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Phase 2 Provincial Update
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Supports for Independence (SFI) is one of an array of programs and services offered by Alberta Human Resources and Employment. (AHRE). SFI is designed to provide Albertans who are able to work with the short-term support they need until they become independent of government assistance. The focus is on the promotion of self-sufficiency and family responsibility rather than benefit administration. SFI began in 1990.In May 1999 the two departments of Advanced Education and Career Development (AECD) and Family and Social Services (FSS) amalgamated to become Alberta Human Resources and Employment. (AHRE)
Alberta Human Resources and Employment and community partners have developed local strategies to maximize work opportunities for recipients. These strategies include a broad range of services such as career and education counseling, job information, employment referrals, employment planning, assessment, counseling and orientation workshops on local resources. AHRE is also responsible for financial supports including education upgrading (in partnership with Alberta Learning), employment-related expenses, child-care supports, moving for confirmed employment, exemptions on earned or self-employed income, the Employment Skills Program, Alberta Community Employment and Alberta Job Corps.
Pre-employment training programs are offered by Alberta Human Resources and Employment. AHRE through Skill Development and Employment Programs works with individuals, non-profit agencies, private employers and other government departments to increase the skill level of Albertans. Services appropriate for but not limited to welfare recipients include workshops (career planning, job searching, resume writing, etc.), a career information hotline and labour market information centres. AHRE is also responsible for education and training, including basic foundation skills, academic upgrading, integrated training, and skills for work and ESL programs.
Generally, recipients who are able to work are expected to move toward that goal. They are to work, prepare for work or train according to the employment plan they have developed. The governments role is to provide the support and the active measures recipients need to be successful. Recipients who refuse to look for or prepare for employment may lose their welfare benefits. Recipients are informed of their right to appeal; an appeals process has been established. Recipients not expected to work include those who are caring for a dependent child under six months of age or for a disabled family member, those who have been assessed as having unusual difficulty coping with the competing demands of family and work and those who have recently left an abusive situation and have been assessed as requiring a period of adjustment. Single recipients who are 50 or older with no dependents and who are assessed as unable or unlikely to obtain continuous employment for more than 20 hours a week are assigned to transitional support.
Participants are categorized in terms of their relationship to the labour market. SFI has four basic categories: supplement to earnings (employed recipients who are unable to meet their basic needs), employment and training support (unemployed recipients who must look for work or engage in training), transitional support (recipients who are temporarily unable to work) and assured support (recipients who are not able to work continuously in the normal labour force). SFI is delivered by a team of intake workers, financial benefits workers and career and employment consultants.
The program is highly flexible in terms of local needs, design and implementation. Sub-programs must be designed to ensure that participants not displace workers already holding paid jobs in the local economy. Youth are targeted by some programs through Youth Connections initiatives.
AHRE fund public and private agencies offering employment preparation. The FSS welfare budget for 1996-97 was $487,175,000. The FSS employment and training budget was $48,798,000. The AECD budget for 1996-97 was $115,041,000. Since the amalgamation of AECD and FSS under Alberta Human Resources and Employment( AHRE May 1999) the employment and training support to adult learners has gradually increased to $ 289,125,000 for 2000/2001.The welfare caseload in March 1996 was (48,773), March 1997, (42,747), March 1998 ,(36,210) March 1999, (32,538) March 2000 ,(31,112) April 2001, (26,823)
One-on-one orientation is provided to participants, and follow-up is consistent with the needs and circumstances of the individual. Evaluations are ongoing and are used to make resource allocation decisions, improve programs and services and improve accountability.
The province has completed work toward a new model of adult skills development to include more integrated training, which it began piloting in 1998-99. In addition, AHRE have recently signed a Skilled Development Program Memorandum of Understanding with a number of public and private providers, that will result in an expansion of the range of programs and services in response to the changing needs of recipients.
Supports for Independence (SFI)
AHRE offer an array of programs and services including income support, career information and counseling, work experience and pre-employment training programs.
SFI is designed to provide Albertans who are able to work with the short-term support they need until they become independent of government assistance. The focus is on the promotion of self-sufficiency and family responsibility rather than benefit administration. Thus, it marks a change from a passive welfare system to an active employment initiative.
Albertas welfare program is delivered by a team of intake workers, financial benefits workers and career and employment consultants.
SFI has the following goals:
- to assist recipients to achieve independence and self-sufficiency to the greatest extent possible
- to refer potential participants to alternative resources to meet their basic needs
- to determine eligibility and provide the appropriate level of financial and other benefits to meet needs
The guiding principles of SFI are as follows:
- SFI is a program of last resort that meets the basic needs of eligible applicants and recipients. It includes assisting recipients to gain access to family support as an alternative to SFI.
- SFI is a temporary resource, acting as a bridge to assist recipients to maximum independence.
- People are better off working than not working.
