ODSP Modernization

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


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

London, Ontario, June 1, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, contact:

Joe Dale

jdale.odenetwork@gmail.com

905-706-4348

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


For Immediate Release

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

 London, Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, contact:

Joe Dale

jdale.odenetwork@gmail.com

905-706-4348

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Poverty Watch Spring 2012 – via CACL


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

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Ontario Disability Employment Network – 2011, A Year in Review


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

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

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

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

Joe Dale
Executive Director

Debbi Soucie
Co-Chair

Bob Vansickle
Co- Chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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2011 Provincial Election Campaign: Election Tool Kit


View/Download the entire document in PDF format here

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

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


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

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

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


Allowed as a Charity

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

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

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

 

Strategies for Members – Campaign 2011

1. Form an Election Strategy Committee

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

(See Appendix 5 for a handy Election Campaign Checklist)

2. Prepare a Media Strategy

A/ Prepare a Media Package

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

B/ Send media package to:

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

C/ Follow-up with each outlet to:

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

 

Working with the Media

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

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

Making Your Message Newsworthy

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

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

Preparing to be Interviewed

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

(See Appendix 6 – Media Interview Request Form)

The Interview

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

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

Tips for Working with Television and Radio Reporters

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

Organizing a News Conference

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

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

Other Opportunities for Media Coverage

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


3. Recommended Approach to Candidates

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

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

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

All Candidates Meetings and Candidates at the Door

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

After the Election

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

4. Feedback

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

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

Appendix 1

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issue 3: Ontario Needs an Employment First Policy Framework

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

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

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

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

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


Appendix 2

Sample Letter to Candidates

Your letterhead or logo

Date:

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

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

Access to Services and Supports

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

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

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

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

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

An Employment First Policy Framework

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

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

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

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

Will you:

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

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

 

Sincerely,

 

(Your Name)


(Contact information)


Appendix 3

Face to Face Questions for Candidates

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

Opening Statement:

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

Access to Services and Supports

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

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

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

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

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

 

Creating an Employment First Policy Framework

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

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

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

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

Appendix 4

Fact Sheet – Disability and Employment

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

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

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

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

Appendix 5

Campaign Checklist

Task Person(s) Responsible Timeline

Preparation

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

Media Strategy

Prepare media package that includes:

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

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

Political Strategy

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

Follow Up

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

Post-Election

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

Follow Up

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

 

Appendix 6

Media Interview Request Form

Date:   ____________________

Time:  ____________________

Name of reporter: ___________________________ Contact #

Publication/Station:           __________________________________

How will this be used? ______________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________

Others being interviewed: __________________________________

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

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

The main message I want to convey:

Facts/Statistics to support my main message:

Examples (such as stories about people affected):

Other messages (if time allows):

How Did It Go/ Follow-up?

Appendix 7

Election Kit Feedback Form

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

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

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

I would add the following elements to the kit: ______________________________

I would remove the following elements from the kit: ________________________________

General comments: ___________________________________________________________

 

Please return completed form to: gparker@waypointcentre.ca

Posted on:

Posted on:

Improving Employment Outcomes


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

Posted on:

ODSP Director Moving On


News Flash – It has recently come to our attention that Norm Helfand will leaving the ODSP program branch.  He is leaving on March 4, 2011 to join the Social Assistance Review Commission as a director (the review itself will last approximately 18 months according to the Ontario government’s website).  A new director for the ODSP program branch has not yet been named.

Posted on:

Ontario Disability Employment Network: 2010 – The Year in Review


PLEASE NOTE: PDF DOWNLOAD OF THIS REPORT COMING SOON

2010 has been an exciting year for the Ontario Disability Employment Network and as we look back and take stock of our efforts, we are pleased with our accomplishments and the strides the Network has made in such a short time since its launch in 2009. We hope you are also pleased with the efforts of your Network and satisfied that your membership dues represent good value.

The following few pages represent the highlights of our activities over the past year. Considering this has all been accomplished due to the volunteer efforts of our Board, a one-day per week Executive Director and the help of our members, we hope you will agree the list is substantial.

On that note we would like to say thank you to all our sponsors and patrons who have made this possible.  To date the Network’s revenue sources have come from membership dues, revenue from events and training sessions and a few generous organizations that have made both financial and in-kind contributions to help sustain the Network and its work.

We want to ensure we remain responsive to those issues that matter most to you as you face the daily challenges of finding and maintaining jobs for people who have a disability and we encourage you to provide feedback to the Network at every opportunity. It is with your direction, support and encouragement that the Network will continue to be successful.

Joe Dale
Executive Director

Debbi Soucie
Co-Chair

Bob Vansickle
Co-Chair

Government Relations

Key to ensuring our member organizations are able to deliver quality employment services in a sustainable manner is that we continue our work with government. Over the past year the Network has met and corresponded with ODSP-ES, the MCSS Modernization Unit, Employment Ontario and Service Canada.

In the 4th quarter of the year the Board established a formal Government Relations Committee with a Board chair along with 2 task forces to address issues related to the key funding programs ODSP and Employment Ontario.

ODSP-ES

  • Meetings with Norm Helfand and Marian Shull regarding transition of ESS positions to generic Case Workers, redefining competitive employment, ODSP payments to agencies, retention payments and baseline model, and volunteering in the private sector

MCSS Modernization Initiative

  • Meeting and correspondence with Peggy Black of the Modernization Unit with respect to the roll out of the modernization initiative, regulatory requirements related to the administration of ODSP funded services and training for Case Workers.

MTCU/Employment Ontario

  • Employment Ontario Task Force putting together a provincial coalition to develop strategies to ensure that specialized services are available for people who have a disability in the new EO model.
  • Created a model for Employment Ontario that shows how specialized services can be maintained while achieving Employment Ontario’s primary goals
  • Several meetings and correspondence with MTCU staff including ADM Laurie LeBlanc

Service Canada

  • Initial meetings with Davin Kamino of Service Canada were held in December 2010 to discuss the Opportunities Fund, Case Management and Assessment services.

Provincial Ministry of Finance

  • The Network has requested standing on the panel for the pre-budget consultations to be held this March.  No response at the time of this report.

Employer Engagement and Marketing Initiatives

Engaging employers who are willing to help us achieve our goals is vital to improving the participation rates of people who have a disability in the workforce. The Ontario Disability Employment Network has made several advancements in this area.

Mayor’s Challenge

  • Thanks in large part to Sarnia Mayor, Mike Bradley, employment service providers have come to realize that their municipal governments are large, prospective employers and should be challenged to set an example by ‘Doing the Right Thing’ and including disability in their diversity hiring processes.
  • Organizations across the province have been systematically approaching their mayors seeking the same kind of leadership.
  • The Network, together with Mayor Bradley has provided support and council to both organizations and local mayors about how to put this in action.
  • A Mayor’s Challenge toolkit has been developed and is available on-line for Network members.
  • Currently 10 Mayors and their municipalities have come on board with a commitment to hire people who have a disability in their municipal workforce as a direct result of the Mayor’s Challenge.

Champion’s League

  • The first annual Champion’s League awards were launched at the Network’s first annual conference and AGM in October.
  • Three prominent Champions were recognized with awards – Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia; Joe Hoffer, Cohen Highley LLP; and, Mark Wafer, Megleen Inc. aka Tim Hortons
  • While recognition is important the real story here is in the formation of the Champion’s League itself. The awards recognize employers who: ‘lead by example’ as demonstrated through their hiring practices; have through their career and business relationships promoted the hiring of people who have a disability to others; and, (most importantly) have made a commitment to continue to help us promote the hiring of people who have a disability in the years to come.

The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

  • These employer engagement strategies have not gone unnoticed and Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor has become an advocate, supporter and promoter of both the Mayor’s Challenge and the Champion’s League.
  • Several meetings have taken place with the Lieutenant Governor to look at how we can strategically utilize these employer engagement initiatives to advance our employment agenda and continue to build the League.

Media

Some of the Network’s success can be measured by the media that is attracted to the issues and perspectives of the Network and its members. While the Network has not had a specific media strategy, there has been significant media response to our efforts and initiatives.

  • Response to the London Free press article re comment made by advice columnist that was also posted in the Toronto and Winnipeg Sun and Canoe.com.
  • A series of articles were written by the Executive Director and published. This series, Disability in the workplace has been picked up and published in a variety of Newsletters and web sites around the province
  • Radio Interview with a local Windsor radio station about the Network
  • Article in The Intelligencer
  • Article in Northumberland News
  • Articles regarding the Mayor’s Challenge in the North Bay Nugget and many other community newspapers

The Network also established a Communications Committee this past year. While much of the committee’s initial efforts has been directed at creating our web site, this committee will also tackle the broader communications issues in the future.

Membership

While we believe all of the work presented thus far benefits our members, there have been some additional initiatives that are directed specifically at members.

www.odenetwork.com

  • Built and launched a brand new, interactive web site choc full of information, resources and a way to connect with your colleagues. If you haven’t visited the website recently we encourage you to do so.
  • Special thanks to the volunteer contributions of Aerin and Jimmy Guy of Space Race who have made this possible.

Training Events and Resources

  • Over the past year we have had two key training events – Networking in the North and our first annual conference, Champions for Change.
  • Evaluations for both events were very positive and the message is we need to do more training and to locate events in various parts of the province.
  • At the time of writing, the Network is working on a grant proposal to develop some new marketing materials that will be available to members in the new-year.

New Members

  • The Ontario Disability Employment Network is a member-driven organization. It is grass routs and built on the strengths of its members. We can’t do any of this without you.
  • This year the Network has grown to 64 paid members.
  • Be sure to share this information with your colleagues and encourage others to join Ontario’s only Provincial Network that works on behalf of employment service providers with the goal of eliminating barriers to employment faced by people who have a disability.

Looking Ahead

  • Employment networking day – How do we create a provincial voice to effect change?
  • Ensuring growth and sustainability for the network through foundations and other private funding sources that share the objectives and goals of the Network
  • Continue with our Government Relations work
  • Building on our employer engagement strategies including the Champion’s League and Mayor’s Challenge
  • Provide training and networking opportunities for the sector
  • Continue to build our on-line community and networking opportunities
  • Continue to build our membership base
  • Ensure we remain responsive to the needs of the members. Let us know what we can do for you!

In Closing

These are challenging and exciting times for employment service providers. It has been a long time since we have had a consolidated and effective Provincial Network that deals specifically with the issues related to employment for people who have a disability.

The landscape of government policy and funding is changing rapidly and while we need to be prepared for these changes and ensure we are able to respond to them, we can’t lose sight of our primary objective. That is to find meaningful and sustainable employment for those we serve.

From the Board of Directors of the Ontario Disability Employment Network we wish you every success in the coming year.

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