supported, members, volunteers or staff from engaging in political activity including running for office on their own time and with their own money, except that Board members and staff should, and in some cases are required by organization’s policies, disclose any such activity to the organization.
Some other examples of do’s and don’ts are:


Allowed as a Charity

Not Allowed as a Charity
  • Taking part in lawful public policy debate at meetings or through the media
  • Visiting a candidate to discuss issues
  • Submitting questions to a candidate about issues
  • Asking questions at public meetings
  • Developing positions on particular issues and forwarding them to candidates or parties
  • Providing plain language information for self advocates and members
  • Encouraging people to vote
  • Monitoring the accessibility of polling places
  • Providing transportation
  • Illegal activity at public demonstrations
  • Picketing for or against a candidate or party
  • Erecting signs for or against a candidate or party on the charity’s property
  • Endorsing a candidate
  • Telling self advocates and members who to vote for (personally or in writing)
  • Promising to reward or punish people for voting any particular way

Possible consequences of “crossing the line” or even appearing to cross the line:

  • Public criticism and loss of donors
  • Complaints to Election Authorities; the Charities Division of the Attorney General; and/or Revenue Canada leading to investigations and potential loss of charitable status
  • Possible litigation for improper use of charity assets

 

Strategies for Members – Campaign 2011

1. Form an Election Strategy Committee

–  Make a list of accomplishments, identifying key achievements of your organization.  Focus on personal stories of people with disabilities and their families first and the role that your organization played in supporting them. Where possible, provide specific numbers on how many people have been assisted, the positive outcomes that have been achieved and the barriers that people continue to face.
–  Try to quantify the impact of the issues raised by our key messages in your community by gathering statistics on the effect on individuals in your community.
–  Identify individuals/families that have compelling stories related to the key messages.  Enlist their support to speak to the media and to political candidates.
–  Identify individuals who have personal relationships with local members of the media and with local provincial candidates.
–  Identify a key spokesperson – Choose a person who is empowered to speak on behalf of your organization. Ensure that person has the support from your organization – Executive Director or Board President – and that they are comfortable speaking to the media and to politicians.
–  Assign responsibility for each part of the strategy and set time lines for accomplishing them.

(See Appendix 5 for a handy Election Campaign Checklist)

2. Prepare a Media Strategy

A/ Prepare a Media Package

–  Key message handout fact sheets (provided in part 2 of this package)
–  Local fact sheet of accomplishments, statistics on those served and impact on your community of the issues raised by our key messages.  Include a local contact name and phone number.
–  Copy of your latest newsletter
–  Stories of individuals related to key messages (include photographs where possible)

B/ Send media package to:

–  Assignment editor of local newspaper (if it’s a weekly, address to the Editor)
–  Local radio news directors and talk show hosts
–  Local televisions station assignment editor
–  Other media identified by your Strategy Committee members

C/ Follow-up with each outlet to:

–  Make sure package is received
–  Ask if any other information is needed
–  Offer to provide individuals with interesting stories
–  Ask if photo opportunities could be arranged
–  Determine interest in coverage (do a pitch!
–  Ask if other reporters/producers at the same publication/station might be interested in the story

 

Working with the Media

Overview
Although you have less control over the content of a news story, compared to an advertisement or public service announcement, your message has more impact when carried as part of a news story.  The public, in general, views news stories as more objective and more important.
The newsworthiness of a story is measured in many ways, but reporters look for stories that involve conflict, controversy or that hold some emotional appeal.
A number of things will influence the media in their decision on whether to do a story on Employment issues that affect people who have a disability, including:

  • How serious is the problem?
  • How many people are affected?
  • When did they last do a story on this, and what is new since then?
  • How many other organizations/individuals have similar stories?
  • What else is happening in the news today/this week?

Making Your Message Newsworthy

  • Keep the message short and simple.
  • Make sure your message is strong and conveys the seriousness of the problems currently facing Employment Services.
  • Make sure that wherever possible, you back your statements with facts and numbers.
Writing a News Release