- Where recipients are not able to become fully independent, SFI provides assured financial support based on need and eligibility
In 1990, in response to a steadily rising welfare caseload, the Alberta government announced major changes to its social allowance program. The new program, SFI, was designed to provide Albertans with the short-term support they needed until they could become self-sufficient.
Benefits were streamlined and the criteria for categorizing recipients were changed based on a recipients relationship to the labour market. For example, is the recipient working? Temporarily unable to work? Disabled to the point where he or she cannot work? Four new sub-programs were established, and staff positions were created to assist in the assessing recipients and helping them gain access to training and employment opportunities. However, the caseload continued to rise to an alarming rate, and it was determined that more radical changes were needed.
In 1992, the Minister of Alberta Family and Social Services set out to reform the entire welfare system based on a three-part philosophy:
- People want to work.
- Any job is a good job.
- People on welfare should not be better off than other Albertans.
The welfare reform initiative was announced in April 1993. The basic strategies were
- to create new, more effective employment and training opportunities for recipients
- to transfer welfare-supported students to the Students Finance support would now come in the form of grants for academic upgrading, English as a second language and basic education
- to restructure welfare benefits and reduce costs
Welfare eligibility conditions were changed to reinforce the principle that welfare was now a program of last resort and not a choice of lifestyle. These changes included a requirement that parents with children older than six months must actively seek work or enter training to prepare for independence. (Previously, parents of children over two years were expected to work; before that, FSS expected parents to return to work when the child was six or of school age.) Rules for common-law spouses and sponsored immigrants were also tightened.
Within a few months, the department, in collaboration with AECD, had a number of work experience and training programs in full operation. Alberta Community Employment, Employment Skills Program and Alberta Job Corps give welfare recipients the opportunity to learn skills and gain valuable work experience while getting paid. For training, education and pre-employment programs, recipients were referred to AECD. Close collaboration between FSS and AECD, and by extension with Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), was a key element of SFI at the time and continues today with AHRE.
In 1994, an agreement was signed by FSS, AECD and HRDC to pilot the integration of labour market and income support programs and services in four sites in Alberta. The objective was to increase recipients accessibility by providing a single-window access point to programs and services. In 1996, the new Minister of FSS pledged to continue the reform of Albertas social allowance program and to maintain the departments focus on employment and job training for recipients able to work.
To further develop labor market initiatives for SFI and EI recipients the Canada-Alberta Labour Market Development agreement was signed December 6, 1996. This agreement between AECD and HRDC enabled Alberta to assume an expanded role in the design and delivery of labour market development programs and services for the unemployed in the province, effective April 1, 1997. Under the agreement, AECD delivers, through a network of Canada-Alberta Service Centres, active employment measures that will help unemployed Albertans get back to work. These measures are funded through Employment Insurance. During the first three years of the agreement (1997-2000), the government of Canada will contribute up to $317 million from the EI account to the Alberta government. The agreement has been extended to 2003.
AHRE is responsible for ensuring that Albertans have access to needs assessment, employment counseling and job-finding services. With flexibility to meet Albertas labour market needs, AHRE designs and delivers provincial programs and services similar to the active employment benefits described in Part II of the Employment Insurance Act. These include work experience, assisted job placement, funding for training and assistance toward self-employment. HRDC continues to be responsible for providing EI benefits and labour market services that are national in scope such as national labour market information. It also continues to play a key role in inter-provincial mobility.
The main activity is to assist recipients in maximizing their efforts to gain employment and financial independence.
The following activities are part of Albertas approach:
- adult basic education/literacy training
- second language training
- life skills training
- parenting classes
- counseling on
- job stress
- family stress
- family violence. Referral is made to a community agency.
- substance abuse. Referral is made to a community agency.
- the stress of balancing employment and family conflict
- The employment assessment, done before a referral to any employment program, should begin to address this issue. Life management is part of many programs that include balancing family responsibilities and getting structure or routine into the lives of participants, as appropriate. If a participant is not ready for work immediately, an employment preparation program is considered.
- the stress of balancing school and family conflicts. Counseling is available through the educational institution in which the participant is enrolled.
- high-school completion
- post-secondary education
- college/ university
- job-readiness training
- job-search training
- career planning
- job referrals
- job placement
- workplace-based training (on-the-job training)
- paid work experience
- self-employment. Through a network of contracted community providers assistance is provided in developing a feasible business plan.
- volunteer activities. Voluntarism is encouraged if the individual is unable to participate in the competitive labour market. Although not formally part of the Alberta employment programs, a volunteer activity might be part of an employment plan developed by the participant and the employment and client support worker.
- Generally, recipients who are able to work are expected to move toward that goal. They are to work, prepare for work or train according to the employment plan they have developed. The governments role is to provide the support and the active measures recipients need to be successful.
AHRE staff, through Career and Employment Services, works with individuals, private employers and other government departments to increase the skill level of Albertans. Services appropriate for but not limited to welfare recipients include
- workshops. Group sessions assist adult Albertans wanting to develop their employment skills. Individual career counseling may be offered.
