Home » employment » Employment is not the answer to the ODSP problem. Neither is a basic income.

Employment is not the answer to the ODSP problem. Neither is a basic income.

I have a lot to say on the Ford government, and have had all kinds of time to say it so no need to start now, but one thing they have in common with the government they replaced is a focus on finding employment for people who can’t, or shouldn’t, be employed. It was a bad idea in 2012, and is a terrible idea in the middle of a pandemic in 2022. But removing the pandemic from the equation, the government’s implementation absolutely bites.

We are concerned that the public is not sufficiently aware of what has been happening with regard to the Ontario government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy launched over a year ago. An American “consortium”, FedCap, has been hired to replace the services previously offered by Employment Ontario in 12 regions of Ontario. This change began as a pilot in Peel, Hamilton — Niagara and Muskoka-Kawarthas in October 2020 and was expanded to nine more regions in June 2021. Part of this organization’s mandate is to help people receiving benefits from the Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works find employment. The problem is – this organization does not have a good track record, and advocates for people with disabilities are sounding the alarm.

The focus of the Poverty Reduction Strategy is to increase the number of people moving from social assistance to employment. On the surface this may seem like a positive goal – but we are talking about many people who have been medically declared unable to work because of a disability. FedCap may be able to find a short-term job for some people with disabilities, but when the measure of success is simply the number of people placed in jobs, the incentive for this organization is to ignore the reality that many of these job placements are for very short-term work that will leave the recipient returning to social assistance again and again. And it is likely that people will be pressured to accept employment for which they are very unsuited.

Not very encouraging. I mean, the Wynne Liberals and Horwath NDP were trying to screw over the disabled, sure, but they kept it in-house at least. Not Ford. On top of that, this government’s kind of gone back to its old habits again–assuming, perhaps naïvely, that they temporarily gave them up at some point.

It also appears that the government has determined that this model works before it has even been tested. The pilot, run in the three districts of Peel, Hamilton-Niagara and Muskoka Kawarthas was not completed or evaluated before the same model was rolled out in nine additional regions.

This model is similar to a failed program tried over two decades in Australia called Jobactive. A 2019 report to the Australian Senate entitled “Jobactive: Failing Those it is Intended to Serve”, made 41 recommendations including several that recipients of the services should be included and consulted in the planning process. Stakeholder consultation has not occurred in Ontario. Those who will rely on this program have not had an opportunity to comment or critique the changes to these services.Historically, we know that privatization in Ontario has not gone well. Think of the privatization of highway maintenance services, highway 407 itself and long-term care facilities. These things have not saved money in the long run and have resulted in inferior service delivery.

So in 2018, they didn’t wait for a basic income pilot to complete before they killed it. And in 2022, they’re not waiting for an employment services pilot to complete before they decide this is what we’re running with. In both cases, they decided they had all the data they needed–and in both cases, that’s code for they weren’t planning to do anything differently to begin with.

Now, here’s the thing. I’m not saying “basic income bad”. Not at all. In fact, financially, I get it. But 1: That’s not the solution to the problem being described here, and 2: the authors spend absolutely 0 seconds telling me why they think it is. In fact, the article’s headline talks about a basic income, but most of the article is about ODSP. And I agree with most of the article. But:

Social services should be provided by the government with the goal of providing services to those in need while maintaining dignity. The title “Poverty Reduction Strategy” sounds good. However, there is a much better doable, affordable solution to virtually eliminate poverty and to facilitate people being able to live in dignity in Ontario and Canada. It is a Basic Income Guarantee. Many studies have demonstrated that when people receive a Basic Income Guarantee they do not stop working or looking for work. In fact, in many cases, recipients use the benefit to upgrade their skills or education so that they can find better employment and improve their quality of life.

Okay, but why? We were talking about people who’s disabilities prevent them from working. A basic income is not going to suddenly make their disabilities stop preventing them from working. It’s going to give a lot more people a disincentive to work. I know if I still kept my old job–the job I had when I wrote the post I linked to above, depending on how much the basic income was I’d have happily given my notice in 2020. I mean, give me the same money I’m making while employed but don’t require I be employed? Easy. And if there’s not a pandemic at play, that’s vacation time for me. Win win–in that I win twice.

I agree with raising the ODSP rates. $1169 if your single may have been fine in 1999. It’s not 1999 anymore. But leave the increases for people on ODSP.

ODSP is for people who *can’t* work. Ontario Works is for people who *can*, but *aren’t*. They should be treated accordingly. This article makes the mistake way too many people, including people in government, make–lumping the Ontario disability Support Program (it’s for people with disabilities) in with the Ontario works program (basically welfare). Not helpful at all is people with disabilities are encouraged to apply for Ontario Works as a stepping stone to get on ODSP, thus further conflating the two. As a person with a disability, I’d rather have flipped burgers than spent any time on ODSP whatsoever. As a person with my particular disability, they won’t allow me to flip burgers for insurance reasons (theirs, not mine). So ODSP it was. If you have the option of flipping burgers and choose instead to stay home, that’s not a problem the government should solve. If you’d love to have the option of flipping burgers but your mental or physical disability prevents you, that’s a problem the government should solve.

I agree with the problem as stated. I agree the government’s failing when it comes to solving that problem. I don’t agree with the proposed solution to that problem–and the article’s authors haven’t done anything here to change my mind. Like I’ve said before, I’m not opposed to the idea in theory. The financial argument against it is dead, at this point. But just because we can afford it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. So tell me why it is. This… doesn’t. That’s an advocacy problem, not a me problem.

Coleen Cooper and Carol Stalker really want me to agree with them. Without a damn good reason, they’re not going to get what they want. I’m listening, ladies.

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