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Doug Ford Wants to Track the Performance of Social Assistance Programs. He’s Not Tracking Poverty.

ODSP employment services will have work hours quotas – or risk funding cuts

Documents show Doug Ford’s government told agencies looking to take over social assistance employment programs that future funding will depend on “key performance indicators” – though none of those KPIs relate to employment or poverty.

As PressProgress reported previously, Ford’s government has spent nearly two years working to privatize Employment Service programs for Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients. These employment services assist the job seeking activities that are mandatory for most low-income Ontario Works recipients and strongly advised for ODSP recipients.

The Ford government’s Tender Notice looked to find new “Service System Managers” to take over the program – supposedly to “better support employers” and “decrease dependence on income assistance.”

A notice from the City of Toronto’s employment and social service manager further corroborates that in the “three Employment Service System Manager prototype sites provincial program delivery funding is being reduced initially by 20%.” This 20% of budget is now held for “performance-based funding” paid to providers to incentivize clients’ achievements and retention of their work.

According to one document, which is indexed on a ministry database and reviewed by PressProgress, the procedure is to “build on” the funding scheme laid out in CFP Tender #11855. That document suggests the share of funding dependent on the listed indicators might be expanded to 25%.

It states:

“In the fourth year of the transfer payment agreement for all Catchment Areas, the proportion of Performance-based Funding, relative to Operational Funding and Funding for EmploymentRelated Financial Supports will be increased from twenty per cent (20%) to a minimum of twenty-five per cent (25%) of the overall available funding envelope.”

According to an April 2022 document, while SSMs (and thereby agencies) are to expect status quo funding for this year, going forward they are expected to develop “transition phase outcomes” to receive their full funding. According to the attached key performance indicators, the funding criteria requires that all recipients – including OW/ODSP recipients – work at least 20 hours per week for agencies to receive their full block of funding.

None of the metrics specify what kind of work they are moved into, their incomes, training opportunities or other workplace details.

There has also been no accounting for the multiple interventions often needed to move OW/ODSP recipients and other job seekers facing barriers to employment.

One employment service manager, who asked to remain anonymous, told PressProgress the outcomes are likely to be adverse.

“The last few years have been incredibly difficult for people – not to mention employment scarring and the cyclical impact of mental health on unemployment,” the manager told PressProgress. “To make an individual retention-focused means taking into account all of the wraparound needs that a person has,” from transportation, to food security and the like.

However, that does not come with more funding to the system, instead PBF may even imperil funding.

They added that the Performance-based Funding (PbF) for the program – about 20% of budgets – does not account for the impacts of pandemic on the people who comprise our labour market

“To get to a retention point, there are a lot of services people will need, especially post pandemic,” the manager said. “There’s an impending recession and there are folks who are unemployed who have only gotten further away from employment and folks who have not been able to recover from layoffs or life changes and they will be further left behind. It will mean more people will have to rely on this system of employment support.”

Putting funding at risk with such an outlook, they said, “is not a recipe for economic success.”

Trevor Manson, secretary co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition says this measure is unlikely to help those who depend on the system.

“None of this addresses the fact that ODSP rates have remained frozen for four years while costs for everything continue to skyrocket,” Manson told PressProgress. “Obviously the vast majority of ODSP clients are unable to work or adhere to a rigid schedule that comes with employment. Schedules are predictable. Disability is often anything but predictable.”

“How job ready can one be trying to survive on $733/month? Clients are often precariously housed, malnourished, sleep deprived, unable to afford a cell phone and/or internet,” Manson said.

According to the provincial government’s budget estimates, it plans to see overall OW Financial Assistance from $2,672,835,300 last year to $2,664,927,600 this year. It will also see OW Employment Assistance rise by less than inflation from $167,921,800 last year to $173,957,000.

ODSP Financial Assistance will fall from $5,502,521,700 in 2021 to $5,492,975,900 and employment assistance will fall from $42,077,300 to $28,424,000.

Neither the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services nor the Ministry of Labour responded to requests for comment from PressProgress.

 

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Mitchell Thompson
Ontario Reporter
Mitchell Thompson is PressProgress’ Ontario reporter. His reporting has a special focus on workers and communities, and public services and privatization, and public accountability.

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