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Phase 1 Provincial Summary
Ontario Works is a program of the Ministry of Community and Social Services. "The shortest route to paid employment" is the driving principle of all program activities; all activities included in business plans must be aimed toward this objective. The program began in June 1996.
Employment support services assist participants in becoming job-ready; they are designed to support the shortest route to paid employment through structured job-search activities, basic education and skill upgrading and the acquisition of additional experience and job-specific skills. Employment placement and support to self-employment services are intended for participants who are ready to find and maintain employment or who are interested in self-employment. Community participation services are designed to enable social assistance recipients to contribute to their community, build networks, gain experience and gain employment-related skills.
No education or training program has been developed specifically for Ontario Works. Service delivery agents (municipalities) refer participants to basic education opportunities where appropriate and to available job-specific skills training to assist them in becoming job-ready. Referral to training normally follows four months of initial active job search.
All employable people applying for or receiving social assistance are required to participate in Ontario Works and are expected to go through the different programs and services within set timeframes. A person found to be in noncompliance with the requirements of the Ontario Works program may have their application for financial assistance refused or may have their assistance cancelled or reduced. Voluntary participants are not subject to benefit cancellation or reduction. All applicants and recipients have the right to appeal any decision to refuse, cancel or reduce assistance.
People with disabilities, people aged 65 and over and sole-support parents are not required to participate. Sole-support parents with older children will be required to participate at a later date; currently, they have requirements for job searching and acceptance if they do not have child-care requirements. Temporary deferral from active participation may be allowed because of temporary illness, absence of child care, court appearance or incarceration or failure of transportation with no alternative arrangements.
Ontario Works has been designed to be delivered locally to allow for creativity and flexibility at the local level; nonetheless, the province is prescriptive in its funding and program standards. While specific groups have not been targeted by the program, business plans should describe how recipients will be given priority for the different activities within Ontario Works. The plans are to describe the route for job-ready recipients, long-term recipients with inexperience and poor work skills and participants with other significant challenges such as substance abuse. Job placement agencies receive higher fees for placing participants with families than for placing singles. Community placements must not displace paid employment.
Ontario shares the costs of administration 50-50 and the costs of employment measures and financial assistance 80-20 with municipalities. The total amount of funds allocated for the program in 199697 was $120 million; $450 million has been allocated in total for 19972000. As of October 1996, the provincial caseload of welfare recipients was 264,000.
Municipalities are expected to provide group orientations on available supports and the local labour market. They are also expected to monitor the eligibility, participation and interest of recipients and to monitor the contract compliance of participating organizations under contract. Municipalities are required to report on part-time and full-time employment outcomes and reduced welfare spending as a result of earnings. Lessons learned will be used to modify the program over time.
A number of changes have occurred since the information outlined in this publication was collected. In June 1997, introduction of the Social Assistance Reform Act fulfilled the government's public commitments for welfare reform through two included statutes: the Ontario Works Act and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act. The Ontario Works Act, which replaced the General Welfare Assistance Act, introduced further changes to the welfare system that became effective as of January 1998 and other changes effective April 1998. The Ontario Disability Support Program Act was proclaimed, effective June 1, 1998, replacing the Family Benefits Act.
© Copyright Canadian Council on Social Development, 1999. All rights reserved.