Sunday, November 16, 2008

Part One: Goals & Objectives

As we have stated in a number of our blog entries, the impact workfare has had on employers is significant. True, the program gives managers a source of cheap labor, but also true, it puts the employer in a difficult position regarding whether the staff member actually works out. There is a great deal of complexity to this issue, because while the “cheap labor” piece is certainly a reality, so to is the fact that many employees involved in the workfare program are not conducive to the requirements of the positions assigned to them.

Looking at this subject through a systemic viewpoint, one can see what areas have a direct impact on a worker’s suitability. Take education for example, this is an element that has massive ramifications for the individual and the opportunities that are available to them. Many of those involved in workfare do not have transferable skills, as many have not completed high school or university. The assistance program does not prepare workfare recipients for meaningful employment (jobs that KEEP them employed and allow the said person to support his or her family).

Another important factor is our country's primary language. Given that we are social beings and that communication is our primary means of interaction, language is a major facet in being "successful" in society. For those whose first language is one other than English, securing meaningful employment can be a major problem. What about those who are mentally ill, or who suffer from an ailment that compromises their job possibilities in a similar manner? As it is with many who are living with mental illness, individuals often suffer from a myriad of challenges ~ all of which create barriers to employment.

Bringing all this together, an alternative to current workfare policies would be the provision of additional resources to the recipient over a specific period of time. These resources would include access to childcare, employment counseling, supportive counseling (likely through the position's employee assistance program), and most importantly, skills training. The skills training would be through a institution such as Fanshawe College (which trains men and women for employment in trade arenas such as nursing, support work, Tool & Dye, etc.).
Part Two: Recommendations (to die for!!!)

Given that independent organizations and companies provide those in the program with employment, there would have to be a dramatic restructuring of the funding that is used for the process of giving financial assistance. A previous blog entry cited the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton (RMOC) and their idea of "economic incentives." It means that the provincial government pays approximately half of the workfare recipient’s wages and the employer pays the other half. For the most part, this is already being carried out through the Ontario Works program.

In addition, however, the RMOC endorses the distribution of several "resources" to the worker, so that reclamation into independence (along a reasonable time period) is assured. Childcare and access to an employee assistance program (for coping and/or stress related issues) would be made available. Employment counseling would be an important piece as many workers do not leave the workfare program better equipped for entrance into meaningful employment than when they entered. Thus, skills-training from an institution such as Fanshawe College would be made available as well, as the kind of education received would prepare the workfare recipient for lasting and competitive employment. This seems like a worthy option, as it would allow extra funding to the employer on the condition that those employed under their helm would receive adequate resources/assistance.

The government reacts to the pressure put on by “the people” when an element in society is not working. In this case, it would be the continuation of taxpayer dollars contributing to welfare. The objective of this new policy would be to increase the sustainability and effectiveness of the time period that individuals are involved in workfare. The incentives given to employers, one would hope, would be sufficient to make providing resources to the employee a worthwhile and “painless” endeavor. In return, the worker would have adequate childcare resources, counseling through their employee assistance plan, and skills training. Thus, the idea is that there will be a greater likelihood of success, the message being: "If you do this, we'll do this for you."
Part Three: The Implementation Plan

Economists say that of all people within the province there is a population that is "employable." It basically means all people who are able to work. Of THAT population, scholars relay that there will always be a percentage that remain unemployed. The reasons for this remain unclear, but regardless, this "grouping" of employable individuals will NOT work.

It must always be kept in mind that there is a multitude of reasons why someone would remain in a position where they do not work: sickness, lack of transferable skills, language barriers, as well as lack of childcare. Under no circumstances does this argument seek to pinpoint a particular subset of people. The point of this discussion is to relay how workfare, at the core, is inherently problematic; we cannot force someone to work. However, we cannot sit idly by while a person collects financial assistance without any form of plan to get off that assistance and return to independence and ideally, empowerment (a place where the person can manage his or her own life).

