New Democratic Party (NDP) MPP for Windsor West Lisa Gretzky alarmed Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford’s policy of outsourcing recruitment services, which are heavily used by immigrants, to foreign companies and dissolving other subsidies. The Ontario government assures that the reforms will deliver recruitment services that exceed the current system level.
Ford’s Conservatives said last February that they would press ahead with reforms that would see WCG, a Canadian subsidiary of Australian company APM, run recruitment agencies in the Peel area. And a consortium led by the American company Fedcap will handle cases in the Hamilton-Niagara region. Both are private companies providing human services. Both started working with the regions in January 2021.
“It’s especially worrying when you look at the immigrant community,” Gretzky told NCM. “When you take the ministries out of our churches and give them to these big international corporations … there is a real concern that they will not understand our churches. They don’t understand individuals the same way the local people in our communities understand, and people are really being forced into jobs that aren’t right for them, ”she added.
Ontario Secretary of Labor Monte McNaughton said his priority was “to ensure that the people of Ontario – especially those left behind by the pandemic – find good jobs that will fuel that province’s economic recovery.”
“With only 1 percent of welfare recipients finding work each month, the Auditor General made it clear that the current system is not working. Our government is committed to spreading opportunity and these pilot programs will help the people who need them most find and maintain quality jobs, ”he said in a statement to NCM.
McNaughton refers to the Auditor General’s 2016 report, which found, among other things, that the majority of recruitment agency clients failed to find work, client overpayments were not reclaimed, and completion rates were low.
Ontario Works (OW), an Employment and Financial Support Framework, and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) have been adopted in Employment Ontario (EO) and by The Same as a measure to “streamline” and modernize social security network policy in the province Mark was referred by the Department of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) to the Department of Labor, Education and Skills Development (MLTSD). EO is managed by the foreign contractors.
As of December last year, 200,834 people were enrolled in the Ontario Works system, of whom 74,974 were immigrants, according to the MLTSD. There were 3.8 million immigrants in Ontario at the 2016 census, the last reliable figure.
“These reforms will deliver recruitment services that exceed the current system level,” Harry Godfrey, spokesman for the minister of labor, told NCM. “Unlike the current system, our transformation involves tying system management compensation to performance to ensure goals are met.”
The ministry will employ so-called Service System Managers (SSMs): planners who design and implement social services according to the needs of the local people. WSG and APM were selected for these roles.
Kalem McSween, a spokesperson for the MLTSD, added: “The new system will require managers to provide specialized support to clients with special needs for recruitment services, including people with disabilities, indigenous peoples, youth in need of higher support, newcomers and Francophones. ”
“In negotiating their agreements with the department, the systems managers set goals to serve individuals belonging to the inclusion groups designated by the department,” said McSween.
But it is not clear how exactly this was done, and Gretzky is uncomfortable with a private sector company providing the service from a government agency instead of a public sector.
“This has already been proven here in Ontario,” she added. “The previous Liberal administration had tried to do the same and found there were inappropriate placements.”
What Gretzky mentions is the liberal attempt of Dalton McGuinty’s earlier attempt to implement similar policies, also using WCG. By 2008 it was becoming increasingly clear that outsourcing to the company was a failure. An independent report examining the JobsNow program as it was known among the Liberals is no longer available. However, BC-based publication The Tyee quoted it extensively. According to reports, the private contractor was “no more effective than the regular Ontario Works programming”.
The Tyee also says the report found that there were no incremental reductions [Income Assistance] that could be attributed to JobsNow. “Ontario paid the company $ 7.6 million even though it was clear the investment was not paying off. The program had since been scrapped.
The incumbent government insists that “no changes have been made to the Ontario Works or ODSP eligibility”.
The Hamilton-Niagara Region will continue to deliver OW and ODSP through its Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities (SAEO). “Customers will continue to be screened individually by SAEO employees for participation benefits,” Lori Watson, director of SAEO told NCM. “SAEO employees conduct a comprehensive assessment with customers to determine their needs. Staff provide case management support, make recommendations, and help navigate the system to community supports. ”
In turn, the Peel Region is “conducting a detailed collaborative assessment and immediately referring to WCG for clients interested / motivated in pursuing their employment goals and continuing to support them in solving life challenges to ensure their success,” Susan Lazzer. The program director of Peels Human Service wrote in a comment for NCM.
She emphasized the region’s commitment to “accountability and service; Regularly tracking and monitoring results, key performance indicators, and customer experience at both the program and system levels. “Both Niagara and Peel emphasized that case workers are working with WCG and Fedcap to ensure recipients receive the best possible help.