ODEN News

Ontario Disability Employment Network – 2012 Year in Review


“Excellence is a Habit”

2011–2012 Review

(Click here to view/download .pdf file)

Aristotle once said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

“Excellence is a habit” is a good way to describe the work of the Ontario Disability Employment Network, as evidenced by its achievements in 2011‐12.

The Network exists to support the efforts of people who have a disability to get jobs. It is a small organization with a big commitment, one that gets a large effort from everyone associated with it.

The Network’s prescription for success is surprising in its simplicity: engage employers who know firsthand that hiring people who have a disability is good business, and let them do the heavy lifting. Give them the challenge and the opportunity to take the message to their colleagues, and let their colleagues make their companies better by adding to the number of people who have a disability who are gainfully employed.

As Executive Director, Joe Dale has remarked: “In our collective consciousness we understand the value of having business owners and operators speak to other businesses. And that finding and supporting Champions is a tremendous help to moving our agenda forward and creating positive changes in the employment situation for people who have a disability. These are business owners who can demonstrate to their peers that it is not only possible but, in fact, beneficial to the bottom line, to include people who have a disability in the workforce. This approach and these individuals will help us achieve greater outcomes for those whom we support.”

Proof of the efficacy of engagement comes in the form of one of the employment initiatives supported by Network Champion Mark Wafer (Tim Horton’s franchisee) and also involving Joe, called Rotary at Work. Rotary at Work has produced 170 jobs for people who have a disability since its inception, including 60 jobs in 2011‐12. Rotary at Work has achieved this lofty goal by mobilizing the members of Rotary Clubs across Ontario to hire and promote hiring. Rotary at Work has set the stage and the formula for the Network’s Champion’s League.

The Champion’s League consists of employers who have committed to hiring people who have a disability and who have volunteered their time to convince others to do the same. Over the past year, the Network supported the efforts not just of Mark Wafer, but of Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia, Joe Hoffer, lawyer with Cohen Highley in London and the Network’s most recent Champion, Dennis Winkler. They have presented to business operators, recruited municipalities to hire, written papers and delivered seminars on the hiring topic.

Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor the Honourable David C. Onley understands the merit of the engagement principle. In 2011‐12 he recruited two Network Champions and the Executive Director to sit on his Employer Panel that is charged with promoting jobs for people who have a disability throughout the province. Two members of this panel, including Network Champion Mark Wafer, have also been appointed to the Federal Panel on Employment and Disability.

To top off the year, three of the Network’s Champions – Mayor Mike Bradley, Joe Hoffer and Mark Wafer; along with two members of the Board of Directors – Cheryl Massa and Bob Vansickle; and, the Executive Director, Joe Dale, were awarded with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award.

If employer engagement is the first pillar for the Network’s accomplishments, educating and influencing government is another. Without policy and funding that expedites employment for people with disabilities, the Network and its constituencies are severely restricted in meeting their goals. In 2011‐12 the Network undertook a range of initiatives related to government that included:

• Meeting with Ministry of Community and Social Services Minister John Milloy and discussing the benefits of employer engagement, barriers within the system and how to address them, and the need to support student employment
• Educating decision makers at the Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities’ Employment Ontario division about the unique needs and challenges people who have a disability have in trying to access the workforce. As a result, EO has agreed to re‐think its disability services strategy and now understands the need for specialized employment services for this group.
• The Social Assistance Review Commission has the potential to make wide‐sweeping changes to the system. The Network submitted a substantial position paper to the Commission, making 37 separate recommendations.

By year end, the Network had assumed the role of the “go to” organization for politicians, bureaucrats and the media on issues related to people who have a disability and employment.

Beyond employer engagement and government relations, the Network was active in professional development, with its Job Developers Roadmap training, annual Champions for Change conference and half‐day regional training events. It sponsored its first webcast on the subject of the Social Assistance Review Commission interim report.

On the communications side, the Network upgraded its website to be totally accessible, and was active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Its reach has been extended via press releases and being featured on local TV, National newspapers and National radio interviews.

Employer engagement. Government relations. Professional development. Communications. Excellence is a habit. Excellence is the Ontario Disability Employment Network.

We are ‘on the ground’ operators, working at the grass roots.

The People Behind the Scenes

The Ontario Disability Employment Network is led by a dedicated and committed volunteer Board of Directors and a one‐day per week Executive Director. Since the Network does not receive any government funding the Board takes an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to managing the work of the organization. Every member is actively engaged and fulfills a variety of duties and tasks.

Bob Vansickle – Chair
• Leads Government Relations
• Lead on Employment Ontario Task Force
• Assists with Employer Engagement Strategy
• Manages Social Media
• Assists with member communications
• Assists with conference and member training events

Debbi Soucie – Vice Chair
• Manages meetings, AGM, by‐laws, etc.
• Liaison with the ODSP Action Coalition
• Assists with Government Relations
• Participates on the Employment Ontario Task Force

Cheryl Massa – Treasurer
• Finance & budget
• Conference Chair
• Assists with Employer Engagement Strategy
• Assists with member training events

Chris Guillemette – Secretary
• Meeting minutes, agendas, etc.
• Lead on AGM, by‐laws, resolutions, etc.
• Interface with Canada Revenue Agency & reporting
• Membership development and recruitment

Greg Bruckler – Director
• Manages communications and member email lists
• Assists with conference and member training
• Assists with social media

Gord Ryall – Director
• Manages member services and recruitment
• Member of Employment Ontario Task Force
• Represents the Network with the Canadian University Research Alliance

 
The Year in Review

Employer Engagement Strategy

Champions League

One of the areas that the Network and its Board are most proud of is our employer engagement strategy. We have made terrific progress in enhancing the knowledge and acceptance of workforce participation as a result of the work of our Champion’s League. Engaging business leaders in our cause has had a terrific impact in extending our resources, our reach and in accelerating our successes.