It would be important to conduct research so as to produce statistics that relay information on what barriers people in Workfare are facing (not just simultaneously but also based on their involvement with the program). Hopefully there are documents which suggest the typical outcomes that recipients have met while involved in the program. This would help compose a profile of which areas seem to be the biggest challenges. I think it would be important to campaign to the public so that an understanding is developed of the barriers and challenges to successful employment.

Ultimately, however, we'd need to get our message out to the companies so that they understand the changes that might be coming. To get their sense of how this will work, and how easily, would be vital. The media would be instrumental in this process. Lastly, workfare recipients must have a worker that helps them monitor their progress in the program and assists the person through any problems that arise. This same worker could submit a questionnaire that would get the person's opinions on how these intended policy changes would affect them.
Part Four: Evaluation Time (Ulp! Scary. An A? B+? An E! LOL)

The way to evaluate these policy changes would be similar to the ways in which any program is evaluated for its effectiveness and sustainability. Consulting the monthly statistics would be extremely important as this will compose a profile which monitors the checks and balances of all workfare recipients. Then, we could take a look at how other municipalities/geographic areas are coping with the changes. Are there significant outcomes? If so, are these outcomes a result of the new policy or because of other factors? Do additional parameters need to be examined and/or implemented? After this, cross-tabulating would generate an even greater understanding of where the province is at with regard to the changes.

In addition, the recipients themselves would obviously need to be allowed a space to talk about their experiences with these changes. Obtaining this information through counseling records would be unethical and therefore impossible. However, their workers could submit a questionnaire that asks the individual to write down comments on how he or she is doing. Do you have a better sense of confidence in your ability to meet your challenges? Do you feel as though the resources given to you have helped you in meeting those challenges?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Methods of Monitoring and Evaluation: Child Care

Methods of evaluation for the social assistance child care allowance as well as the beginnings of a universal child care service will be approached through an anti-oppressive lens in which attention will be directed towards issues of culture and vulnerable populations including women and minority groups. A process and outcome evaluation will be conducted to examine the policy initiatives.

The process evaluation will assist in the continued development of the child care initiatives. This evaluation will be used to determine if the target population of low income families is being reached. It will also examine the specificities of the services being delivered in terms of the child care allowance and funded care services, and whether these services are encompassing the programs and population it was intended to.

An outcome evaluation will also be completed on an annual basis once the policy is in place. This evaluation will be used to determine the impact and effectiveness of the child care initiatives. This evaluation will determine whether the initiative is meeting the outlined objectives of moving families off of social assistance and above the poverty line as well as preventing families from entering into a position below the poverty line. It will also examine if the initiative has resulted in the objective of general empowerment for women and real choices in terms of labour market participation. This evaluation will also be concerned with the ratio of benefits to cost through the utilization of a cost-effectiveness study.

Both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used in the overall evaluation. With the utilization of a humanist perspective we are hoping to pick up on the differing cultural and social needs that the Workfare policy missed during development. This perspective will involve qualitative interviews and focus groups with key informants, service user and provider feedback. It will also include participatory methods including involving various community organizations as well as service users and providers. Quantitative methods will also be utilized to provide the study with greater depth, but also to legitimize the data as government often find this type of data to be the most effective (whether or not this is true). Quantitative data will include cost-effectiveness studies, file reviews, demographic information, as well as evidence about the value of childhood development programs.

For More Information on Child Care policy plan:

White, Linda. (2001). Child care, women’s labour market participation and labour market
policy effectiveness in Canada. Canadian Public Policy v. xxvii no. 4 pp. 385-405.

Cleveland, Gordon and Hyatt, Douglas (1996) Child care, social assistance and work:
Lone mothers with preschool children. Applied research branch strategic policy: Human resources development Canada.

