Wage Subsidies

December 17, 2012 
Righting the Wrong – the Stigma of Wage Subsidies 

The 13th BLN Breakfast Series Event sponsored by Scotiabank

Scotiabank was the proud sponsor of the Ontario JOIN’s Business Leadership Breakfast meeting that was held at the Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre. The topic of the event was “Righting the Wrong – the Stigma of Wage Subsidies”.

The event was well attended by more than 80 registrants, comprising of Job Developers, Service Providers and Employers (included some small and medium sized organizations). It was evident that this audience was thirsty for information on the new developments on wage subsidies as well as have their questions and concerns answered.

According to the participants, the day was well organized and the topic was exactly what they needed to understand. So without further ado, the Executive Director, Dauna Jones-Simmonds outlined the event’s agenda, which included the two Guest Speakers, Davin Kamino & Ralph Altobello. David and Ralph are Service Managers from Citizen Services and Program Deliver Branch from Service Canada. The third Guest Speaker was Sandra Prowse, Employment Service Manager - Assessment & Planning from March of Dimes Canada. This would be followed by a word of thanks from the Chair of the Board for Ontario JOIN – Deepak Soni. Deepak also introduced the Closing Remarks Speaker – The Honourable John Milloy, Minister of Community and Social Services and Government House Leader.

Highlights of Keynote Speakers’ presentation:

  • Davin provided an overview of the Opportunities Fund Program for people with disabilities, which is the federal level of funding, the objective of which is to work in partnership with other regions across Canada within the Federal Government, including other federal branches, provincial governments, municipalities and even cities in some areas that represent people with disabilities, including employers from both the private and public sector. The idea is to develop innovative approaches to integrate people with disabilities into the labour force. The intent of the program is to assist persons with disabilities who have had little or no labour attachment.
  • The other program that Davin referenced was the Employment Insurance Program, which is run through the Province. With this program, Service Canada directs folks that have been attached to the Labour Market.
  • In summary, Davin explained that if a person has had employment in the past and has been referred to the province for an intervention of the activity, work experience or wage subsidy, and for whatever reason, the province cannot support that individual, for example, because of geographical location (sometimes the service may only be available at the federal level), this would be an extraordinary service and the federal government could actually provide those supports, although the individual would be eligible for support at a provincial level. The bottom line is that the Federal Government is tries to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks because of there they live.
  • Davin deferred to Sandra Prowse who explained how these services are delivered. March of Dimes is a major Service Provider for these opportunities funds including case assessment, client assessment and case assessment. Supports are delivered through Community Coordinators, such as March of Dimes. Funding Agreements are entered into with organizations such as March of Dimes. This allows these organizations to provide activities and develop their own administrative procedures
  • March of Dimes does all of the client assessment for the federal level. This means that that if an employer wishes to hire an individual, the first step would be to approach March of Dimes for the Assessment component. With the processes in place, March of Dimes can quickly link back that candidate to the employer – thus making for a much more efficient process.
  • One question from the audience was whether wage subsidy is limited to certain levels – our guest speakers quickly dispelled the myth and explained that it was available to varying levels. Additionally, he explained, wage subsidies are also provided at market value. Some clients have been paid $32/hr for a web designer position, for example, and the employer may top up salary. He was grateful for the question for as he said, they welcome forums like these to have these discussions as they are not always aware of the myths and concerns. They also value the opportunities to enhance their policies and procedures.
  • Ralph, Davin’s counterpart, also explained that in order to provide funding and/or support, no medical certificates are required for the program. The requirements are that the client:

(a) self-identifies as having a permanent physical or mental disability that prevent them from performing their daily functions
(b) be unemployed or underemployed
(c) be eligible to work in Canada
(d) not eligible for EI Benefits