–  Put your key message in your headline and in the first sentence of the release.   Make it brief and easy to understand.  Often, journalists will decide in the first sentence or paragraph whether this is a story they will cover.
–  Your release should answer the questions, who, what, where, when and why?
–  Avoid covering more than one or two issues in your news release.  Choose the topic/issue that most directly affects people with disabilities, rather than your organization.  If possible, your release should fit onto one page.
–  Make it look neat and easy to read.  Each release you send should have a similar look to it.  Your logo and name should be large.
–  Include the name and phone number of a contact person at the bottom of your release.  That person should be comfortable answering the media’s questions and be able to speak credibly on behalf of your organization. Make sure that the designated spokesperson is accessible by phone to the media.
–  It is helpful to send the news release to an individual reporter, rather than to the publication or broadcast outlet newsroom.   Your organization should have an up-to-date media contact list.  To establish a list, call each media outlet and ask for the name of the Assignment Editor (daily newspapers), the Editor (weekly newspapers) or the News Director or Assignment Editor at radio and television stations.  Don’t forget local magazines.
–  In cases where there are only a few media outlets receiving your release, you may wish to deliver them yourself to give you the opportunity to meet a reporter. Establishing a personal relationship with a reporter can often lead to better coverage.  If you are unable to personally deliver the release, fax it to members of the media.  Faxing implies urgency and ensures that most media outlets receive it at approximately the same time.
–  When you know the release has been received, follow-up with a phone call to ensure it has been received by the most appropriate person.  Ask if there is any further information they require and use this opportunity to “sell” them on the importance of this story – not to you, but to the public.

Preparing to be Interviewed

Whether you have solicited news coverage or are unexpectedly approached by the news media, it always pays to take the time to plan for each media interview.
–  If a reporter calls you unexpectedly and wants to interview you immediately, explain that you have some business to attend to, but say you will call them back within a specified amount of time.
–  Ask what the reporter’s deadline is.  Call them back as quickly as you can – always before their deadline.
–  Make sure you have their name, phone number, publication/station/program.
–  If the interview is for broadcast, ask how the interview will be used.  It may be used in its entirety as a feature, or be cut into short “clips” or “bites” to be used as part of newscasts.  You can then judge the length of your answers accordingly.
–  Ask if they will be interviewing anyone else for this particular story and if they know when this story is expected to run.
–  Tell them when you will call back.
–  Plan what you want to say – your message, the facts and examples to back your position up and answers to questions you think the reporter may ask.

(See Appendix 6 – Media Interview Request Form)

The Interview

–  Assume the reporter you talk to knows very little about disability and employment issues.  Keep the information you provide very simple, unless the reporter requests more complex information.   Avoid using jargon or short forms they may not understand.
–  Be message driven, rather than question driven.  While you do not want to avoid answering a reporter’s questions, try to use the questions as an opportunity to convey your main message and information you think is important.   Use ‘bridging’ to answer a question in a manner that allows you to steer the interview in the direction you would like to take it. For example:
Question: “Doesn’t government already fund employment programs and supports?”
Answer: That is true, but when you consider that last year taxpayers spent over $3.3 billion dollars on income support for people who have a disability and roughly $35 million on employment supports, how can we expect to see significant improvements of labour market participation for this group. If we want more people to reduce their dependency on the income support system and become contributors to the tax base, we must invest in the services and supports that will achieve this outcome. 49% of people who have a disability are still unemployed – that’s more than 6 times the national average.  Let me give you some examples.”
Other bridging phrases -“That is not true…here’s what you should know.”
“That is worth considering and may be true, but have you considered…?”
“I think there’s a more important point to be made here…”

*  Do not ask to speak “off the record”.  Assume everything you say, even in offhand remarks, could be tomorrow’s headline!
*  Try to make the interview as relaxed for you and the reporter as possible.  In all but very exceptional cases, the media is not out to “get” anyone.  They have a job to do – find out what the story is and tell it.  Help them do their job in any way you can.
*  If you don’t know – say so.  Then tell them you can help them to find the information they require.
*  Be pleasant.  Never appear angry or defensive.

Tips for Working with Television and Radio Reporters

–  Be prepared.  Time passes very quickly when you are being interviewed for a “longer” radio or television segment.  What may seem like a long time – ten or fifteen minutes – never seems like enough time when it’s done.   Make sure your strongest points are made at the beginning and try to repeat them again in the middle and at the end of your interview.  People often remember the first and last things they hear.
–   Television reporters (and newspaper photographers) look for highly visual stories.  The more action/color/crowds you provide, the more likely you are to get coverage.
–  Watch out for the dreaded, “Ums.”  Speak clearly and slowly.
–  On TV, appearance does count.  A pleasant, confident demeanor and a neat, professional look will ensure that your message is carried without distraction.

Organizing a News Conference

–  Depending on the importance of your announcement, you may consider holding a news conference.  In many cases, if the announcement is not a major one and if there is nothing visual to offer photographers, a simple news release sent to the media is enough to achieve your goals.
–  If you hold a news conference, time it to suit the deadline of the media outlet most important to convey your message.   If you want same day television coverage on the evening news, aim for early afternoon.  If a morning newspaper is most important, avoid morning news conferences.  Newspapers dislike running “old” news on the front page, so if a story has already run for a full day on radio and television, you will not likely get as good coverage in the paper the following morning.
–  If you are holding a news conference, choose a room that will look full according to the number of people you are inviting.  Encourage as many of your employees and clients to attend as is possible.