Mayor Mike Bradley and the Mayor’s Challenge has seen a number of municipalities get on board with hiring people who have a disability in municipalities. Additionally, Mayor Bradley has spoken at Human Resources Professionals Association conferences, Young Professionals Associations and beyond.

Joe Hoffer has written papers and delivered seminars for the Ontario Law Society, Legal Leaders for Diversity, Police Services Board, Ontario Property Managers Association and beyond.

Mark Wafer takes the lead on the Rotary at Work initiative along with a number of other Rotarians who have hired people who have a disability. This initiative has brought the business case message to thousands of business owners and operators across the province. This work has spread well beyond Rotary clubs with speaking engagements at Chambers of Commerce, Human Resource Professionals Association chapters and individual businesses and corporations.

Our inductee for this year, Dennis Winkler is now fully oriented and ready to engage in the small business sector and restaurant association.

Several of our Champions have also spoken at conferences in the disability sector and provided training sessions for job developers. The Champions also gave a very powerful presentation to the Social Assistance Review Commission during its deliberations.

The Champion’s League, based on a business-to-business, peer to peer approach, has garnered recognition at many levels. Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, David C. Onley, has become an ally of the League and engages the members at his office regularly.

His Honour established a Provincial Employer Panel to promote employment for people who have a disability. Two of our Champions and our Executive Director, sit on this panel and two of these panel members, including Network Champion Mark Wafer were appointed to the Federal Panel on Employment and Disability.

 

Government Relations

Much of the Network’s time and energy has been consumed by our government relations work. Following our provincial forum, representatives of local networks from across the province ratified the need to create a strong provincial voice when it comes to speaking to government. And they agreed that voice should be the Ontario Disability Employment Network.

Working from that platform the Board has adopted a very specific and deliberate strategy – that being the need to find the common ground with government and to work from that platform. The obvious ‘common ground’ or central goal is the need to help more people who have a disability get into the workforce. This would seem to be obvious but often seems to be overlooked in advocacy campaigns.

By identifying and reinforcing the common goal, we are then able to identify and attempt to remove the barriers within the system. And, by ‘system’ we mean the entire system – both government and service delivery operators. In so doing we have been able to position the Network as a resource and, through our success, have been able to influence change from within.

Today, we are experiencing positive engagement with Government. The Network is routinely in communications with all levels of government from Ministers to policy makers and in a variety of Ministries that impact employment service delivery.

Ministry of Community and Social Services

The Network has had a number of meetings with Minister John Milloy. Through these meetings we were able to discuss: the value of our employer engagement strategy, including our Champion’s League and the business case for hiring people who have a disability; barriers within the system itself and how we might remove some of those; and, the need to develop a strategy for student employment. The highlight came in late August when we spent a full day with Minister Milloy, touring employment agencies and meeting employers who hire people who have a disability.

We have had a number of meetings with policy staff of the Developmental Services Branch and Assistant Deputy Minister David Carter-Whitney. These meetings focused on the potential barriers that may be created by the DSO (Developmental Services Ontario) process and the challenges of volunteering in the private sector, which seems to be condoned, if not sanctioned in the supported employment service code descriptions. We also spoke about Student Employment and the need for an Employment First policy framework.

We have had on-going meetings and communication with Patti Redmond, Director of the ODSP Branch. These meetings cover issues related to systems barriers and improvements and the ODSP modernization process. We have also presented our concerns for student employment and the Employment First policy framework as these issues cross several government jurisdictions.

Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities

Many of our members, previously funded by HRSDC under the EAS agreements, have been ‘on hold’ as a result of the transfer responsibility from the Federal Government to the Province. MTCU has positioned services for people who have a disability under the Employment Ontario umbrella. Up until the point where the Network started to engage Employment Ontario, the strategy seemed to be to fold services for people who have a disability into the mainstream, generic EO service delivery model.

The Network, with its EO Task Force spent the better part of a year, educating decision makers at Employment Ontario about the unique needs and challenges facing people who have a disability in trying to access the workforce. As a result, EO has agreed to re-think its disability services strategy and now understands the need for specialized employment services for this target group.

Network members have on-going communications and meetings with MTCU Assistant Deputy Ministers, policy makers and Regional Director, Barb Simmonds. Most recently, the EO Task Force was consulted for input into revising the contract guidelines for service agreements for those agencies that provide EO services for people who have a disability. In addition, EO has made a commitment to engage the Network in the creation of their disability services strategy as it is developed.

The Network has also presented its positions related to Student Employment and the Employment First policy framework to Employment Ontario representatives.

Social Assistance Review Commission

The SAR Commission with its 108 recommendations has the potential to change the face of employment service delivery in Ontario. Not since the introduction of the VRS Act in 1974, has a single commission or act had the potential to make such wide-sweeping changes to the system.

The Network realized this potential early on and engaged the sector and the commission in a number of ways:

• Consultations and round table discussions with members and local networks
• Written submissions to the Commission
• In person presentation to the Commission
• Orchestrated a consultation between the Commission and Champion’s League members
• Position paper to the Commission that included 37 separate recommendations
• On-going telephone and email correspondence with the Commission
• Several press releases and media interviews.

For the sector and the Network the real work has only just begun, now that the Commission has released its final report.

Ministry of Finance

In evolving our understanding of the government relations arena, it has become clear that the Network cannot overlook the Ministry of Finance. This past year, the Network has started to ensure that the Minister of Finance is aware of the Network and the needs of its members. We have made submissions to the pre-budget consultation process and responded to the release of the Drummond report.

 

Professional Development

Training

The Network continues in its effort to bring education, training and networking opportunities to its members. This past year, the Network held its Job Developers Roadmap training session in Tillsonburg along with its annual Champions for Change conference and Annual General Meeting in Alliston. We also held a number of half-day regional training events in North Bay, Kincardine and Markdale.

We have started to explore other ways to get training and materials out to members. This past year, we held our first webcast of our consultation on the Social Assistance Review Commission interim report. While we need to work out some of the glitches, this format has the potential for much greater reach in a much more affordable way.

Communications

We continue to keep our website current and interactive so that all members can use this resource. This year, we partnered with eSSENTIAL Accessibility Inc. to provide a web browser that makes our website totally accessible for people who have a disability. This has enabled the access to our website to be more efficient. We’d like to acknowledge our volunteer contributors, Aerin and Jimmy Guy of Space Race and our volunteer webmaster, Mike Adair, who make the website possible for the Network.

We are also active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with lots of discussion groups and ways to stay connected and up to date. Our membership email lists are also very active as we post information as soon as we get it to ensure members are ahead of the curve.

Public Relations and Media

The Network and its Executive Director have been featured a number of times this past year through press releases, newspaper articles, local TV shows and National radio interviews.

This has included articles featuring our Champion’s League and the business case for hiring people who have a disability; responses to legal and Human Rights cases related to employment and disability; the launch of the Federal Panel on Employment and Disability; our response and input into the Social Assistance Review Commission reports; letters to the editor about news stories; and general positions that have been reported in disability periodicals and reports.

All this serves to bring attention and credibility to the Ontario Disability Employment Network as we position ourselves as the ‘go to’ organization representing employment service agencies in Ontario.

 

A Look Ahead

Employer Engagement

We see a year with tremendous opportunity for people who have a disability. The momentum in the business community is at an all-time high. More and more businesses are coming on board, looking to include people who have a disability in the workplace. Strategies like our Champion’s League have made a substantial contribution to this momentum. As we proceed we will need to continue to both build and support the League. This will enhance our capacity tenfold.

Specifically we need to:

• Help and support taking the Lieutenant Governor’s employer panel to a formal ‘provincial employer association’
• Transition the Rotary at Work partnership to the Network. The Network has been the primary support to this initiative over the last year and it is a natural fit with our Champion’s League
• Develop new marketing strategies and specialized initiatives that engage new sectors in creating employment opportunities for people who have a disability.
• Entrench the Champion’s League in the office of the Lieutenant Governor. His Honour David C. Onley will conclude his term of office in early 2013. We need the support of this office to ensure continued credibility and support for our employer engagement strategies.

Government Relations

While our employer engagement strategies present a bright future, we may face significant challenges in adapting to a new government and policy environment. Our work with government will be on-going.

Already, despite the proroguing of the Legislature, government departments and branches are launching into ‘service improvements’ that are in line with the Commission’s recommendations. We must be at the table for the discussions and decisions that will be made in the coming year.

Specifically:
• Monitor and track activities related to the SAR Commission implementation, irrespective of government ministry or department
• Ensure our voice is heard with respect to any potential merging of employment services
• Work with the ODSP branch on system improvements
• Continue to work on the Employment Ontario disability strategy
• On-going work with the Developmental Services Branch
In addition we will continue to pursue cross-ministry strategies that relate to creating a coordinated approach to student employment and the establishment of an employment policy framework in Ontario.

To see real change in employment for people who have a disability we must invest in student employment. Summer and part-time after school jobs are imperative to ensure people who have a disability have an immediate attachment to the labour market upon graduation. Services and supports that can make this a reality must be entrenched in the system with adequate investment to achieve effective labour market participation.

Professional Development

The Network remains committed to ensuring members have access to the training, resources and supports that keep them vital. This can be achieved in many ways. One of our concerns is that in today’s environment, training may not always be seen as affordable or necessary by organizations that are facing financial pressures. The Network needs to re-think the way it holds conferences and training events with an eye to finding alternate ways to bring training to the sector.

Membership Services

We have not done the best we can when it comes to engaging our members. Members need to know what’s going on, new trends in the sector and have access to the support that will help them meet the challenges of day-to-day operations. We can do better.

The Network needs to:

• Find better and more efficient ways to engage members
• Improve member communications
• Find resources to engage at the local level

In Summary

Much has been achieved in a very short period, all due to the hard work and diligence of a few committed volunteers. We must continue to dig in as we strive to improve the employment prospects of people who have a disability.

The challenge, however, lies ahead in what may be our most critical of times. We remain dedicated and committed to undertaking this work. We cannot do it alone and we need your input and assistance. Without a strong membership base, we will not be successful.

We encourage you and your organization to join forces with the Ontario Disability Employment Network. Help us maintain our ‘Habit of Excellence’.

Bob Vansickle, Chair

(Click here to view/download .pdf file)

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Employment advocates receive Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals (communitylivingontario.ca)


Joe Dale, Bob Vansickle, Cheryl Massa ‘making an important contribution to our society’
Wednesday June 20, 2012 — Natalie Hamilton

Champions of meaningful employment for people who have a disability were among the Ontario residents honoured Monday evening with Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medals.

Community Living Sarnia-Lambton supervisor of community employment options Bob Vansickle and Ontario Disability Employment Network executive director Joe Dale were two to receive the recognition.

“I was thrilled to hear that Joe and Bob were being honoured with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for their work in promoting employment for people with disabilities in Ontario,” Gordon Kyle, Community Living Ontario’s director of social policy and government relations, tells Community Living Leaders.

Kyle says both men have devoted many years of their time to the issue. Dale and Vansickle understand the challenges people face related to employment and have developed clear strategies to overcome the barriers.

“Through their talent in networking, their willingness to share their vast knowledge with others, and their passion and commitment, they are making an important contribution to our society.  This recognition is well-deserved.”

The medal pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s 60-year reign.

Other allies in the movement to create an inclusive workforce – Community Living London employment services supervisor Cheryl Massa, Tim Hortons franchisee Valarie Wafer and Cohen Higley LLP partner Joe Hoffer — also received medals.

“I was so humbled to receive this recognition and am honoured to be in the company of so many dedicated and deserving people,” Massa tells Community Living Leaders.

“It is my hope that this medal increases awareness amongst the community and more people with a disability are able to realize their goal of meaningful employment.”

The Diamond Jubilee Gala ceremony took place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto and included performances by Canadian artists, Susan Aglukark, Molly Johnson, Ben Heppner and Gordon Lightfoot.

Reprinted: CLO 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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Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal Recipients


It is our absolute pleasure to announce that Joe Dale, Executive Director, Ontario Disability Employment Network and Bob Vansickle, Supervisor, Community Employment Options, Community Living Sarnia-Lambton and co-chair of the Ontario Disability Employment Network will be recipients of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, for significant achievements and remarkable service. On June 18th, Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable David C. Onley will be joined by the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, several former vice-regal representatives, and other notable Canadians, in presenting the medals. The ceremony will take place at Roy Thomson Hall and the evening will include performances by renowned Canadian artists, Susan Aglukark, Molly Johnson, Ben Heppner and Gordon Lightfoot, followed by a sampling of Ontario fare.

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, it serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.

This is a huge honour and a privilege to receive such an award from Her Majesty in the Diamond Jubilee year. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Please join us in congratulating Joe and Bob!

Congratulations Joe and Bob!

We would also like to congratulate Valarie Wafer, as she will be a medal recipient on June 18th. As many of you know, Valarie is the wife of Mark Wafer. The Wafer’s have been amazing advocates for people with a disability and it is great to see Valarie recognized for her absolutely outstanding achievements!

Congratulations to all on your well deserved recognition!

Also Related:

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medals Awarded by on February 7, 2013 (BlackburnNews.com)

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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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Question of the day: Should pay rates be based on productivity?


If we were to set the current rate for your job as the benchmark or standard and then make adjustments based purely on productivity, what would happen? Take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself; “if it were strictly based on productivity, would my rate go up or down?” Come on now, be honest! Look around at your colleagues doing similar jobs and apply the same assessment.

Agreed that it’s not a practical exercise and absolutely none of us would live with the consequences if it were to be applied to us. Why then, do we apply this logic to people who have a disability when we place them in jobs without wages or for stipends and wages below the going rate?

When I was a younger man, I worked in construction for a few summers and I remember one particular summer when I worked on a road crew. That’s a nice way of saying I spent the summer digging ditches for sewer lines. Anyway, for those who know me, I’m not a big man and in those days I had a waist line much more proportionate to my height. My crew mate – fellow ditch digger – was 6’ 4” and about 220 lbs. You youngsters will have to do the metric conversion for yourself but suffice it to say, he was a much bigger and brawnier guy that me.

So over the course of the day, it was clear this guy could move twice as much dirt as I could and logic would have it, therefore, that I should be paid half his rate as I was obviously less productive than he was. But did that question ever even enter the boss’ mind? I think not.

Did other factors come into play? Probably! I was never late or missed time; never came to work hung over; knew how to solve the occasional problem here and there and always had the guys laughing at break. The other guy – routinely late; usually missed half a day following payday; grumbled and bad-mouthed the boss all the time and had a tendency to lean on his shovel every time the boss turned his back.

I’m pretty sure that the days when everyone sat on a production line producing widgets, having to produce x amount per hour to keep their jobs, are long gone. Most employers today look at the total package of what each person contributes to the workplace. This must be the starting point when we place people who have a disability with any employer.

Your comments are welcomed.

Joe Dale

ODEN Network Logo

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Unpaid Work: Legitimate internships or exploitation?


There’s been a fair bit of media coverage and press in the last year, mostly critical of internships that are unpaid or paid at less than the going job rate for the job. Most of the criticism has been levelled at the growing rate of young people providing cheap labour to profitable corporations in the name of career development. None the less, the criticisms come and go and internships seem to be accepted as common practice these days.

A number of people and organizations have also promoted unpaid work – often referred to as volunteering – for people who have a disability and likened this to the ‘internship’ concept. To be clear, we’re not talking about short, time-limited work experience programs to assess a person’s skills, interests and abilities. We’re generally talking about long-term, unpaid work, often without an end in sight.

The Ontario Disability Employment Network has gone on record strongly opposing this practice. Volunteering, unpaid work, stipend payments or pay at less than the going rate  in the private sector is not acceptable. Volunteering should only occur in the voluntary sector, as a life enrichment activity, but not as a replacement to or ‘instead’ of paid work.

Likening this practice to internships is not a fair comparison. Take the case for people who have an intellectual disability in point. The 2003 Employment Outcomes study showed that of the 550 people who had an intellectual disability and got jobs, 81% worked in the sales and services sector. They worked an average of 14.7 hours per week and earned just over minimum wage. Representation in the service sector for this group is far greater than the general population which, at the time of the study, was 24%.

The fact is the vast majority of people who have an intellectual disability who are placed in jobs – with or without wages – are ending up in the service sector and almost exclusively in entry-level positions.

I don’t know about you but I don’t believe anyone ‘interns’ flipping burgers or serving coffee at fast food restaurants or mopping floors in major department stores. I think that, in the court of public opinion, this would be seen as exploitation – plain and simple. And the legal courts also agree. A recent Human Rights case against a St. Catharines business owner, who had a number of people with intellectual disabilities in her employ for almost 10 years at stipend wages, sided in favour of the plaintiff. Interestingly, the plaintiff is now working in a fully paid job.

Your feedback and comments are welcomed.

Joe Dale

ODEN Network Logo

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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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Ontario Disability Employment Network – 2011, A Year in Review


2011 has been a great year that has provided the Ontario Disability Employment Network the ability to make strides in government relationships, engage other partners, and develop new initiatives and opportunities to make a difference for persons with disabilities seeking employment.

The following represents the highlights of our accomplishments over the past year and our commitment to being a unified voice for our membership. This has been achieved through the volunteer efforts of our Board of Directors, a one-day per week Executive Director and, of course, the contributions of our members.

We would like to take this opportunity to again thank our sponsors and patrons. As you may know, the Network has made a conscience decision not to pursue government funding, so that our advocacy efforts are not limited or impeded. The Network’s revenue sources come from membership dues, revenue from events and training sessions and a few organizations that have generously donated financial and in-kind contributions to help the Network continue its valued work.

It is important to the Network that we continue to remain responsive to the issues that matter most to you as we continue to meet the challenges that face us in finding and maintaining employment for people who have a disability. We are interested in getting your feedback along with your direction and support. This will assist the Network to continue to be a success and a strong voice for the employment services sector.

Joe Dale
Executive Director

Debbi Soucie
Co-Chair

Bob Vansickle
Co- Chair

Communications
We have had the opportunity over the past year to develop a number of avenues to spread the message of the Network and also encourage conversation and provide a forum to engage others when issues/concerns have arisen.

• Website – we partnered with eSSENTIAL Accessibility Inc. in May which is a web browser for persons with a disability. This has ensured access to our website is more efficient and effective.
Special acknowledgement goes out to our volunteer contributors, Aerin and Jimmy Guy of SpaceRace! (http://gospacerace.com/), who make having a website possible for the Network. Our site is located at http://www.odenetwork.com/
• Twitter – for the past year we have been sharing news and updates on twitter and you can connect with the Network at http://twitter.com/#!/odenetwork
• Facebook – we are up and running on Facebook with a page that will provide opportunities to share information and engage in conversations. We can be found at http://tinyurl.com/6scvzj2.
• LinkedIn Group – we now have an Ontario Disability Employment Network group where opportunities are available to share resources and converse on topics of interest. Connect with us by going to http://tinyurl.com/7gkewxr.
• Email – we can be contacted also at odenetwork@cogeco.ca

Government Relations
It is essential that our member organizations continue to be able to deliver quality employment services and therefore the Network has been instrumental this year in developing strong and engaging relationships with government.

ODSP-ES
• In May the Board of Directors of the the Network became aware of the ODSP-ES evaluations that were being conducted by Cathexis Consulting. It came to our attention, however, that a number of our members were concerned about providing contact information for the employers they work with. THE NETWORK broached this issue on behalf of the membership with the consultants and ODSP. As a result, Cathexis took a different approach to gathering information from employers.
M.P.P. Election Strategy

• The Network developed a tool kit that was made available to services providers to assist them in getting the attention of the candidates for the provincial election in October and also provided key messages that targeted access to services including specialized services, greater investment in employment services and an ‘Employment First’ Policy framework.

Social Assistance Review Commission
• On August 25th the Network submitted a report and presented a PowerPoint presentation to the commission which was very well received and this relationship continues with the Commission’s interest in receiving input from the Network as their work unfolds. At the Network’s Conference and AGM that was held in November Leah Myers, Executive Lead, of the SAR Commission presented an overview of the Commission’s findings and dialogue about how we can help more people who have a disability get into the workforce. A number of the recommendations that the Network made at the August 25th meeting were adopted into the Commission’s findings and recommendations.

