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NEWFOUNDLAND and LABRADOR
Phase 1 Provincial Summary
Newfoundland's welfare-to-work program is called the Supports to Employment Program (STEP) and is administered by the Department of Human Resources and Employment. Its primary mandate is to develop people as a source of prosperity; its primary services are income support, employment support and labour-market programming. STEP began in 199697, but it is a fourth generation of previous programming that dates back to 1972. Fiscal year 199798 was a transition year during which services continued to be delivered through existing systems. The new program was in place as of April 1, 1998.
STEP is designed to assist recipients to make the transition from dependency to self-sufficiency. STEP provides programming to assist individuals with career planning, assessment and counselling, academic upgrading, skills training and work experience placements, all of which prepare them to compete in the labour market. For the most part, activities under STEP are delivered through third parties on behalf of the province.
All employable social assistance recipients are eligible for STEP. No employability criteria have been developed, and no tool is used to define employability. Participation is encouraged, but not obligatory. Recipients who are referred to a program can choose not to pursue it, without sanction. Any person who applies for or receives social assistance has the right to have any decision of the financial assistance officer, social worker or program supervisor reviewed or appealed. Any decision of any worker with respect to the granting, refusal, suspension, discontinuation, reduction, resumption or amount of social assistance can be appealed, as can any matter related to participation in STEP.
Programming was designed to allow regions to match services and employment opportunities to local situations. The framework is flexible enough to support the direction taken by each of the regional economic development boards. Although the full range of employment services offered by the department is not readily available on a province-wide basis particularly for people outside St. John's partnership arrangements and co-location of services with Human Resource Development Canada are improving accessibility. The program attempts to ensure that participants not displace workers already holding jobs in the local economy, but a minimal amount of displacement does occur. The department will not continue to contract with an employer who knowingly displaces workers.
For the most part, services are delivered in accordance with individual need and are not based on membership in a particular group. Nonetheless, STEP does take the specific needs of single parents, youth and aboriginal Canadians into account. No consideration was given to promoting well-paid jobs for women in particular; however, the program has worked with groups such as Women Interested in Employment (WISE) to encourage women to complete high school.
The STEP budget for 199798 was approximately $7.3 million; however, through the various partnership arrangements, income support recipients have access to programs funded by other government departments. During 199697, 4,330 individuals received services under STEP, involving a direct expenditure of $6,045,200.
Orientation and follow-up of program participants are improving with the advent of various partnership arrangements and co-location of services with HRDC. In the greater St. John's area, where 40% of all employable recipients live, weekly orientation sessions about available services are offered by a special unit to interested individuals. Recipients are streamed to the appropriate service after these sessions. Outside the St. John's area, both orientation and follow-up are sparse. The focus is on the granting of assistance and related eligibility requirements.
Generally, there has been little evaluation of social assistance programming. STEP is not being evaluated, nor is there any budget for evaluation. It is expected that more emphasis will be placed on evaluation as current programs are redesigned. Some of the program pieces have been monitored informally.
A monitoring system is being developed to track program participants. Their continued performance in the program is evaluated by attendance checks. Also, progress reports are received from the third parties providing the service.
In light of the complexity of issues, the growth in information technology and the need for a new income support program, it is estimated that it will be April 1, 2001, before programs are fully functional. For 199899, STEP has been amalgamated with other labour market programs. Nonetheless, STEP delivery will continue to target social assistance recipients, and other labour market programs will offer opportunities for social assistance recipients but serve the general population. As program development occurs, there will be opportunities for pilot projects leading to a full implementation of programs by 20012.
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