employment barriers

Government of Ontario Recognizes Disability Employment Awareness Month


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

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

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

MINISTER TRACY MACCHARLES STATEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

It will expand business.

It will grow the economy.

It will diversify workplaces.

And it will strengthen communities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND I am honoured to serve in this role.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We want all Ontarians to embrace accessibility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Speaker, accessibility will build Ontario up.

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

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

Elle aidera les gens de toutes capacités au quotidien.

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

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

Thank You.

-end-

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

Posted on:

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


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

(Click here to download a PDF version)

Good morning.

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

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

Providing Effective Services and Supports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Employer Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Employment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, contact:

Joe Dale, Executive Director

Ontario Disability Employment Network

Jdale.odenetwork@gmail.com

905-706-4348

Sources:

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

 

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

Posted on:

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


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

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

 

Posted on:

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’.

Posted on:

Posted on:

Invitation to Participate in Consultations for People with Disabilities in Ontario via Cathexis Consulting


Want to share your thoughts and ideas about your quality of life of people with disabilities in Ontario?
 
 There are two ways you can share your experiences: an online survey or joining an in-person meeting in Toronto (June 8th, 2012), Ottawa (June 14th, 2012), London (June 13th, 2012), Thunder Bay (June 11th, 2012), or Huntsville (June 6th, 2012).
 
Cathexis Consulting  are also hosting in-person sessions for family and caregivers of people with disabilities to share their ideas.
 
The purpose of the project is to find out from people with disabilities in Ontario what is important to them about their quality of life. What makes your day easier and better? Is it important to have:

  • Good public transportation?
  • Readable web pages?
  • Friendly and respectful customer service?
  • Stable jobs?
  • Accessible parks?

 
The project – conducted by Cathexis Consulting – will use your input to find the best way for determining the impact of Ontario’s accessibility standards in the future.
 
Cathexis Consulting  would like to hear about what is most important to you and what makes your life better. Your participation will ensure that the Ontario Government knows what is most meaningful to people with disabilities when they review the standards in the years to come.
 
For more information, or to participate, please contact Mathew Gagné at Mathew@cathexisconsulting.ca or by phone at 1-877-469-9954 ext. 231. For those requiring TTY, dial 711 or #711 from a mobile phone.
 
Find us on Facebook by searching: Public Discussion on Quality of Life for People with Disabilities
 
 
There are many ways to participate:
¦                 A face-to-face consultation: please visit http://app.fluidsurveys.com/surveys/cathexis/language-link-for-ado-rsvp/ to RSVP
¦                 On-line survey: go to http://app.fluidsurveys.com/s/quality-of-life-survey/
¦                 Blog: go to our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Public-Discussion-on-Quality-of-Life-for-People-with-Disabilities/352411588147730
¦                 Email questionnaire: contact Mathew at Mathew@cathexisconsulting.ca to request one.
¦                 Mail-in questionnaire: contact Mathew at Mathew@cathexisconsulting.ca to request one.
 
The Dates for the In-Person Meetings are as follows.
 
Toronto: June 8th, 2012 at the Delta Chelsea Hotel
¦                 9:00 – 11:00 Older adults with disabilities (age 60 and up)
¦                 1:00 – 3:00    Adults with disabilities (age 18-59)
¦                 4:00 – 6:00    Caregivers/family of people with disabilities
 
Ottawa: June 14th, 2012 at the Travelodge Hotel Ottawa and Conference Centre
¦                 9:00 – 11:00    Francophone consultation with adults with disabilities
¦                 1:00 – 3:00      English consultation with adults with disabilities
¦                 4:00 – 6:00      Caregivers/families people with disabilities (English)
 
London: June 13th, 2012 at the London Convention Centre
¦                 9:00 – 11:00     Older adults with disabilities (age 60 and up)
¦                 1:00 – 3:00       Adults with disabilities (age 18-59)
¦                 4:00 – 6:00       Caregivers/families of people with disabilities
 
Thunder Bay: June 11th, 2012 at the Valhalla Inn
¦                 10:00 –  12:00   Adults with disabilities
¦                 2:00 – 4:00       Caregivers/families of people with disabilities
 
Huntsville: June 6th, 2012, at the Deerhurst Inn
¦                 10:00 –  12:00   Adults with disabilities
¦                 2:00 – 4:00       Caregivers/families of people with disabilities 

 

Posted on:

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

Posted on:

Mark Wafer Responds to “Finding jobs for disabled Canadians”


Read the article by Alison Griffiths here

Hello Alison.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Wafer

Posted on:

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

Posted on:

Strategies Used by Employment Service Providers in the Job Development Process


Strategies Used by Employment Service Providers in the Job Development Process: Are they consistent with what employers want?