  • The Opportunities Fund, to which Ralph referred, also allows Service Canada to purchase assistive devices. For example, computers for someone who needs a specialized computer for their disabilities, or perhaps an IPAD may be a requirement for the client. This may be the only time a medical certificate is required so that it can be determined the kind of support or device the person needs. The process can take anywhere from 10-14 business days. The goal is to expedite the process so that it does not interfere with a potential hire. The adaptive device stays with the client no matter where he is employed. Ralph noted that modifying an employer’s physical structure does not fall within their portfolio…. For example, installing an accessible elevator or changing the ramping style or renovating the parking for wheelchair accessibility. There may be provincial funding for these structural changes.
  • Ralph noted that there is an agreement with the provinces that Service Canada will provide employment services for persons with disabilities.
  • One stigma that Ralph clarified was that the federal government discourages revolving door employment since the goal is to help the individual get sustainable employment.
  • Another concern that came to the attention of Service Canada was that some employers felt that an individual may not be able to contribute much but they would like to ‘try that individual out’ with no salary or income. One change that was made to the policy was to put parameters around hours of work in order to protect the client – hence the move towards paid work experience.
  • Service Canada also provides funding for Employer Awareness, such as the BLN’s and complemented JOIN for its outstanding work in educating employers on an ongoing basis.
  • Sandra Prowse then outlined the process to get support and indicated that March of Dimes has expanded nationally. She then outlined the steps to support the clients:
  1. Client contacts March of Dimes Canada toll free number (contact March of Dimes for this information)
  2. Client self-discloses that there is a disability
  3. March of Dimes sends the client a Participant Information Form or Release of Information Form
  4. Client completes the form and returns it to March of Dimes
  5. March of Dimes checks for program eligibility
  6. If eligible, March of Dimes assigns the client to a location, a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist in the closest office available
  7. Assessment is conducted
  8. Both the client and Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist discuss goals, transferrable skills and what the client wants to do
  9. March of Dimes works with the client through the case management model to provide assistance in finding employment
  10. Employment contracts are negotiated upfront in order to expedite the process
  11. It must be noted that because of the large database, Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists can quickly find job opportunities
  12. One year follow-up is conducted - Retention success rate – 71%

Deepak Soni – A Word from the Chair of the Board Deepak thanked the guest speakers and noted that the presentation was very interesting because it clarified the difference between Opportunities Fund and the Employment Insurance Program covered by the Wage Subsidy Program.

He shared some research with the group that he conducted, in a reference document called “Achieving Social and Economic Inclusion from Segregation to Employment First”, written in 2011. It indicates that where effective measures to involve labour market inclusion exists, employment rates are as high as 87% for persons with disabilities. He emphasized that this shows that persons with disabilities want to work when given the opportunity. He encouraged the audience to tell others about the incentives that exist that would help persons with disabilities find sustainable employment. He also indicated that as part of the participation and activity limitation survey that he read, it indicated that 18% of persons with disabilities believe that they were refused a job interview because of their disability compared to 5% of individuals who do not have a disability. On the other hand, 25.5% of persons with disabilities felt that they were given a job because of their disabilities compared to 7% who did not.

Deepak then welcomed and introduced The Honorable Minister Milloy to the podium.

Minister Milloy’s Closing Remarks
Minister Milloy thanked JOIN for including him in the day’s event and recognized JOIN for its outstanding work. He also thanked the partners and audience for their engagement and being part of this very important movement of greater inclusion.

Minister Milloy talked about his important journey being the Minister of Community and Social Services over the last year. One important thing that he discovered was the theme of finding and supporting people with disabilities and employers in coming together as a major part of the government’s agenda. He has noticed the great progress that has been made, yet there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. However, he stated that he realizes that we do not have to start from zero given the good work that is on the way and has been done. He highlighted a story of an individual who is blind and made it through law school – to do so, he felt one had to be a good lawyer. The cost to provide technical support was $500.

The Minister also talked about the Social Assistance project overseen by the Head of Statistics Canada and former Cabinet Minister. They have concluded that the system is broken – “our loads are growing at an unsustainable level, particularly in the area of ODSP”. Their conclusion is that we have to rethink the whole way that we deliver and the whole design of our program of social assistance in the province of Ontario in a way that is going to welcome more people, both on Ontario Works, but particularly on ODSP into the workforce. “We want to build upon our success and create a system which is more streamlined and successful and has buy in from the employer community.

He also stated that “the report came out with good advice in terms of supports for persons with disabilities, but it did not contain the level of detail we need”. Their next step is go through the report in bite sized chunks and come up with conclusions and different ways of moving forward. The first area that will be tackled is employment supports. So the ministry will be reaching out to organizations such as JOIN, employers in the room, employers throughout the province and make sure they are engaged and get their best ideas on how the systems can be transformed, strengthens and make a difference to those who face employment barriers. Meetings will begin in January 2013.

Dauna thanked the Minister for his participation and commitment to the work that we are currently doing and have to do as well as for moving the Social Assistance Agenda forward.