The Network’s ‘Employment Ontario Task Force’
• As EO deliberates on its ‘disability strategy’ it was apparent that their policy staff had a very superficial understanding of disability, the barriers facing people who have a disability with respect to accessing the labour market or the services and supports they need to be successful. The EO Task Force created two documents which were presented to the policy leads at MTCU – Barriers to Inclusion and Path to Employment.
• Along with these documents, the Network has attended a number of meetings with the ADM of MTCU and her staff team. This has resulted in the slowing down and delays to implementation of the disability strategy as they consider appropriate service options.
• More recently, the Network has been requested by MTCU to act as a reference group to the Employment Ontario team that is responsible for their disability service strategy.

MCSS
• The Network continues its efforts in building relationships with ODSP and ensuring policy issues are brought to the Ministry’s attention. The Network has met with ODSP Directors Norm Helfand and more recently with the new Interim Director, Patti Redmond. Some of the issues discussed included the conflict of people supported under the DS branch that are working in private businesses without wages or at less than minimum; the inconsistency in back-dating ODSP applications across the province; the impact of modernization on referrals; challenges of the wage verification process; file review processes; and, the need to develop ‘service standards’ for the sector.
• The Network also had direct meetings and correspondence with the ODSP ‘Modernization’ unit.
• The Network continues to gather and promote input from our sector and shares this with MCSS.

Ontario’s Speech from The Throne
It must also be noted that the Network received an invitation by the Honourable David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in November to attend the Speech from the Throne, which was graciously attended by two of our Board members and Employer Champion League member Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia.

Employer Engagement and Marketing Initiatives
This area is extremely important not only to the Board, but also our members. It is vital that we develop opportunities and initiatives that will continue to improve the participation of people with a disability in the workforce. We have found that ‘employer champions’, as recognized through the Network’s Champion’s League, is a vital and effective way to extend our capacity and gain positive results.

Champion’s League
Finding and working with Champions is a tremendous help to moving forward and creating positive changes in the employment situation for people who have a disability.
• At our second annual AGM and Conference we were able to recognize and acknowledge a new Champion, Mr. Dennis Winkler who, as an employer, fit the criteria of someone deserving to be part of the Champion’s League.
• Our past Champion’s League recipients continue to demonstrate the value in hiring people with a disability and the work being done in our sector. The formation of this league has provided a venue to continue to promote and plan initiatives to advance the work being done on behalf of persons with disabilities.
• The Champion’s League continues to receive strong support from Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, David Onley. The League continues to hold strategy meetings with His Honour regularly at his offices at the legislature as well as participate in events geared to promote hiring to the business community in Ontario such as Rotary at Work and others.

Mayor’s Challenge
• Once again this year we have had the support of Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia. His dedication and willingness to speak on behalf of the Network and its membership to other organizations and mayors has continue to provide an awareness and has challenged other communities start “Doing the Right Thing” by including a person with a disability in their workforce.
• Organizations across the province continue to approach their mayors to also put into action the need to respond to the hiring of persons with disabilities.
• A Mayor’s Challenge Toolkit has been made available on our website for Network members.

Other Niche Opportunities
Each of the Champions has continued to explore new opportunities. Joe Hoffer has been instrumental at gaining access to the Ontario Police Services Board and the Law Society of Ontario. We plan to exploit these opportunities in the coming year with strategies that will help bring education to these two major organizations. This will lead to further employment opportunities for people who have a disability.
• Mark Wafer has worked tirelessly to promote inclusive hiring practices through the Rotary at Work program. He has put in countless hours and helped expand this program to four districts of the province and is in discussions with three more. This has directly resulted in over 130 hires with very little staff input on the job development side. This leaves organizations free to use their resources on finding a good match and in follow up supports. The Network is currently in discussions with Community Living Ontario about taking on future responsibility for Rotary at Work under the Network’s umbrella.

Media
Our continued success and the importance of having a voice are integral in getting the attention from the media on issues and perspectives that the Network and our members have. We had a number of opportunities throughout the year to engage the media.
• The continued recognition of the members of the Champion’s League in newspapers and trade publications and their great work with employing persons with a disability was highlighted in local newspapers.
• The Mayor’s Challenge and the ongoing media coverage of Mayor Bradley continues to draw attention to the benefits to hiring persons with a disability.
• The work that went into ensuring that our members and the people we support had a voice during this year’s provincial election.

Membership
We believe the Network has been able to work very hard over the last year to provide our members with the many benefits of their membership with us. We are a member-driven organization and our strength is with the membership. Please share all the information that has been provided in this review with other colleagues and encourage others to join Ontario’s only Provincial Network that continues to work on behalf of employment service providers. In addition the Network has been a part of some other initiatives.
• We have been able to provide a voice at committee levels (Canadian Disability Policy Alliance, ODSP Action Coalition, Canadian Association for Supported Employment, Community Living Ontario, JOIN and others).
• Executive Director Joe Dale has done a number of speaking engagements in the Niagara Region, Ottawa, North Bay, Belleville, London, Toronto and others.
• Provide training opportunities to our members. Co-sponsored with Southwest Employment Network ‘Job Developers Roadmap’ in May and then our own AGM and conference ‘Champions for Change: Leadership in Workforce Development’ in November.
• The Network hosted a forum in April – ‘Creating a Common Voice’, which gave regional networks and provincial organization the opportunity to take the first steps in having a unified voice to represented the needs of people who have a disability when it comes to accessing the workforce.
• Received recognition by JVS Toronto as one of their community partners at their 9th Annual Strictly Business Awards Luncheon in May.

What’s Next?
• To continue to build our organization with more membership.
• Provide training and networking opportunities for the sector.
• Build on the great work that has been accomplished through the Mayor’s Challenge and the Champion’s League.
• To continue with strategies for employer engagement.
• Look for other funding opportunities and private fund resources that share the same goals and objectives of the Network to ensure sustainability.
• To build on the work that is being done with government relations and ensure that policy and funding issues do not become the barrier to employment for people who have a disability.
• To continue to be responsive to the needs of our members. Please share what is important to you and how we can help.

From the Board of Directors of the Ontario Disability Employment Network we want to extend our thanks for your continued support in our journey to make positive changes for Ontarians who have a disability and are seeking employment.

We wish you much success in 2012 and look forward to the consolidated effort by this Provincial Network and its members to continue to remove barriers to employment for people who have a disability and our primary objective; to find meaningful and sustainable employment for those we serve.

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ODEN Employer Champion Mayor Mike Bradley wins national “Corporate Social Responsibility Award”


The City of Sarnia was nominated along with two other organizations for the Corporate Social Responsibly Award, a national award. The nomination was for the “Mayor’s Challenge” for public and private corporations “to do the right thing” and hire the disabled and intellectually challenged’ Last night in Toronto the City of Sarnia was named as the winner of the award and the recognition was accepted by Mayor Mike Bradley.

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odenetwork.com Update


Attention All odenetwork.com Members:

We’re excited to announce a few changes with the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s online presence. Over the next few months we will be adjusting the interactive portions of the website to create a more informative and user friendly experience. This will include the removal of all personal profiles on our website. But don’t worry – we now offer more convenient ways to connect!

1.  LinkedIn: A great place for employment professionals to connect and share resources. Log in, and join the group today!

Our LinkedIn group can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/7gkewxr

2.  Facebook: The Ontario Disability Employment Network is now on Facebook! Check us out here: http://tinyurl.com/6scvzj2

We’ll be posting great resources, and will be open for comments and questions from any Facebook user. “Like” us today to keep track of the exciting new changes, or bookmark the site in your browser.

3. Twitter: As always, we will continue to tweet out our latest news – check out our twitter site here: http://twitter.com/#!/odenetwork

4. Join our mailing list: To receive all the latest Ontario Disability Employment Network news simply enter your e-mail address on our homepage. Look for the “Subscribe to our mailing list” field on the right hand side.

For any questions or concerns, e-mail us at info.odenetwork@gmail.com

All the Best!

The ODEN Online Team

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ODEN Representatives Attend Throne Speech at Queen’s Park


Mayor Mike Bradley, ODEN Employer Champion and originator of the "Mayor's Challenge to Hire Persons' with a Disability" just prior to the Speech from the Throne

Mayor Mike Bradley, Employer Champion, and Cheryl Massa, ODEN Board Member

Cheryl Massa, ODEN Board Member, with The Hon. Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for Ontario on the floor of the Legislature

Bob Vansickle, ODEN Board Member, seated on the floor of the Legislature waiting for the Speech from the Throne to begin

 

 

 

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Winks Eatery owner recognized as champion for change (London Community News)


Monday, November, 07, 2011 – 6:06:45 AM

Winks Eatery owner and Community Living London board of directors member, Dennis Winkler, was awarded the Second Annual Champions League Award last week at the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN) Champions for Change – Leadership in Workforce Development Conference in Alliston, Ont.

The Champions League Award recognizes employer champions who have made outstanding progress in the movement of hiring people who have a disability, promoting this movement and making a commitment to continue it in the future.

“Community Living London is thrilled that Dennis’ commitment to employing people with a disability has been formally recognized,” said Michelle Palmer, executive director Community Living London, in a news release. “Dennis’ commitment dates back to his days owning local Burger King Franchises and continues today with his hiring practices at Winks Eatery.”

David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and special guest speaker at the conference, presented the award. Onley’s own experiences with polio and post-polio syndrome, his successful career as a broadcaster, and his appointment as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, made him a very inspiring role model.

url:  http://www.londoncommunitynews.com/2011/11/winks-eatery-owner-recognized-as-champion-for-change/

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Equal Opportunity in the Workplace (National Post)


Equal opportunity in the workplace

National Post · Oct. 6, 2011

Mark Wafer, who owns six Tim Hortons stores in the greater Toronto area, believes legislation to make workplaces accessible to people with disabilities is necessary, because in many cases companies simply wouldn’t invest the money and effort without it.

“But there’s a far better reason for making your business accessible to people with disabilities, both as customers and employees,” he says. “It just makes really good business sense.”

Over the past 16 years, Mr. Wafer has hired more than 70 people with disabilities, and he has no doubt that it has given him a competitive advantage.

“I’ve hired people with disabilities for jobs ranging from customer service all the way up to management. They’re in meaningful positions. That means they get equal pay. There are no subsidies from the government,” Mr. Wafer says.

“What happens over a period of time is you start to notice that people with disabilities tend to stay with you for much longer, because it’s taken them so long to get the job in the first place. That’s a tangible benefit, because turnover is expensive. The other upside is because you’ve created an inclusive workforce the other employees want to stay, too. They want to be part of something special.”

As a result, while the typical turnover rate for Tim Hortons stores in southern Ontario is between 70% and 80%, at Mr. Wafer’s stores, it is 35%.

