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Phase 1 Provincial Summary
In 1989, the Province of Quebec introduced two new "last resort" income security programs one for recipients with severe employment restrictions (which offered financial support) and the APTE program (which stands for Positive Action for Work and Employment), designed to integrate or reintegrate employable persons into the workforce.
In June 1995, Minister Blackburn who is responsible for social services, undertook an extensive review of the income security system and on December 10, 1996, she tabled a green paper entitled A Path Toward Integration, Training and Employment. The recommended reforms to APTE were stimulated by the considerable increase in the number of unemployed people receiving income security benefits. This phenomenon was attributable to a number of factors, including the loss of full-time, full-year jobs in Quebec, amendments to Employment Insurance which reduced eligibility for many people, the elimination of low skill jobs and their replacement with higher skill jobs, and an increase in activity in the "underground economy."
In recent years, an ever-increasing number of young people and single-parent families have joined the ranks of social assistance recipients in Quebec. In February 1997, 543,454 adults and 250,072 children were in receipt of income security benefits.
The 1996 reforms were focused on integrating social assistance recipients into the labour force through active measures. They were intended to improve equity between social assistance recipients and low-income workers, and they redefined the obligations of the community regarding the reintegration of recipients into the workforce, ensuring that more services would be taken over locally.
Quebec's program reforms are designed to provide individuals with a plan for their gradual integration into the labour force through training and employment programs. They are targeted to all "employable" recipients, including people living with disabilities who wish to be in the workforce. Those who are considered ineligible for work, i.e., the disabled, the elderly and children, will fall under the jurisdiction of the Quebec Pension Plan. However, in June 1997, programs under the new reform had not yet been identified and APTE was still in place.
Income security recipients now have access to a range of measures, including training activities and educational and apprenticeship programs which are aimed at enhancing employability and integrating people into the workforce. Specific activities include:
- educational measures academic upgrading (RS, Rattrapage scolaire), support for single parents to enrol in post-secondary education (REPS, Retour aux études postsecondaires pour les chefs de famille monoparentale)
- preparation and job integration measures job experience (EXTRA, Expérience de travail), external labour services (SEMO, Services externes de main d'oeuvre), employability enhancement activities (RADE, Reconnaissance des activités de développement de l'employabilité), self-employment support (SEA, Soutien à l'emploi autonome), an employment integration assistance program (PAIE, Programme d'aide à l'intégration en emploi), and a young volunteers program
- federal-provincial on-site measures (direct purchasing, personalized training, work transition, employment development projects)
- measures to assist and advise job seekers (AGIR, Activité pour l'intégration par la recherche d'emploi and OPTIONS, Démarche pour évaluer les raisons de la demande d'aide financière et élabourer un plan d'action).
A strategic initiative known as APPORT (Aide aux parents pour leurs revenus de travail) which provides assistance to parents to supplement their employment income was implemented in 1995 and is intended to assist low-income parents keep their jobs and help parents receiving income security reintegrate into the job market. The supplement paid under the APPORT program varies depending upon the number of persons in the family, income, child care and housing expenses.
The Department of Employment and Solidarity was established in May 1997, replacing the Department of Income Security. It brought together under one roof the delivery of placement services, Employment Insurance, active job market measures and support for job searches. This was done to reduce the fragmentation of employment services, to streamline administration and improve cost efficiency. Unlike the practice in previous years, the new department provides local stakeholders with a lot of leeway and it supports regional efforts to find solutions to the employment crisis.
The government has a more coordinated approach among all of its departments than in the past to deliver services which will reduce long-term dependency on social assistance. Measures such as the integrated child benefit, drug insurance and child-care services increase assistance to low-income parents in the labour force, and decrease incentives to go on income security. Services for toddlers and child-care expense allowances are extremely important, especially for single parents. The new integrated child benefit enables all low-income families (whether on social assistance or not) to receive maximum assistance for their children.
The Quebec government has also taken over delivery of Employment Insurance under a five-year agreement with the federal government signed in 1997. The government says that this $3 billion dollar agreement will ensure stable and adequate financing for the implementation of active job assistance measures during this period.
The Department of Employment and Solidarity is offering financial incentives in the form of subsidies to participating employers who take on income security recipients. Participants in the APTE program (Actions positives pour le travail et l'emploi) who participate in a designated measure, even if it is not mandatory, are entitled to higher benefits. The recipient can withdraw from the program without penalty for a valid reason (such as a lack of child-care services, for example). The Act does compel the recipient to seek employment, and those refusing to do so or who turn down a job offer may face penalties. With the assistance of services offered by the local employment centre, the person must develop a personal employment plan. Once the new program is in place, persons aged 18 to 24 in receipt of income security will be required to enrol. This program will be offered on a priority basis to single parents and to other recipients on a voluntary basis. It will be phased in according to the anticipated expansion of child-care services under Quebec's family policy that was announced in 1997.
The frequency and intensity of the follow-up may vary, depending on the availability of social service officers, and the lack of availability is a constraint at the present time. With the Parcours program, a tighter support structure is planned and staff will be hired for this purpose. Eligibility criteria are also aimed at avoiding instances where those taking part in a Department of Employment and Solidarity measure will replace workers who already have employment in the local economy.
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