 

Dr. Luecking, President of TransCen Inc., was one of the keynote speakers at the Ontario Disability Employment Network’s Conference in Alliston this past November.  Dr. Luecking collaborated on this recently released technical report which focuses upon strategies used by job developers and how they resonate with employers.  Although this study was undertaken in the U.S,. it may contain lessons for providers of employment services here in Ontario as well.

We asked The Network’s Employer Champion Leauge member, Mark Wafer, who owns a number of Tim Horton’s stores in the Toronto area for his opinion of the study and this is what he had to say:

“This is a very well written article, in fact it mirrors very closely to what I say all the time about nurturing relationships with employers, using strategies that work for the business and following up constantly to ensure success.  Any time I speak with service providers this is the message I present.

This article would be a good handout to a lot of the service providers i have met recently who still use the same old charity approach.”

Mark Wafer

http://www.dol.gov/odep/ietoolkit/publications/500.pdf

Posted on:

Posted on:

Scholarship supports promising research careers of graduate students with disabilities via Toronto Rehabilitation Institute


November 28, 2011 – Making public parks more accessible and understanding how the human body compensates after the loss of an eye are what Jason Angel and Stefania Moro hope to accomplish with their research. The two graduate students are the latest recipients of a unique scholarship aimed at helping burgeoning scientists living with a disability to pursue and advance a career in rehabilitation research.

Called the TD Grant in Medical Excellence: A Scholarship in Rehabilitation Related Research for People with Disabilities, the award provides funding for students with disabilities pursuing a career in rehabilitation research. The scholarship is administered by Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) and is open to students from several universities in Ontario: McMaster, Ryerson, University of Toronto, Waterloo, York and Wilfrid Laurier.

Among the first of its kind in Canada, the scholarship will provide $20,000 each to Jason and Stefania, who now join a growing list of 12 graduate students who have received one-time and renewed awards since the scholarship’s inception. Since 2006, TD Bank Financial Group has pledged $550,000 to support the program, which was created by Toronto Rehab and its foundation to engage people with disabilities in a meaningful way in rehabilitation research.

“This scholarship enhances the relevance and quality of rehabilitation research and breaks down the barriers that students with disabilities often face when pursuing higher education,” says Dr. Geoff Fernie, Institute Director of Research, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network, who developed the idea for the scholarship. “This is important because out of the four million people living with a disability in Canada, only about eight per cent complete a bachelor’s degree, and even fewer complete a graduate degree.”

Having grown up in the rural woods of Maine, Jason has always had a love of the outdoors and travel. This passion continued after a car crash in 1990 which left him with a spinal cord injury.

“My spirit of adventure didn’t end when I started using a wheelchair,” says Jason. “I realized how environmental barriers can prevent people with disabilities from participating in travel, employment, and everyday life. With the right knowledge and a bit of effort, many of these barriers can be eliminated or minimized.”

Jason’s determination led him to the field of research. In 2001, Jason enrolled at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts to study what he loves – travel and tourism. After graduating, Jason along with his wife, Patty, moved to Canada in 2010 to complete a master’s degree at the University of Waterloo in the Environmental Studies Tourism Policy and Planning program.

Recognizing the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities and its enormous potential economic impact on the tourism industry, he is currently auditing accessibility at five parks in southern Ontario and plans to make recommendations to improve accessibility particularly for people with limited mobility or who use wheelchairs.

For Stefania, the scholarship will advance the graduate student’s already groundbreaking work. She is the first researcher to study auditory and visual processing in a rare group of patients – those who have had one eye surgically removed at a young age due to cancer.

She believes that people with a sensory deficit can be trained to adapt, which in turn will result in rich perceptual experiences and less stress on their remaining senses. Her research explores crossmodal plasticity – or how people with one eye adapt – and whether other senses are enhanced and thus compensate for the loss.

“There is evidence of cortical plasticity. People with one eye have enhanced senses as a form of compensation,” says Stefania, who suffered a traumatic injury to her left eye as a child. “This gives researchers and medical practitioners useful information to teach people how to improve their lives. My life experiences and my knowledge of the importance of maintaining my seeing eye and complementary senses have driven me to advocate for vision research and the resulting clinical applications which will improve patients’ lives.”

Stefania’s research has previously been supported by the Canadian National Institute of the Blind’s (CNIB) Baker award which was presented to her supervisor, Dr. Jennifer Steeves of York University’s Perceptual Neuroscience Laboratory. In 2005, the CNIB also awarded Stefania the Walter and Wayne Gretzky Scholarship to support her undergraduate studies.

Stefania plans to explore her findings further through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging at York University and intends to pursue a doctoral program in Vision Science research. The scholarship will help her advance this area of research.

For Jason, through the scholarship and his ongoing support from family, friends and his wife, “I have every opportunity to achieve my goal of changing the world.”

Posted on:

World Report on Disability (World Health Organization)


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

Click here to view a PDF of the document

Posted on: