Friday, November 7, 2008

The Impact of Workfare on Health: Part Two

We've examined many different ways that Workfare has impacted society: the impact on managers, the impact on workfare recipients, and also the impact on single mothers. Health care is crucial to the well-being of our society, and it has many different facets: psychological, emotional, as well as physical. If we're not psychologically or physically healthy, we're not going to be able to provide for ourselves or our families the basic necessities of life, right? Ask someone who is addicted to heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. How do they earn a living so that they have income for food, water, shelter, and clothing? Mitigating this reality is the unfortunate case of the provincial government designing and implementing (in 1997) the Ontario Disability Support Program. It excluded "persons with dependencies on drugs or alcohol from eligibility for benefits unless they could prove they had some other substantial physical or mental impairment." What seems particularly troubling is the idea that because HIV is included in the Ontario government's definition of "disability," it may serve as an incentive for some to "become positive" so as to qualify for benefits. What does everyone think of this idea? I'm not sure what to think of it. Maybe the research on this idea is unreliable, and desperately needing...well, more! It just seems like a dramatic statement, too dramatic almost.

If someone doesn't qualify for O.D.S.P., his or her only recourse is to apply for Ontario Works which has a participation requirement. The fact that a person addicted to drugs or alcohol can claim that he or she is in a rehabilitation program, voluntarily, as part of the requirement, seems like a worthy option. The factor to remember is that many of these substance abuse programs are "abstinence based," and so if the said person fails to meet his or her responsibilities in the program, participation in Workfare will be required. Thus, it seems like a vicious circle, as anyone who works in additions and/or mental health can attest to the fact that substance use is an every day, all day problem. It's pervasive and all-consuming. What good is a person going to be in a workfare program if he or she is high while on the job? How will that affect the integrity of the workplace, the ability of the manager to control the surroundings and therefore an efficient company? What's even worse is the fact that if a person THEN fails to meet the requirements of their workfare involvement, they will be ineligible for a period of three to six months.

Definitely scary for a person who is trying to cope without the use of drugs. Especially when the length of stay in recovery programs is reduced from 28 to 21 days, albeit a way for a the province to allow more people into the program.

It's a tough situation, because while it's quite easy to make the provincial government out to be the bad guy, it cannot be denied that there are a number of factors to keep in mind. The provincial government is under pressure from "the people" to help those who are financially struggling. The government is also under pressure by the people to keep the streets safe for healthy citizens to be on. Thus, it is going to be imperative that the government devise programs where people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol can get help (thus reducing the chance that he or she will drink and drive, or exchange drugs on the streets). However, it's even more complicated because how does the government get the funding needed to operate programs such as workfare? That's right, the taxpayers!!!

It's obvious: the workfare program was a colossal disaster. The government employees did not take into account the impact that would happen on mothers, on employers, and on the health and well-being of all financially struggling individuals. However, it's important to remember that despite a possibly oppressive mindset of the policy makers (possibly is an important word to use because we don't exactly know what their beliefs are), there's only so much anyone can do. An organism is only as good as the sum of it's parts, and the various aspects of the program that make it ineffective (such as the ones we've outlined in this blog) reinforce the idea that it was just a poorly thought out policy.


Ron Payne said...

Are you guys aware of any research that has been done on any medical conditions that have been caused by workfare/welfare?

Media Release

The Evidence Is In

Poverty’s Smoke and Mirrors, Part 2

To see part 1

The article above went out to the main media and approximately 65 other print news media starting September 21 2008. It was also put on the World Wide Web.

To my knowledge it was only printed in 3 Ontario news papers in the Letters to the Editor section.
1) Hamilton’s, Mountain News
2) Hamilton’s, Creek News
3) London’s, The London Free Press

Thank you to these three papers for caring enough about people that live in poverty to print this article.

As of today November 06 2008 the Ontario government has only posted old outdated directives dated Sept 2001.

Obviously these directives are of no use to anyone simply because of the fact they are outdated and the ministry is now using the July 2008 up to date directives but has not shared them with the public.

You may remember Welfare Legal was so offended by this abuse we offered $100.00 to anyone that could produce a copy of the latest Ontario Works directive 7.4.

