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.