Follow-Up
–  If a reporter has done a good job, take the time to pick up the phone and tell them that you appreciate their work.  Reporters don’t like to think that they are advocates for organizations, but they do like to know that they have told the story in a fair and accurate manner.  If you have received positive response as a result of their story, let them know.
–  Save newspaper clippings, as well as video and audio tapes of interviews.  They can sometimes be used to forward to other reporters who are considering doing a similar story.

Other Opportunities for Media Coverage

Radio Talk Shows – Call your community radio stations to determine if they have interview or phone-in programs.  If they do, ask to speak to the producer.  Tell her/him that you would like to forward some information that may be of interest for a future program.  If he/she is agreeable, arrange to call back after the producer has had time to review it to see if an interview might be arranged.  Offer to provide other guests, such as prominent employers and employees who have a disability.
Local Television or Cable Shows – Many local television stations have interview programs that focus on news or feature stories.  All community cable stations carry programs that feature stories of local interest in the cities/towns they serve.  Again, call stations for the names of the programs and speak directly to the producers to “make your pitch.”
Editorial Boards of Newspapers – For major issues, a meeting with a local newspaper’s editorial board can be very productive.  While these discussions vary, they are often more for increasing the newspaper’s awareness of an issue, rather than to produce a story.  Your organization may wish to partner with other organizations with similar goals to discuss the broader issue of the impact of so many people who have a disability being out of the workforce.
Save these opportunities for very important issues and go prepared to answer some tough and penetrating questions.  Be sure to include employers, self-advocates and even family members.
Op-Ed Pieces – These articles are called “op-ed” because they run on the page opposite the editorial page.  Often, newspapers are looking for opinion/information pieces that are written by prominent or outspoken members of the communities they serve.  Put together a strong idea and an outline, call the newspaper’s editor or managing editor and “make your pitch.”  The key to a strong op-ed article is to focus on human issues, tell stories with emotional impact and make your issues easy to understand.
Letters to the Editor – This is a simple way to show your local newspaper the importance of disability issues to their readers.  Whenever coverage is given to issues relating to people who have a disability, encourage members to send response letters to the editor.  In those letters, members can express their own views, their thanks to the newspaper for recognizing the importance of these issues and their gratitude or displeasure at the actions/statements of others.  Letters must be brief (two paragraphs maximum) and must be signed.


3. Recommended Approach to Candidates

A. Letters to Candidates
Send a letter to each candidate that briefly describes the issues related to the key messages and inform the candidates that they will receive a phone call to discuss issues related to employment services for people who have a disability.  Ask the candidates for a commitment to meet with the organization’s representatives prior to the election, and/or, in the coming months if they are elected.Include with the letter:
–  Key message backgrounder (Appendix 1 – Key Messages: Background and Details)
–  Local fact sheet of accomplishments, statistics on those served and impact on your community of the issues raised by our key messages.  Include a local contact name and phone number.
–  Stories of individuals related to key messages (include photographs where possible)
–  Employment and Disability Fact Sheet (Appendix 4)

B.     Phone Calls to Candidates
–  Request for Meeting – If not possible discuss  issues on the telephone
–  Request for support
–  If unwilling to meet during the campaign, request a commitment to meet after the election (should they be elected) to discuss action
If you do not have time to meet with all candidates, give priority to those who are most likely to be elected.

C.    All Candidates Meetings
–  Call candidates or local newspaper to determine dates/times of meetings.  Because some meetings deal with specific issues, only those meetings of a general nature or those dealing with social service/disability issues need to be covered.
–  Assign a delegation, including prominent employers, self-advocates and possibly family members to attend each meeting and, when possible, make a statement and pose a question to candidates regarding key messages. (Appendix 3 – Face-to-face Questions for Candidates)
–  Provide delegation with the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s  materials about All Candidates Meetings
–  Consider hosting an all candidates meeting in cooperation with other social service or disability groups in your community.

All Candidates Meetings and Candidates at the Door

Opportunity: All candidates meetings and door-to-door canvassing by candidates are an excellent way to get our messages on the agenda. The more often they hear our message, the more likely they are to see our issues as important issues in an election campaign and once the new government is formed.
Approach: Whether in an all candidates meeting or at the door, it is best to stick to one issue or question, and to keep it relatively simple. The door-to-door canvass, however, can provide the opportunity to have a longer conversation. In a very few minutes, you can make several powerful points with a candidate and give her/him a chance to respond.
Caution: It is very important that your organization not be seen as supporting one candidate or party over another. As an individual, of course, you can be as political as you want. However, if you associate your actions with that of the organization, caution is very important. When asking questions, it is perfectly all right to say “I believe…” or “Our organization believes….” followed by a statement and question. (See Appendix 3 – Face-to-face Questions for Candidates)

After the Election

–  The Ontario Disability Employment Network will contact Party Leaders and prominent politicians to request a meeting to discuss actions to be taken in future by the Network and by government to address key issues.
–  Members should contact newly elected MPP’s to request a meeting to discuss action to be taken in future.

4. Feedback

Don’t forget to keep the Network informed about your election strategy – meetings, media coverage, follow up and responses from political leaders. It will be important to the Network to know who our allies are and where the opposition sits when it comes time to pursue our key messages and issues with the new government. Your experiences will also give other members incentive to join the campaign.

The Network would also like your feedback on how useful you found this package. Did it help? Did it serve your needs? Do you think a consistent media strategy from the sector is helpful?
Please take a moment to complete the Feedback Form found in Appendix 7.

Appendix 1

Key Messages – Background and Details
Issue 1: Access to Services and Supports


Background
Currently the ODSP Employment Supports program provides subsidies to employment agencies that assist people who have a disability get into the workforce. These agencies are paid in two primary ways. There is a set fee based on the achievement of a job. This amount is $1,000 if the person is assisted to find a job and stay in that job 6 weeks; and a further $6,000 if the person lasts an additional 7 weeks for a total of 13 weeks on the job.

In many instances this places the service agency at risk. What if the cost of providing service exceeds $7,000; what if the person quits or looses the job prior to the 13th week? The agency could work with an individual for months and not receive any compensation whatsoever.
Ultimately this lands on the back of the person who has a disability. The agency’s first task, when a new client shows up at their door, is to assess the potential cost of providing service and the risk of the person not lasting in the position. If they assess their cost will exceed $7,000 or the risk too great they are more likely to decline service to that individual. For many people who have a disability this means further discrimination based on the severity of their disability.

The second payment scheme under ODSP Employment Supports is a monthly fee for each month the person stays on the job. For people who are Income Support recipients this amounts to 50% of the Income Support savings for that individual or $250 per month, whichever is greater. This is intended to provide incentive to the service agency to find ‘better’ jobs – more hours of work per week at higher wages = better compensation for the agency.
This makes sense in theory however it also contributes to further discrimination for people with more severe disabilities and barriers. Generally speaking, people with more severe disabilities have higher support needs which represent higher costs. At the same time, these individuals often enter the workforce in part-time, entry-level positions. In this scenario, the agency is faced with higher costs and lower revenues. Again, this is not a good business model for the service agency.

More recently, Service Canada has entered into a Federal/Provincial Labour Market Agreement with Ontario, downloading certain disability support programs and resources. This has landed with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and will soon roll out under the Employment Ontario banner. Employment Ontario has maintained the former Service Canada programs which currently provide funding for some Accessible Resource Centres and a wage subsidy program.

EO has not yet released its new Disability Service Strategy however our understanding, at this point, is that they will integrate disability services and supports into generic, one-stop EO Centres that will service all people looking for work. Given that the Canada Manpower Centers of the 70’s and 80’s could not provide services to people who have a disability, we are afraid that the new EO model will not do any better.

The range of disabilities along with the range of interventions and supports that specialized agencies have developed over the past 30 years cannot be replicated under one roof. In the 70’s and 80’s when a person with a disability showed up at a Canada Manpower Centre they were referred to the local sheltered workshop. Even today, where only a few sheltered workshops exist, this represents an old service model that takes resources to operate and continues to entrench people who have a disability into a life of dependency on the Income Support system.

Our Message
We believe that all people who have a disability who are motivated to work should have access to the services and supports they need. These services and supports should not be denied or limited based on the severity of the individual’s disability. This must also include access to a range of specialized disability support agencies that have the expertise to provide supports for a particular disability. All people who want to work should be supported to do so. That’s in everyone’s interest.

Issue 2: Greater Investment in Employment Services and Supports
Background
In the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the Ontario Government spent over $3.3 billion dollars on ODSP Income Support for this sector of our population. This has been growing at over 5% per year and will continue to escalate at even greater levels into the future. In the same period, the government’s budget for ODSP Employment Supports was $55 million dollars on, of which only $35 million was spent on direct supports to help these people get into the workforce. Clearly the results are a reflection of the investment.

There are a number of gaps in the current system. Perhaps one of the greatest is in the lack of investment in prevention. It is well understood that it is more difficult to get people off the income support system, once they’re on it, than to provide alternatives to help them avoid the income support system altogether. One area that will have a positive, long-term impact is to invest in youth.

Kids who have disabilities are frequently excluded from the workforce in the same way as adults who have a disability. Most graduate from high school with very little work experience if any. They don’t have any idea about what type of jobs they are interested in or are suitable to them, or any concept about workplace culture, responsibilities, etc. These kids are headed straight to the ODSP office to sign up for Income Support.

Currently most Boards of Education are cutting back on work co-op programs and co-op placements for students who have a disability. At the same time there are very few funding strategies that help kids with disabilities get summer jobs and after school jobs. There is a significant gap in programs and supports for employment programs for kids who have a disability; programs that can prepare them for the world of work.

Our Message
If we want to: raise people out of poverty; contain Income Support expenditures; and, increase contributions to the tax base, we must do more to help people who have a disability get into the workforce. We must invest in the services and supports that will help people who have a disability gain entry to the workforce.

We must also develop strategies and programs to help kids get into the workforce sooner, giving them access to the same experiences as their non-disabled peers. Kids who have a disability must have summer and after school jobs so their transition to the working world is more natural.

Issue 3: Ontario Needs an Employment First Policy Framework

Background
Funding for employment supports is extremely fragmented and inefficient. Currently there are five different Ministries and Government Departments that fund services and supports to help people who have a disability get into the workforce. This does not include Worker’s Compensation, Employment Insurance, CPP or private insurers. These funding bodies are disconnected. All have different eligibility criteria, rules and regulations, reporting procedures, different data collection systems that are not integrated or compatible and most critically, different types of services and supports that they will fund. There is no relationship between them from an operating perspective.

At the same time, some of these Ministries also fund programs that are based on old service delivery models that perpetuate a dependency on social assistance for people who have a disability. Some even fund programs that directly compete with and undermine the objectives of those programs and services funded to help people who have a disability get into the workforce.

The system is extremely hard to navigate for people who have a disability and service agencies are often not able to access the resources and services that people need in order to be successfully employed.

Our Message
When it comes to day options and programs, Ontario needs a Policy Framework that crosses all Provincial Ministries and Departments that fund services and programs for people who have a disability – MCSS DSA, MCSS ODSP-ES, MTCU Employment Ontario, Ministry of Health, Provincial portions of Service Canada, Municipal Employment Programs and Ministry of Education. This Policy Framework places employment as the top funding priority for daytime supports and services for people who have a disability

  • It focuses on integrated work at commensurate wages – “real work for real pay”
  • This is not to be confused with a ‘work for welfare’ approach whereby participation in work is required in order to access income support and people are penalized for non participation.


Appendix 2

Sample Letter to Candidates

Your letterhead or logo

Date:

Dear:  (candidate for provincial election)
On behalf of _____(your organization)__________________, we are writing to request an opportunity to speak with you before the October 6th election. There are matters of great urgency that affect the lives of many people in our community, and we want you to know about them.

People who have a disability comprise over 16% of the population in Ontario. At almost 2 million people, this group is our largest minority. According to a recent report by the conference Board of Canada this will grow to 20% by the end of this decade. At the same time, people who have a disability are disproportionately excluded from the labour market. Statistics Canada reports that 49% of people who have a disability are unemployed – over 6 times the National average. This also means most of these people live in poverty.

Access to Services and Supports

People who have a disability can work and want to work. There are many studies and reports that validate that, with the right services and supports, people who have a disability can make a significant contribution to the workforce. Currently there are many limitations and restrictions that deny access to the necessary services and supports people need to help them get into the workforce. Often, people are refused access to the services and supports they need based on the severity of their disability. At other times service agencies cannot access the right services and supports for job seekers due to restrictive funding models. There is a trend to move to ‘generic’ employment centers in Ontario. Generic service models have not been effective in the past and continue to excluding people who have a disability from the workforce.

Ontario must ensure that all people who have a disability, who want to work, have access to the services and supports that will help them achieve this goal. They must also have access to the network of service agencies that provide the specialized services and support they need?

Investing in services and supports that will help people who have a disability get into the workforce

Last year, the provincial government spent over $3.3 billion dollars on ODSP Income Support for this segment of our population. This has been growing at over 5% per year and will continue to escalate into the future. In the same period, the government spent about $35 million dollars on ODSP Employment Supports to help these people get back into the workforce. If we want to: raise people out of poverty; contain Income Support expenditures; and, increase contributions to the tax base, we must do more to help people who have a disability get into the workforce.

Ontario must invest more resources into the supports and services that will help people who have a disability become contributing citizens of this province?

An Employment First Policy Framework

Funding for employment supports is extremely fragmented and inefficient. Currently there are five different Ministries and Government Departments that fund services and supports to help people who have a disability get into the workforce. This does not include Worker’s Compensation, Employment Insurance, CPP or private insurers. These government funding programs each have their own mandate, rules and regulations, eligibility criteria, reporting, data systems and so on. There is no relationship between them from an operating perspective.

At the same time, some of these Ministries also fund programs that are based on old service delivery models that perpetuate a dependency on social assistance for people who have a disability. Some even fund programs that directly compete with and undermine the objectives of helping people who have a disability get into the workforce.