- career information hotline. A toll-free telephone service provides information and referrals related to career planning, educational opportunities and job search strategies.
- labour market information centres. Information is available on career planning, occupational options, educational opportunities, employment and job-search strategies, apprenticeship and trades, entrepreneurship and business development, and human resource planning.
AHRE and community partners have developed local strategies to maximize work opportunities for recipients. These strategies include a broad range of services such as:
- job information. Job boards and automated job information centres provide up-to-date information on local job opportunities.
- employment referrals. Recipients are referred to job vacancies identified through local partnerships.
- employment planning. Assessment, counseling and planning services are provided by AHRE and community partners
- orientation workshops. Group sessions provide recipients with information on local resources and assistance with employment planning.
Integrated Training Centres for Youth (ITCY), a Canada/Alberta Strategic Initiative (now Youth Connections YC) was a pilot project designed to test the value of customized counseling, training and work-site interventions for young individuals at risk of long-term dependence on public support. ITCYs in Lethbridge, Red Deer and Edmonton target youth aged 16 to 20 who have dropped out of school and are at risk of long-term dependence on social allowance. Since the initial pilot project the program was redesigned to target youth 16 to 24 that are unemployed, under-employed or working but looking to further their learning and develop employability skills. The program was renamed Youth Connections. (YC)
Youth Connections is a program that responds to the needs of Alberts young people by linking them to career and employment opportunities and further training options. This is achieved by establishing partnerships with businesses who are willing to provide opportunities to youth . Industry is taking a more active role in the development of its workforce by providing Job Shadow, Work Experience, Training-on-the Job opportunities as well as Mentorship programs and direct hiring.
Staff at the Youth Connections sites in Alberta arrange these career exploration activities as well as provide instruction on resume writing, job search, interview techniques, further education and training options and more. There are print resources available for self-directed activity as well as fax machines, photocopiers, internet access and phone lines for use by these young job seekers.
Initial funding was $3.74 million over three years (1995-98) shared 50-50 between the federal and provincial governments.. The mean age of participants is 18. Most are single males; about 12% are a visible minority and 13% are aboriginal.Youth Connections began with two pilot sites in 1997 and has grown dramatically due to its success. There are now 35 Youth Connections sites in Alberta serving thousands of youth each year.
Canada-Alberta Service Centres (CASC) were established to offer Albertans convenient access to an integrated array programs and services. CASCs provide federal and Alberta government services and financial support to help people acquire employment skills and enter or re-enter the labour market.
Alberta Service Centres (ASC) are being integrated to consolidate the services and programs for income support, career and labour market information, education and employment programs, student funding information and services to people with disabilities.
Training and Educational Activities
Recipients work with career and employment counselors to develop an employment assessment and employability plan. The plan, which directs the activities of both the recipient and the counselor, includes the short-term and long-term goals of the recipient, specific activities with timeframes, expectations of the recipient, responsibilities specific to the recipients category (i.e., relationship to the labour market) and a description of how the recipient will report on her or his progress.
Under current agreements and partnerships, there is a shared responsibility to determine the eligibility of SFI recipient to receive Students Finance Grant funding. Authorized career and employment counselors with AHRE and community providers and financial benefits workers may be the initial contact for recipients who want to return to school to prepare them for employment. Workers explore alternate resources with recipients who are interested in training and those requesting full-time attendance in basic foundation skills must have the training approved by the counselor
- Training and educational opportunities include the following:
- Eligible students accepted and enrolled in basic foundation skills, academic upgrading or
- English as a Second Language (ESL) programs receive grant funding under the Skills
- Development Program administered by Alberta Learning and Alberta Human Resources and Employment
Students are expected to assume greater responsibility for the costs of education as employability and income earning potential increases. Loans, which may be supplemented by grants, are available from Students Finance for post-secondary study such as skill training programs, training at technical institutes, and college and university programs. For people who would like to improve their skills but are working or unable to study full-time, a part-time bursary or loan program is available. Maintenance grants up to $6,000 per academic year is available for disadvantaged individuals, primarily single parents. The Skills Development Program, through grants, assists recipients to reach a basic level of education (grade 12) or equivalent
Throughout the province, AHRE contract with public and private agencies offering employment preparation services for welfare recipients. The services provided are determined locally after examining the needs of recipients and the resources available in the community. AHRE manages the services, which include the following:
Skills for Work (SW) is a client centered, labour market driven program that focuses on the practical work related skills Albertans need for employment. Training is individualized and comprehensive. It enables Albertans to combine and integrate life management skills, occupational training, and basic skills upgrading with the work experience needed for jobs in demand in the labour market. In doing so, the program supports community economic development initiatives by providing Albertans with the training necessary to access employment, and by cost sharing with prospective employers who provide work experience participants gain valuable contacts in the employer market place prior to seeking full-time work.
Job Placement Program In addition to matching job seekers with vacancies, private and public agencies provide all Albertans in need of employment related services to increase their resume-writing, interviewing and job-searching skills.
Training-on-the-Job Program Participating employers are assisted in developing training plans and covering the costs of providing recipients with job-specific skill training at the work-site. Training focuses on transferable skills, hands-on work experience and opportunities for continued employment in jobs for which there is a labour-market demand. Participants are paid wages by their employers. In turn, employers are reimbursed at a flat weekly rate by the department
Integrated Training Under the new agreements with community providers, public and private, a greater component of occupational and employability skills are incorporated into the instruction along with education upgrading, life skills and work experience needed to move into a job.
Work experience AHRE temporary employment programs provide work experience opportunities to recipients who are able to work but have been unsuccessful in their job search. The positions are up to six months in duration, and participants are paid wages plus benefits. Participants develop work-related skills and obtain a recent work record. Eligible employees must be at least 18 years of age and have the minimum educational requirement necessary for recruitment into an occupation related to the work experience. AHRE currently manages and delivers three temporary employment programs
Employment Skills Program. (ESP) Employers are provincial government departments. Employees are paid $6 to 7 per hour plus benefits and can have individualized training of up to $1,000.
Alberta Community Employment (ACE). Municipalities, publicly funded organizations and non-profit agencies sponsor positions in the community. ACE contributes $6to7 per hour for each ACE employee. Employees receive a minimum of $5.90 per hour plus benefits. Employers are encouraged to top-up wages. The employer may apply for $1,000 to defray training costs if the ACE employee was retained for six months beyond the completion of the ACE project.
Alberta Job Corps (AJC). Skill development through work experience is the essence of AJC. It offers participants up to 26 weeks of employment services geared specifically toward labour-market trends, the needs of local business and recipient skill levels. In addition to paid work experience, services may include employment counseling, the chance to experience different types of jobs, life management skills development, basic skill development in a variety of areas (e.g., home and auto repair and maintenance, personal finances, cooking, clerical skills), the opportunity for certification (e.g., CPR, first aid), employment skills development, job-search techniques, job placement assistance and follow-up support. Partners include local businesses and community groups. The program includes measures to build strong links with local employers to help participants gain employment experience and find jobs.
Program Design and Implementation
Responsibility for Design and Implementation
AHRE Labour Market and Income Support Programs and Services Branch, Program Design, design policy, develop guidelines and monitor the array of programs and services used to support recipient independence.
AHRE Regional Service Delivery, in partnership with local providers, are responsible for provision of information on career planning, job search, resume writing, labour market information centers, employment referrals, employment planning, assessment, counseling and orientation workshops. AHRE is also responsible for financial supports including employment-related expenses, child-care supports, moving for confirmed employment, exemptions on earned or self-employed income, the Employment Skills Program, Alberta Community Employment and Alberta Job Corps.
AHRE provide a unique centralized call centre, the career information hotline, to respond to province wide inquiries for career, learning and employment information. Responses are provided through the provincial internet website, Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS), for national and international inquiries or referred to the Government of Canada or other Canadian websites.
Local Flexibility in Program Design and Implementation
Provincial officials see the model as being very flexible. There is local discretion in who will be contracted to deliver training or job placement services. There is flexibility in developing employment plans to meet the individual needs of participants in SFI.
AHRE base programs and services on factors such as recipient needs, available community resources and employers, program and service gaps, and economic conditions and labour market demand. Mangers are given flexibility to develop options in design and administration of programs and services that work in their communities.
Duration of the Program
SFI began in 1990, other welfare reforms began in 1992 and the implementation of Labour Market Development Programs in 1997.
For many of the interventions, there is a maximum time a participant can remain in any one component. For example, a participant can remain in the Employment Skills Program, Alberta Community Employment or Alberta Job Corps for six months. Generally, participants are expected to have one placement and then move to employment. The expectation is that participants will move forward to the best of their ability. The emphasis is on engaging recipients, motivating them and using whatever works to move them toward independence.
Funding and Program Costs
Type and Amount of Financial Assistance for Participants
The following are provided under SFI:
- Compensation for employment-related expenses. An allowance of up to $300 per year is available for employment-related expenses, including expenses for work clothing, work tools, grooming, meals and transportation (such as bus pass, mileage, vehicle repairs, maintenance and insurance). The recipient must be actively seeking employment according to his or her employment plan or starting confirmed employment or starting or participating in an employment preparation program.
- Exemption of a portion of employment earnings from benefit reduction. A combined net employment income of the recipient and all adults in the family unit of $115 per month is exempt, plus 25% of any amount over $115. Self-employed recipients are able to offset some of their income with business-related expenses.
- Compensation for child-care expenses
- Transportation subsidies (as above)
- Housing subsidies. The Social Allowance Regulation allows for a shelter allowance. Applicants or recipients and their families are eligible for the actual cost of shelter to the maximum specified in the Regulations. There is also some public housing available for low-income families.
- Moving expenses. An allowance to assist with a move within Alberta may be provided for an applicant or recipient and members of the family if the move is essential to take up full-time or part-time confirmed employment. Recipients must use the most economical and reasonable means of moving.
- Supplemental health care. Basic necessities covered include essential surgical, medical, optical, dental and other remedial treatment, care and attention. The Social Allowance Regulation defines health benefits as prescribed drugs, funeral services and optical, dental, ambulance and other medical benefits approved by the Director and provided to recipients and their families pursuant to medical services cards issued by the department.
- Dental care (as above)
Deadlines and Subsidies
Recipients who refuse to look for or prepare for employment may lose their welfare benefits. Recipients are informed of their right to appeal. The expectation is that participants will move forward to the best of their capability. Barriers are dealt with through a referral or other appropriate intervention. Written notice is not required for recipients to be denied a benefit or terminated from the program; however, workers or offices may choose to give notice. A recipient may have additional sources of income and still remain in the program.
Financial Incentives for Employers
In the Employment Skills Program, AHRE pays up to $1,000 for additional training costs based on the employees assessed need. In Alberta Community Employment, the employer may apply for $1,000 to defray training costs if the ACE employee is retained for six months beyond the completion of the project. In the temporary employment programs, the department or the employer employing the trainee pays at least minimum wage per hour for each employee, plus the employers contribution to employment insurance, the Canada Pension Plan and statutory holiday and vacation pay.
Because welfare reform was initiated before the implementation of the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), the CHST was not a factor in promoting change in Alberta. It is seen only as a source of revenue. Provincial officials look for solutions that will work for Alberta and then determine funding sources.
The FSS welfare budget for 1996-97 was $487,175,000. The FSS employment and training budget was $48,798,000.
The AECD budget allocations for 1996-97 were as follows:
Employment Alternatives Program $10,291,000 Skills Improvement Program (SIP) $1,150,000 Integrated Training $1,800,000 Job Placement $1,400,000 Training on the Job $1,000,000 Skills Development Program (see note) $99,400,000
Alberta is spending less on these programs because of the significant reduction in the number of people in SFI . The AHRE budget in fiscal year 2000/2001 for support to adult learners was:
- Employment Initiatives and Employment Preparation, $44,745,000
- Skill Development Program, which includes basic education, academic upgrading, integrated training and short-term skill training, $ 105,625,000
- Labour Market Development Agreement, which includes Job Placement, Training on the Job Skills for work, Self Employment elements, $ 103,446,000
Subsidized Child Care
The day-care subsidy helps lower-income parents with the payment of their child care fees when their child attends a day-care centre or a family day home. The following factors are considered in determining whether a family qualifies for the subsidy:
- reason for child care (parent is working, seeking work or a student, or the child or parent has special needs)
- child-care attendance of at least 50 hours per month
- net family income
About 45% of children attending family day homes and day-care centres are subsidized.
For SFI participants with preschoolers, childcare is covered. The day-care subsidy pays the major part, and the portion that would otherwise be paid by the parent is covered by SFI. If licensed day care is not available, AHRE pays babysitting costs. This coverage would be indicated in the employment plan. There is a surplus of child-care spaces in Alberta.
Single parents of a five-month-old baby are notified that they need to think about preparing for work. When the child is six months old, a worker meets with the mother to do an employability assessment and begin to formulate an employment plan. The first step might be an orientation session to look at the different options leading to greater self-sufficiency. It is possible for a parent to lose welfare benefits because she or he refuses to try to move toward the work force. The Employment Skills Program and return to education are popular choices for single mothers.
The Parentage and Maintenance Act allows agreements to be entered into or an application to be made for an order declaring a person to be a parent and ordering maintenance of the child. AHRE has a Maintenance Program to assist families in receipt of social allowance to establish the paternity of children born out of wedlock and to obtain appropriate child maintenance orders and agreements for unmarried, separated or divorced Albertans. The welfare recipients right to maintenance is assumed by the government during the time that person receives welfare benefits.
One of the governments performance measures is the proportion of single-parent welfare cases with child maintenance orders or agreements, defined as the percentage of single-parent recipients for whom maintenance is received from the non-custodial parent. This figure measures the recipients access to alternative sources of financial support and the commitment of non-custodial parents to pay support for their children.
SFI is a program of last resort that actively promotes self-reliance through employment and family responsibility. For people not expected to work, financial benefits are provided to cover basic necessities. For people expected to work, temporary assistance is provided, with the emphasis being on independence through employment or training.
During the intake interview, the expectation of the recipient moving toward self-sufficiency is made clear. An employment history is taken and a preliminary employment plan is developed.
Participants are categorized in terms of their relationship to the labour market. SFI has four basic categories:
- Supplement to earnings. Recipients in this category are working full-time or part-time but are unable to meet their basic needs. Recipients are expected to look for ways to increase their earnings by increasing their hours of work, seeking higher pay or obtaining different work. They are expected to keep their current job while trying to achieve these ends.
- Employment and training support. Recipients are unemployed and are expected to look for employment or engage in training activities. People who refuse to participate in these activities may be disqualified from further benefits.
- Transitional support. Recipients in this stage are temporarily unable to work because of circumstances such as illness or health issues. They are not expected to seek employment while in this category but will be placed in another category when their circumstances change.
- Assured support. These recipients have been assessed as not being able to work continuously in the normal labour force. Most of these cases have mitigating factors. While any one factor may not in itself create a barrier to employment, a combination of these factors may form the basis for assured support:
- medical impairment
- lack of formal education
- social skills
- work history
- history of unsuccessful interventions
- other social factors such as family situation , extensive criminal record, drug /alcohol dependency
AHRE also provides Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) to persons with disabilities to assist them to successfully complete AHRE programs and services, to attend post-secondary institutions and to successfully enter and maintain employment. DRES supports can include the following: Assisted technology, Education supports, Job Search supports, Workplace supports, and specialized payments.
Alberta has a separate program for adults with severe and permanent handicaps: Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH). Since 1993, the AISH caseload has risen from 15,000 to 20,000.In Dec -1998 the caseload had risen to 23,592 and Dec-1999 was 25,071.
Recipients not expected to work include those who are caring for a dependent child under six months of age or for a disabled family member, those who have been assessed as having unusual difficulty coping with the competing demands of family and work and those who have recently left an abusive situation and have been assessed as requiring a period of adjustment. Single recipients who are 50 or older with no dependents and who are assessed as unable or unlikely to obtain continuous employment for more than 20 hours a week are assigned to transitional support.
The Alberta welfare caseload in March 1996 was 48,773. Of these, 37,613 were expected to work. In Dec 1998 the SFI caseload was 32,599. Of these 23,935 were expected to work. In
Nov 1999 the SFI caseload was 29,512. Of these 21,019 were expected to work. In Nov 2000 the SFI caseload was 27,153. Of these 18,348 were expected to work.
(96) (98) (99) (00) Supplement to earnings 10,337 6990 6021 5001 Employment and training 19,779 10746 8912 7321 Transitional support 7,497 6199 6086 6026
The remainder was in the assured support category. (11,160-(96), 8624-(98), 8493-(99) 8,805-(00)
The welfare caseload reached an all-time high of 98,642 in December 1992. From March 1993 to the end of August 1996, the caseload declined 51.9%, from 94,087 to 45,242. The caseload for recipients expected to work decreased 57.2% (48,535 cases) in that same period. From August 1996 to Nov 2000, the caseload declined 39.98% from 45,242 to 27,153. The caseload for recipients expected to work decreased 51.2% to 18,348 in the same period.
The estimated number of SFI participants in program components for 1996-97 was:
1996/7 Employment Alternatives Program 10,000 Skills Improvement Program 450 Integrated Training 746 Job Placement 3,200 Alberta Community Employment 2,500 Employment Skills Program 500 Alberta Job Corps 1,200 Training on the Job 450 Student Assistance 11,000
The estimated number of participants in revised program components for the past three years:
YTD YTD YTD 1998/99 1999/00 2000/01 Job Placement 10591 7007
Skills for Work 3977 5825 5283 Training on the Job 1452 1926 1610 Skills Development 10981 19,413 18,003 Alberta Community Employment na 395
Employment Skills Program na 80
Alberta Job Corps na 383 379
Note: Numbers reflect Active Participants starting, or continuing in programs for the periods shown above. YTD Current year and last year refers to the period of April to March in each respective year.
The following types of information are gathered about participants:
- education and training history
- employment history
- medical-social history, as appropriate
- child-care needs and use, as appropriate
- length of time in receipt of social assistance
The program has been able to serve all of those who have chosen to participate or who are required to participate. There were waiting lists initially, but programs are currently under-subscribed because of the large reduction in the caseload.
Nature of Participation
Participation is expected for those categorized as able to work except for mothers of children under six months or a disabled child requiring full time care. For those expected to work, temporary assistance is provided with the primary emphasis being on independence through employment or training. Recipients not expected to work are described under the last section Program Participants. SFI is based on the premise that recipients want to work and become independent. If a recipient demonstrates little or no effort to become independent, the worker reviews the impact this lack of effort has on a participants eligibility. Benefits are denied when expectations about becoming independent have not been met.
Orientation and Follow-up
The success of employment programs is the responsibility of all AHRE staff. Each team member has a role in
- informing recipients of their responsibility to participate in the employment programs process to gain independence
- assisting and providing the necessary support to recipients to reach independence
- consulting with other team members to keep one another informed about recipients progress and to review resource information
An employability assessment is done for all participants to develop a profile of the person and to determine the persons readiness to get and keep employment. The assessment identifies the areas that must be addressed to enhance the persons potential to become self-sufficient. It looks at individual circumstances, strengths, obstacles, interests, abilities and potential. The four main assessment factors are vocation, health, life management and accessibility, each with sub-factors that are rated as strengths, obstacles or not applicable. Once all the factors have been rated the significant strengths and the significant obstacles are summarized.
With input from the recipient, the career and employment counselor then determines if further employment programs are required. If so, an employment plan is developed to establish the recipients commitment to employment or training, to focus the recipients and departments attention on increasing recipient independence and to inform the recipient of the consequences of not following through on the plan. The recipient participates in the plan by identifying specific activities he or she will take to become independent and the timeframes to achieve each step.
All recipients placed in employment, employment preparation programs or training are followed up to ensure that there is stability in the placement. The frequency and nature of the follow-up are consistent with the needs and circumstances of the recipient. Recipients complete a monthly reporting card on which they can indicate their needs or concerns to their support worker. They can also telephone the worker at any time; the expectation is that calls will be returned within 24 hours.
An appeal process has been established for all social assistance applicants and recipients under SFI.
At intake, the intake worker informs applicants about their right to appeal, the appeal process and the time limit for the appeal. Although appeal panels do not have the authority to contravene the Act or Regulations, recipients cannot be refused the right to have all decisions heard by a citizens appeal panel if they choose.
The steps in the appeal process are as follows:
- An appeal form is completed.
- The supervisor reviews the decision.
- If there is no resolution from step 2, the appeal may go to a citizens appeal committee, whose members are appointed by the Minister.
The committee decision is binding. It can be changed only by court order or if there is new information.
The Employment Base
Program Design Considerations
Programs and services are available province-wide. The following provincial economic conditions were taken into account in designing the approaches:
- predominant economic activities
- current shifts in economic activities
- employment trends. Assessments were conducted to ensure that future local employment requirements were part of the program design and implementation. If the future employment requirements are linked to high educational qualifications, the expectation is that the person will get the higher education through the Students Finance, not through SFI.
- unemployment rates. If there are no jobs in one area, geographic mobility is encouraged and supported, particularly for single employables.
- social assistance rates
Programs were designed to ensure that the local job openings and skills requirements matched the skills that participants had or would develop during the program. Recipient characteristics were also taken into account when designing programs, which are currently under review. (May 2001)
Employment Equity, Targeting and Displacement
The program design does not discriminate by gender, although it may take into account the fact that women and men tend to predominate in different jobs in the local economy.
If single parents pursue post-secondary education, they are eligible for maintenance grants of up to $6,000 per academic year in addition to Canadian and provincial student loans.
Programs were designed to ensure that participants not displace workers already holding paid jobs in the local economy. Positions must not eliminate, amend or otherwise affect the security or hours of work of any person employed in an existing position by a sponsoring department (Employment Skills Program), the employer (Alberta Community Employment) or the community (Alberta Job Corps).
Integration of Community Resources
A variety of community resources are available to meet the special needs of some groups of participants. Resources include associations for the mentally challenged, residential services, Catholic Social Services, womens shelters and group homes. The worker refers the applicant or recipient to the appropriate resource to help that person become more employable.
The 1994 agreement signed by FSS, AECD and HRDC was designed to pilot the integration of labour market and income-support programs and services in Alberta. The objective was to increase recipient accessibility by providing a single-window access point to programs and services. It was an expansion of the co-location concept pioneered by the Athabasca District Office in the late 1980s. The result has been the successful implementation of Canada-Alberta Service Centres (CASCs) in those sites. The CASCs bring together under one roof a range of training, employment and income-related services of the federal and provincial governments. Further integration of income support and career and employment programs will occur with the amalgamation of the two departments, Family and Social Services and Advanced Education and Career Development into Alberta Human Resources and Employment (AHRE)(May 1999).
In general, the career and employment counselor coordinates activities through the development and monitoring of the employment plans.
Demographics such as the age, sex, family composition and family size of recipients were taken into account when designing programs.
Albertas employment programs and services were designed to take a holistic approach to the welfare-to-work transition by providing a comprehensive range of services that can be tapped to meet the needs of almost any recipient. The employment plan enables a tailor-made application of the model to the participant. The client support worker who develops the employment plan with the participant and who has knowledge of a large menu of services is key in ensuring that the program is flexible enough to meet the needs of people of different backgrounds.
AHRE monitors, tracks and reports on participation in individual programs. Success rates are measured by the percentage of individuals exiting the welfare system, the percentage of individuals getting a top-up or supplement, recipients average earnings and other means.
AHRE does formative and summary evaluations of each of the major strategies and programs, prepares an annual evaluation plan and allocates resources toward ongoing, cumulative evaluation. Recipient progress is reported 3, 6 and 12 months after completing a program.
AHRE contract services to do a pre-survey and post-survey to find out what happens to recipients who leave SFI.
Cost-benefit research is part of program evaluation. AHRE evaluations examine costs and benefits from a government perspective, the costs of the AHRE-managed programs and the savings as a result of the programs and from the participants perspective employment earnings gains. From a government perspective, cost-benefit analyses have shown positive results.
Both monetary and non-monetary costs and benefits are measured. Monetary costs and benefits include savings, program costs or payments, social assistance payments and personal taxes. Non-monetary costs and benefits include satisfaction, childcare, self-esteem and skill development.
For 1995-96, 70% of recipients no longer depended on welfare one year after participating in an FSS or AECD employment or training initiative. An additional 10% were employed and receiving an earnings supplement averaging $568 per month.
Data are being collected to track the following outcomes:
- the number of participants who leave social assistance
- the number of participants who get jobs
- the proportion of participants who leave social assistance
- the proportion of participants who get jobs
- the extent to which program participants retain the jobs they get
- the time required finding a job
- the extent to which participants who leave social assistance for employment return to welfare
- the nature of jobs obtained by program participants, i.e., full-time, part-time, short- term
- the level of jobs obtained by program participants
- entry level jobs
- pay levels
- the types of occupations obtained by program participants
- employment earnings
- family income if on SFI
AHRE tracks how long a file stays closed (up to 12 months) after a recipient participates in an employment program and up to 12 months after they successfully complete a program. SFI participants who receive supplements to earnings continue to be tracked.
A participants continued interest in the program is evaluated through her or his attitude. If the participants attitude appears to be very negative (e.g., if there is violence or a drug or alcohol problem), a referral may be made (e.g., to an anger management workshop or a drug and alcohol program) to reduce the barriers to independence. A decision can be made to remove the participant from the program on the basis of the attitude evaluation.
A participants continued performance in the program is also evaluated; again, a decision can be made to remove the participant from the program based on performance. The provincial worker or the contracted agency documents the persons performance (and, possibly, attitude) in monthly reports.
Data is not collected to track changes in job readiness, as there are measurement difficulties in tracking these types of changes, nor is information collected on other aspects of family well being.
Regularly, through surveys, the participants level of satisfaction with AHRE programs is assessed. Eighty per cent of participants state that they are satisfied with the programs.
Program evaluation tracks which types of programs are most suitable to specific groups of participants; e.g., single parents do well in Employment Skills Program and in ongoing education.
Use of Findings
AHRE evaluations are used to
- assist in making resource allocation decisions
- assist in finding ways to improve the performance of programs and services
- provide better accountability for the results of programs and services
Evaluation results are fed into the program design division of AHRE and are sometimes used to discontinue, expand or initiate a program. Operational difficulties are addressed by a management response.
Previous recommendations made resulted in the following evaluations to date:
- Changes to contract management resulted in providers more accountable for results
- Contract management became more accountable for results.
- Better assessment of recipients before referral
- Recipient monitoring improved, through the promotion of better case management techniques.
- Success measures revisited and standards made more realistic.
- Recipient follow-up improved and as per contract obligations expressed in clearly defined outcomes.
- Training to include more occupation specific skills through the delivery of integrated applied learning
Process evaluations have highlighted recurring issues such as
- inappropriate referrals defining assessments and case management
- the importance of contractor accountability
- contractors compensation
- the need for clearer understanding of program goals and objectives
- systems of reporting, monitoring and follow up
The huge reductions in caseload indicate that the more employable recipients have left the system. The remaining recipients are more challenging. The province may need to devise different strategies or change the emphasis of existing strategies to address higher barriered recipients and increase skill levels to meet labour force demands.
Labour Market Development Agreement (LMDA)
Under the current agreement the majority of AHREs initiatives are directed at individuals who are unemployed or under-employed. Many of these individuals are socially, economically and/or educationally disadvantaged. Specific and specialized programming is provided for both youth and persons with disabilities. While labour market programs and services and a good economy has provided many short term employment opportunities; increasing demands for skilled workers requires a review of existing programs and services to respond to the demand for higher skilled workers. Some of the challenges to consider in meeting labour force demands, is the investment in longer-term skill development using Labour Market Development Agreement funding, review program guidelines to make appropriate modifications and explore opportunities to increase partnerships with the private sector.
Changing skill requirements is a labour market challenge to which AHRE needs to respond. Both the range of labour force development responses and range of clients served by AHRE could be expanded to provide a broader array of programs and services that better meet the labour force development needs of both individuals and employers. The challenges facing AHRE are to:
- respond to the skill requirements of a changing economy
- provide the range of labour market programs and services responses that are required by individuals and employers
- ensure that individuals and employers who will benefit from this range of programs and services can access them
- to have the capacity to respond to income support issues when lack of income support acts as a deterrent to an individuals program participation.
TITLE: Director, Labour Market Programs and Services
Alberta Human Resources and Employment
14th Floor, Seventh Street Plaza
10030 107 Street
E-MAIL: TELEPHONE: (780) 422-4741 FAX: (780) 422-6768 NAME:
TITLE: Director, Income Support to Individuals ADDRESS: Alberta Human Resources and Employment
14th Floor, Seventh Street Plaza
10030 107 Street
E-MAIL: Yolanda.firstname.lastname@example.org TELEPHONE: (780) 422-0276 FAX:
(780) 422- 0032