Ministry of Community and Social Services

Canadian Child Care Advocacy Association:

Originally known as: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation

Pros and Cons: Child Care


o Social assistance childcare allowance that does not requiring receipts allows parent(s) to utilize private child care services which are more affordable.
o Research by Linda White demonstrates, through a comparative analysis of various countries, that the increased provision of childcare increases women’s labour force attachment, while the lack of childcare has a negative impact on women’s labour force attachment. This outcome of increasing childcare through an allowance as well as universal child care fits well with the labour force attachment model, while also addressing structural concerns.
o Social assistance childcare allowance provides parent(s) choice of more quality childcare options, providing funds to pay upfront for services that otherwise they could not afford or wait to claim on their income tax.
o Universal care provides a quality setting for early childhood emotional, physical and mental development.
o Social assistance childcare allowance that is provided regardless of who is caring for the child allows parent(s) the options of caring for their children at home, or having family members care for their children. This associates a sense of value to domestic work.
o Both social assistance childcare allowances as well as universal child care takes into account the gendered nature of poverty, allowing women more freedom from the childcare role, while accepting that women are most likely affected by childcare concerns.


o Requires increased funding at a time when the world is concerned about an economic crisis. It may be hard to engender support for universal programs and increased funding for welfare at this point in time.
o Universal care promotes the idea that children should be placed in day care services outside of the home, implying that every parent should be partaking in the mainstream labour force. This does not address the misconception that parents work (and most often women) in the home is not economically valuable.
o Universal childcare requires massive structural changes in government funding and responsibilities. The federal government would be required to remove some of the power of the provincial/territorial governments in terms of social spending designs and implementation. There could be concern of too much power being placed in the hands of the federal government.
o Geographical concerns may have a factor. Rural communities may have less access to government regulated universal child care.
o Universal child care diminishes the legitimacy of in-home private child care, adversely affecting those businesses. Also, provides parent(s) with less choice concerning their child care options by providing government regulated services, as opposed to upfront funds.
o By not requiring receipts, allowing family members to be caretakers, and not requiring a working status these may act as disincentives to find employment or move off of social assistance.

Implementation: Child Care

The development of child care services should follow an outline of federal standards. According to studies done by the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC) child care services must meet the standard of universal entitlement in which every child is guaranteed services. These services must also be regulated by provincial bodies ensuring that high quality child care is provided. In addition, childcare services must be either public or non-profit organizations to allow for greater regulation and accountability. Operating grants must be supplied to increase the expansion of child care services. Most importantly, these services must be affordable by all citizens. In addition, this plan must include staff recruitment and education objectives, possibly providing subsidies for child care training.

In addition to outlining standards, a means and method of funding must also be considered. Governments must increase spending on child care programs by directly funding child care spaces. The federal government needs to be more involved in social service implementation, and determine specifically how much money will be allocated to child care, taking this decision out of the hands of the provinces. The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada suggests that a schedule for federal funding to reach 1% of the GDP (about 10 billion annually) within a 15 year period. This figure is only about one sixth of the public education budget. This funding would be supplemented by 20% of parent contribution, unless parent(s) could prove insufficient finances. In addition, the 5.7 million spent on the CCED would eventually be eliminated. The federal government would be responsible for the child care expansion and operations, while the provinces would be responsible for existing funding of child care as well as training costs for child care workers. Under this plan it is estimated that by the 15th year, 50 percent of children under 6 years would have full access to child care services.

In order for the plan of universal child care as well as the short term plan of child care allowances for those on Ontario Works to be implemented, there must be public support. Luckily, child care is very popular among Canadians. A poll completed by CCAAC reveals that 90% of those polled believed that Canada should have a national child care plan. By using media as well as public relations approaches (distributing literature, holding conferences etc.) to market this child care initiative, it will create sentiment for the well-being of children, regardless of economic background.

A public policy dialogue must also be established to facilitate the interaction between governments and community organizations at all levels of policy implementation. One way to approach this would be by advocating (beginning with your local member of parliament and possibly through the utilization of internet petition forms) for the completion of a special commission or task force to examine the benefits and limitations of this child care initiative. If this special commission was conducted with great citizen partnership including public hearings and public submission of briefs, it would draw attention to the need for the policy response.