As of this date no one has collected the $100.00. Welfare Legal now has a copy of the new directives that the government has not shared.

We take the position that this is the most serious kind of abuse by our government to implement new policies but not allow those most in need to have access to them. The only reason the government has given for this abuse is that the Ontario Government has not prepared a French version of these directives.

This is a Human Rights violation, among others, to implement a secrete version of the directives and not share them with the public and not to have a French version available.

As we have stated before the Ontario government has in fact been cutting the benefits of Ontario Works, (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program, (ODSP) recipients without letting the general public aware of these cuts.

The latest cuts that have become public are the cuts to benefits to grandparents that are caring for their own grandchildren, who many had, have been apprehended by the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). The grand parent’s complaints were heard loud and clear the government seems to have withdrawn these policy changes.

The new directive 7.4 and others shows more cuts that the public is not aware of yet.

One of these cuts shows that the Ontario government no longer supports volunteering here in Ontario. In the old outdated directives dated September 2001, the government used to give a small benefit to those recipients that had to do volunteer work as a condition of eligibility for OW. These cuts also affect those who wish to do volunteer work and are disabled on ODSP as well.
Are volunteers no longer needed here in Ontario?

These cuts which are ongoing, have been made to help pay for the meager increases to OW and ODSP of 2%. They are also part of the government’s bigger plan, to upload the cost of OW and ODSP from the municipality to the province and to pay for its poverty reduction strategy.

At the end of the day the government will save millions of dollars in benefits that the former Mike Harris Tories said people on OW and ODSP were entitled to. Does this make sense to anyone?

This story gets much, much worse. It turns out that the aboriginal community in Ontario had the foresight not to allow its members to be subjected to the policies and procedures put in place by the Mike Harris government, when they bought the draconian computer program from Anderson Consulting now Accenture. The cost of that program was $400,000.00 and rising. This program was designed to cut people off of benefits automatically, with no human contact. There seems to be 2 classes of people being governed differently here, and what are the costs?

It would seem they were allowed to have their own computer program made up by a private company called AD Morrison.

A private professional researcher contacted Welfare Legal in an attempt to collect the $100.00 offered for the latest Ontario Works directive 7.4 and alerted us to a Pandora’s Box. You will see on the home page of AD Morrison’s site there is a link to “Latest Directives”. This link contained a third set of OW directives that was not available to the general public.

After Welfare Legal contacted the ministry to see if this in fact was the latest and new directive 7.4, the ministry contacted us with a reply that had nothing to do with our request. Then out of the blue this link was taken of the site.

After gathering all the evidence we soon learned that the Ontario government had not been keeping these new directive from the public since July 2008, they had in fact been hiding them starting in December 2005 and no one new about it. At least no one that has come forward so far.

There has been no response from any legal clinic or private paralegal in Ontario showing that they new about this breach of the Human Rights Code by our provincial government. If anyone was aware of this why didn’t they take it to the media? Does nobody care about this abuse? Does nobody care about eliminating poverty?

It is interesting to note that the government has even changed the directive numbers to confuse us even more once we were allowed to become aware of them.

September 2001 shows directive 31.0, the out dated benefits that we all are aware of.

December 2005 shows

July 2008 shows

For a copy of these directives

How can the Ontario government say it is attempting to alleviate poverty when it is secretly cutting the benefits of those most in need? (Reverse Robin Hood)

Ron Payne
Welfare Legal
Hamilton, Ontario
Phone 905-253-0205

4 Social Workers said...

I am not aware of any specific research that has been done on medical conditions caused by workfare, sir. The internet has been a FANTASTIC resource in completing the work that goes into our blog. Some of the articles are a bit dated, but if there IS anything on this particular issue, the net is certainly a place to start and draw off of.

Thank-you for taking an interest in our blog! We appreciate it. =)

Ron Payne said...

It turns out that the aboriginal community in Ontario had the foresight not to allow its members to be subjected to the policies and procedures put in place by the Mike Harris government, when they bought the draconian computer program from Anderson Consulting now Accenture. The cost of that program was $400,000.00 and rising.

My apologies, the $400,000.00 was incorrect and should have been $400million.

Ron Payne
Welfare Legal