Friday, October 26, 2012

A look at Ontario's Social Assistance Review - Final Report

On October 24th 2012 the Ontario Social Assistance Review released their final report. In total the Commission has made a total of 108 recommendations which they believe will lead to Brighter Prospects for those who currently rely on Social Assistance in the Province of Ontario. When it comes to those with disabilities who currently received income support from the Ontario Disability Supports Program many of the recommendations will end up making harder for some to escape poverty. You see many of their recommendations revolve around people with disabilities finding employment. It’s apparent that the goal of the Ontario Social Assistance Review is to get a large percentage of people off of Social Assistance. This involves implementing a mandatory employment supports program that everyone on the Ontario Disability Supports Program must participate in. The biggest problem I see with this recommendation if implemented is the major challenge of convincing some employers to start hiring people with disabilities. 
 
Take my current situation for example at this point in time I am facing many challenges in finding suitable employment. Over the last few months I have been on many interviews and even though they might go very well once I mention the fact that I have a disability they automatically make the decision to not hire me. Maybe it is my mistake to be honest about my disability but how would it fair to a potential employer if I keep it hidden from them. Most days I am at a lost about what to do - I am actually starting to think that honesty might not always the best policy. I have even met others who say they do their best to hide the fact that they have a disability. Sure it’s easier to hide for some than others but it is sad that some people with disabilities have to this just so they can get a job. This actually helps to prove that the biggest barrier some of us are facing is employers who aren’t even willing to give us an opportunity - simply because they are scared of the word disability. I really wonder how those in charge of the Social Assistance Review are going to convince employers across Ontario to change their ways and start hiring people with disabilities.
 
 The facts are one of the main reasons why so many of us rely on the income support we receive from the Ontario Disability Supports Program is due to a lack of employment opportunities for those of us living with disabilities. It so very easy for the commission to tell people with disabilities to get a job but for some that’s easier said than done. I really wonder what they expect us to do when many employers are not even willing to make the appropriate changes to accommodate for people with disabilities - what they need to do is start creating inclusive work environments. The biggest mistake they are currently making is to think that it is simply good enough to add a few extra accessible parking spaces or a few automatic doors. The truth is for some employers it will take more to accommodate for the unique needs of some of us living with disabilities. That means that if the Commission wants more businesses to hire people with disabilities that they will need to create a special Employer Education Program to help them to have a better understanding of the needs of workers with disabilities. When it comes to this subject I really believe that Mr. Kyle Vose, co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition said it best; "How realistic is it that employers are suddenly going to hire many people with disabilities and offer all the accommodations they need?"
 
When it comes to the Commission’s recommendations if they truly want people with disabilities to enter the work place some things need to change. From personal experience I know what it is like being employed with a disability. Unfortunately after a work related injury I had to learn the hard way that many Provincial and even Federal programs are currently not designed to take into consideration the unique needs of workers with disabilities. The truth is these programs need a complete overhaul if they truly want to make Ontario inclusive when it comes to the employment of people living with disabilities.   
 
If I had the chance I would really love to ask the Commission behind the Social Assistance Review a few questions:
 
With the way things are now what will happen to people with disabilities who get work related injuries, like myself will they have their injury blamed on their condition the same way the WSIB did to me?
 
If we are unable to find suitable employment will you continue to punish non-disabled spouses financially by reducing our income support and continuing to forbid them from having an RRSP?
 
Now I know many of these changes will not take place right away but I agree with the ODSP Action Coalition who says: We will be asking that all three political parties in Ontario commit to not make any cuts or eligibility changes without meaningful consultation. "Nothing About Us, Without Us."
 
To read the ODSP Action Coalition’s thoughts on the Social Assistance Review entitled: “Few Prospects for People with Disabilities in Welfare Reform Report” Please (Click Here)


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