Ontario needs a Policy Framework that coordinates the efforts of all Ministries and Government Departments and that places employment as the top funding priority for day supports and services for people who have a disability. This must be developed in consultation with the disability sector – service providers and people who have a disability.

If you are elected what will you do to help people who have a disability get into the workforce and become contributing members of Ontario?

Will you:

  • Improve and ensure access to the specialized services and supports that people need to be successful in the workplace?
  • Increase the investment in employment services and supports for people who have a disability?
  • Help create a policy framework that prioritizes employment when it comes to government spending on disability services (other than housing and residential supports)?

I look forward to your response as I weigh my voting options for the upcoming election. If you would like more information on any of these issues, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

 

Sincerely,

 

(Your Name)


(Contact information)


Appendix 3

Face to Face Questions for Candidates

We are trying to focus our efforts on a few issues. Here are some straightforward questions you can ask candidates if they come to your door or if you are able to attend an ‘All Candidates Meeting’.

Opening Statement:

People who have a disability comprise over 16% of the population in Ontario. At almost 2 million people, this group is our largest minority. According to a recent report by the conference Board of Canada this will grow to 20% by the end of this decade. At the same time, people who have a disability are disproportionately excluded from the labour market. Statistics Canada reported that 49% of people who have a disability are unemployed – over 6 times the National average. This means most of these people live in poverty.

Access to Services and Supports

People who have a disability can work and want to work. There are many studies and reports that validate that, with the right services and supports, people who have a disability can make a significant contribution to the workforce. Currently there are many limitations and restrictions that deny access to the necessary services and supports people need to get into the workforce. Often, people are refused access to the services and supports they need based on the severity of their disability. At other times service agencies cannot access the right services and supports for job seekers due to restrictive funding models. There is a trend to move to ‘generic’ employment centers in Ontario. Generic service models have not been effective in the past and contribute to the disenfranchisement people who have a disability thereby excluding them from the workforce.

Is your party prepared to ensure that all people who have a disability, who want to work, have access to the services and supports that will help them achieve this goal and to preserve the network of service agencies that provide the specialized services and support these individuals need?

Investing in services and supports that will help people who have a disability get into the workforce

Last year, the provincial government spent over $3.3 billion dollars on ODSP Income Support for this sector of our population. This has been growing at over 5% per year and will continue to escalate at these levels in the future. In the same period, the government spent about $35 million dollars on ODSP Employment Supports to help these people get back into the workforce. If we want to: raise people out of poverty; contain Income Support expenditures; and, increase contributions to the tax base, we must do more to help people who have a disability get into the workforce.

Is your party committed to investing more resources into the supports and services that will help people who have a disability become contributing citizens of this province?

 

Creating an Employment First Policy Framework

Funding for employment supports is extremely fragmented and inefficient. Currently there are five different Ministries and Government Departments that fund services and supports to help people who have a disability get into the workforce. This does not include Worker’s Compensation, Employment Insurance, CPP or private insurers. These government funding programs each have their own mandate, rules and regulations, eligibility criteria, reporting, data systems and so on. There is no relationship between them from an operating perspective.

At the same time, some of these Ministries also fund programs that are based on old service delivery models that perpetuate a dependency on social assistance for people who have a disability. Some even fund programs that directly compete with and undermine the objectives of those programs and services funded to help people who have a disability get into the workforce.

Ontario needs a Policy Framework that coordinates the efforts of all Ministries and Government Departments and that places employment as the top funding priority for day supports and services for people who have a disability.

Will your party commit to working with the disability sector – service providers and people who have a disability to create an Employment First policy framework for Ontario?

Appendix 4

Fact Sheet – Disability and Employment

  • 16.5% of Canadians live with a disability. In Ontario, this represents over 1.9 million people. This is predicted to grow to 20% by the end of this decade. This represents the largest minority in the province.
  • While the numbers vary according to the source, a significant number of people who have a disability are currently out of the workforce.
  • StatsCan reported that 49% of people who have a disability are unemployed.
  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada cite the unemployment rate for people who have a disability at 10.4% vs. the National average of 6.8%.
  • In 2010/11, the Province spent $3.3 billion on Income Support for people who have a disability. This has been growing at over 5% per year.
  • In the same period, the Ministry of Community and Social Services budget for ODSP Employment Supports was $55 million, of which about $35 million was spent on direct supports for people who have a disability who were attempting to access the labour market.
  • People who have a disability are a viable source of labour. Studies and reports show:

*  90% of people who have a disability scored as average or above in terms of performance on the job – DuPont
*  86% have better than average attendance – DuPont
*  97% rate as average to above average in terms of safety on the job – DuPont
*  46% of people who have a disability work harder than other workers – Harris
*   39% of people who have a disability are more reliable than other workers – Harris
*  People who have a disability are 5 times more likely to stay on the job – Pizza Hut
*  Informal reports from employers also demonstrate people who have a disability to be more loyal and to have a positive affect on employee morale and customer appreciation

  • The Conference Board of Canada is predicting a one million worker shortfall in Canada

  • In January, 2011, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses cited that in a survey of members, 34% reported shortage of skilled and semi skilled workers to be their number one business constraint and a further 13% reported shortage of unskilled labour as their primary business constraint.

Appendix 5

Campaign Checklist

Task Person(s) Responsible Timeline

Preparation

*  Form an Election Strategy Committee
*  Prepare a fact sheet that contains bullet points outlining the severity of the impact of the issues raised by our key messages in your community
*  Identify individuals who have personal relationships with members of the media and with provincial politicians
*  Identify a key spokesperson, empowered to speak on behalf of your organization
*  Determine dates of all-candidate meetings and assign people to attend

Media Strategy

Prepare media package that includes:

*  Key message handout fact sheets (provided in part 2 of this kit)
*  Local fact sheet of accomplishments
*  Statistics on challenges/problems created by underfunding in your community.
*  Local news release or note that includes name and phone number of local contact
*  Information sheet on the individuals who have agreed to tell their stories (include photographs where possible

*   Follow-up calls to media including request to meet with local editorial board to discuss issues

Political Strategy

*  Letters & package of info to each candidate(see draft)
*  Follow-up phone calls to candidates – where appropriate, request for meeting
*  Determine dates of ‘All Candidates Meetings’
*  Assign Delegation to attend All Candidates Meetings
*  Consider hosting an All Candidates Meeting in cooperation with others

Follow Up

Report your election campaign activities to the Ontario Disability Employment Network Government Relations Committee at gparker@waypointcentre.ca along with any response from the media or candidates

Post-Election

Contact each newly elected MPP to request a meeting to discuss specific action to be taken in future

Follow Up

Let us know about any follow up meetings and responses. Contact our  Government Relations Committee at gparker@waypointcentre.ca

 

Appendix 6

Media Interview Request Form

Date:   ____________________

Time:  ____________________

Name of reporter: ___________________________ Contact #

Publication/Station:           __________________________________

How will this be used? ______________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

Others being interviewed: __________________________________

Reporter’s deadline: ______________________________________ (call back as soon as possible)

When is this story expected to run? _________________ (do not ask for a copy of the story)

The main message I want to convey:

Facts/Statistics to support my main message:

Examples (such as stories about people affected):

Other messages (if time allows):

How Did It Go/ Follow-up?

Appendix 7

Election Kit Feedback Form

After using the election kit, please take a few minutes to complete this form and return it to Ontario Disability Employment Network.  Your comments will help us improve our election package for future campaigns.

I found the following pieces of the election kit helpful: _________________________

I did not find the following pieces of the election kit particularly helpful (suggest improvements if any):

I would add the following elements to the kit: ______________________________

I would remove the following elements from the kit: ________________________________

General comments: ___________________________________________________________

 

Please return completed form to: gparker@waypointcentre.ca

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2011 Provincial Election Strategy: Overview & Key Messages


Dear Network Member,

Given the current political tides and turmoil for employment services in Ontario – transformation, modernization, one-stop delivery models, lack of funding for pre-employment and counseling, etc. – and the growing needs for services and supports for people who have a disability who are trying to access the workforce – the Ontario Disability Employment Network is launching its 2011 election strategy. We hope that you will agree that these are serious issues and commit to helping us implement this important election campaign strategy.

Key messages
While many of us may well be able to produce an ‘arm’s length’ list of issues and concerns about what’s wrong with the current employment service system for people who have a disability, experience has shown that the most effective campaigns are when focus is given to three or four key/priority issues. Governments, the media and the general public cannot digest the breadth and depth of detail that is required to properly comprehend more. For that reason, the Board of Directors of the Ontario Disability Employment Network, in consultation with a number of members, has settled on three critical issues to focus on during the upcoming election campaign.

• People should not be refused access to the services and supports they need in order to be successful in the workforce based on the level or severity of their disability. This includes access to specialized services and supports that may be required due to the nature of a specific disability.
• Ontario must make a greater investment in services and supports that help people who have a disability get into the workforce and out of poverty
• Ontario needs an Employment First policy framework that gives priority to employment services and supports. This framework should set employment as a funding and policy priority for all Provincial Ministries and Departments that are involved in financing day time supports for people who have a disability.

(For complete background and details on Key Messages see: Election Tool Kit)

About Political Campaigns

Speaking with a united voice
Experience shows that it is critical to have everyone delivering the same message(s). When there are divergent views and perspectives within the same sector, this only serves to confuse the audience. The Network’s Board of Directors sincerely hopes that all employment service operators in Ontario – members and non members will get behind these key messages if given the opportunity to speak publicly or to your local candidates.

The more the message is heard
The more the same message is heard and the greater the number of sources that it is delivered by, the greater the impact. When politicians hear the same, or similar, messages from many individuals, organizations, individuals affected, families and media, they take notice. This campaign will not be successful if everyone simply lets the Network put forth a single position paper. Everyone must get involved in writing letters, meeting with candidates, sending press releases and engaging your clientele and family members to do likewise.

Create your own story
Research has shown that mail campaigns where mass mailings of photocopied letters and position papers are not effective. It is important to take the key messages and put them in your own words. Use local community examples and case studies from your professional experiences that support the messages. Back these up with data wherever possible.

Put a face to your story
Campaigns are always more effective when you can humanize the story. Add real life stories and photos whenever possible to support the key messages in your written materials. If you get the chance to meet with your political candidates or the media, have an individual who has a disability or a family member with you to help ‘deliver the message’. This can be an individual who has been successful due to your organization’s support or someone who has not been able to access the workforce due to the ‘vagaries’ of the system. Be sure to support and coach them on the key messages we want to deliver.

Focus on issues of importance to your audience
It is important that your message is not seen as self-serving or simply a justification for continued support of your organization. Focus on issues that are important to the people you support, government and the general public E.g.:
• 16% of Ontarians have a disability. This will grow to 20% by the end of this decade. StatsCan reports that 49% of these individuals are unemployed – these are voters and potential tax payers
• Ontario spent $3.3 billion on income support payments last year. This has been growing at over 5% per year. We need to reduce this spending by helping more of these people get into the workforce and contributing to the tax base
• Communities will be stronger when everyone contributes
• People who have a disability want to work and can work if proper supports are available

Opportunities and Ways to Deliver The Message
• Write a letter
• Set up a meeting with local candidates
• Attend an all candidates meeting
• Send out a press release
• Be prepared when candidates come to your door

Resources to Assist You
In our Election Tool Kit you will find a number of resources and tools to help you in your efforts to connect with your local party candidates:
• Detailed background information on key issues
• Helpful do’s and don’ts
• Assistance in working with local media
Approaches to Candidates
• A sample letter to send to your provincial candidates
• A question format should you have the opportunity to meet a candidate in person or at an all candidates forum
• Employment and Disability – Fact Sheet

Feedback
We need your feedback. Please share copies of any letters, press releases or other correspondence – letters of response, newspaper clippings or other materials that you produce or receive related to this campaign. If you have the opportunity to meet with your local candidates or attend All Candidates Meetings, let us know how it went.

This information will be helpful to the Network as we begin our work with the new government after the election. We need to know who our allies are and where the biggest challenges lie. Your feedback may also help inform others who are either planning a meeting or who are considering getting on board with the campaign.

All information will be considered confidential and posted anonymously on the Network’s web site. If the contents of the material does not allow confidentiality, we will check with you first prior to any posting of the information.

Forward all information to: gparker@waypointcentre.ca

Thank you for continued support in our journey to make positive changes for Ontarians who have a disability and are seeking employment.

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New for G.E. 2011: Request a Special Ballot Home Visit


The following information was sent from Elections Ontario:

 

 

Call Elections Ontario between August 8 to August 30 to book a Home Visit

Voters who have difficulty going to their local returning office may request a home visit. Home visits will take place between September 8 to October 5th, 6:00 PM ET or 5:00 PM CT.

You may apply to vote by Special ballot in your home if you:

  • Are eligible to vote in the October 6th, 2011 provincial election, and
  • Find it impossible or unreasonably difficult to personally go to the returning office in your electoral district, and
  • Need assistance with making an application to vote by Special ballot, because of a disability or because an inability to read or write

Home Visit requests will be accepted at Elections Ontario headquarters from August 8 to August 30, 2011 by phone, email or fax*.

Telephone:

Email:

Fax:

  • Attention: Special Ballots 1-(888)-438-4448 (toll-free in Canada and the United States)

Hours of operation:

  • August 8 – 20:
    • Monday to Friday 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM ET
  • August 8 – 20:
    • Monday to Saturday 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM ET;
    • Sunday 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM ET

*After August 30th, you may call your local returning office from September 7th to October 5, 6:00 PM ET or 5:00 PM CT to book your appointment.

Please Note: Elections Ontario will forward your requests to your local Returning Officer.

You will receive a call from a Special Ballot Officer after September 7th who will schedule your home visit at that time.

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World Report on Disability (World Health Organization)


Cover Page for The World Report on Disability by The World Health Organization Featuring an introduction by Professor Stephen W. Hawking, this 349 page document is the first-ever World Report on Disability.  Information includes global estimates and looks at the status of people who have a disability world-wide.  This document explores the many barriers experienced by people who have a disability, and the negative effects resulting from such barriers.

Click here to view a PDF of the document

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