It’s time to dispel some of the myths that hold back employers from hiring people with disabilities, says Joe Dale, project manager at Rotary at Work and executive director at Ontario Disability Employment.

“There are all sorts of myths: that it’s going to cost them more, that productivity is not going to be as good and employees with disabilities are going to miss a lot more work. While there isn’t enough of a strong research base that dispels those myths, we do have lots of anecdotal information that does,” he says.

“What’s more, I think people are pretty resilient, but particularly so people with disabilities who have found ways to get around their disabilities and can be more creative than others. They develop great problem-solving skills. I am not sure most employers necessarily understand that yet, or what a valuable labour source that people with disabilities can be.”

Rotary at Work has helped a growing number of employers dispel the myths by connecting them to employees with disabilities.

“Rotary at Work reflects an important partnership between Community Living Ontario and Ontario Rotary Clubs to assist Ontarians with disabilities to find appropriate employment by forging relationships with businesses,” says David Onley, Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor.

Mr. Onley is a shining example: Afflicted by polio at a young age, he suffered partial paralysis. After extensive physical therapy, however, Mr. Onley regained the use of his hands and arms and partial use of his legs. He is able to walk with leg braces and canes or crutches, but he generally prefers to get around using his electric scooter. He is able to drive a car using hand controls for acceleration and braking.

Another issue many companies don’t understand – much to their detriment – is the fact that when they make their business accessible to employees with disabilities, they’re also making them accessible to customers with disabilities.

“If you use the same business model when looking at creating accessible retail space, the cost/benefit ratio also favours a return on your investment,” Mr. Wafer says.

In fact, Statistics Canada pegs the number of people with disabilities at around 16.5% of the population. “If you think about it in other terms, that’s the combined population of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” Mr. Dale says. “It’s the largest minority in the country. It’s a significant niche for businesses to tap into.”

And that’s what Mr. Wafer has found to be the case. At one of his stores, he worked with Excellence Canada to ensure the building met Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) standards. Included in the upgrades was a simple system in the drive-through for people with any communication disabilities.

“It’s just a sign with a bell that says if you are deaf or have other communication barriers, please press the button for better customer service and drive to the window,” Mr. Wafer says. “When they come to the window, if they can’t tell us what they want we have an order-assist pad they can use to order.”

Today, his Tim Hortons drive-through attracts customers who would never have previously have used a drivethrough.

The opportunities for businesses that understand the advantages of hiring disabled people as well as developing goods and services for them exist in every industry. One industry where there is enormous potential, however, is technology, which, through a combination of legislation and efforts by organizations such as the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC), has seen progress in developing technology and applications that are accessible to people with disabilities – although there is still a long way to go.

The IDRC is a research and development centre at OCAD University that works with an international community of open source developers, designers, researchers, advocates and volunteers to ensure that emerging information technology and practices are designed inclusively.

“We really need legislation for cultural change,” says Jutta Treviranus, professor and director, Inclusive Design Research Centre and Inclusive Design Institute at OCAD University.

“Even if people don’t follow the letter of the law, it increases awareness. It’s a necessary way for organizations to realize that yes, this is a right people have and we do need to attend to it. But the practicality needs to be supported by other things, the tools and necessary resources.

“There’s also an amazing opportunity here. The market size of individuals with disabilities around the world is approaching the market size of China, so if there’s an organization that takes this on and begins to support that market, the growth opportunity is huge.”

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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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Improving Employment Outcomes


Improving Employment Outcomes Cover PageA summary of the key points addressed in the May 2011 session “Revitalizing Innovation in our Field”, facilitated by the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s Executive Director, Joe Dale.  Contains opinions shared by job devleopers on the job market, and on how to increase job opprtunites/job retention.  View It Here

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Disability Community Involvement Through eSSENTIAL Accessibility


As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that people using assistive technology can access the many aspects of odenetwork.com, we are excited to announce that we have partnered with eSSENTIAL Accessibility.

This icon certifies that our website features eSSENTIAL Accessibility:

This Web Accessibility icon serves as a link to download eSSENTIAL Accessibility assistive technology software for individuals with physical disabilities. It is being featured as part of a Disability Community Involvement initiative that reflects our commitment to Diversity, Inclusion,Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility.

It is the foundation of a Disability Community Involvement initiative launched in association with leading
advocacy groups for the disabled.

Click on this icon to visit www.essentialaccessibility.com where assistive technology is available free of
charge.

eSSENTIAL Accessibility features an array of keyboard and mouse replacement solutions to enhance user
experience and to help make the web accessible to all. These “alternative input methods” include a
webcam-based hands-free movement tracking system that allows users to overcome any physical limitation.
It also includes a web page reader.

eSSENTIAL Accessibility can be used on a standard PC by anyone with dexterity limitations that arise
from a variety of conditions including:

• Stroke/paralysis
• Arthritis
• Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
• Parkinson’s disease
• Cerebral Palsy (CP)
• Age-related factors

Moreover, it also helps those who have difficulty reading because of:

• Literacy deficiencies
• Limited English proficiency
• Dyslexia or similar learning issues
• Mild visual impairment

The Ontario Disability Employment Network is proud to be a founding member of this Disability Community Involvement initiative to create shared value.

Found an accessibility issue on odenetwork.com? Let us know by clicking here.

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