LiveWorkPlay has been overtaken with emails and phone messages from our supporters who noted the Ready, Willing and Able announcement in the recently tabled federal budget. You are wondering what it could mean for our ongoing efforts to bring people with intellectual disabilities and employers together. We appreciate your enthusiasm and your motivations in making these inquiries.
It was announced on February 11 that the Government of Canada intends to invest $15 million in the Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) initiative to support employers to recruit and hire people with developmental disabilities.
LiveWorkPlay has been closely following developments with the Ready, Willing, and Able initiative for many months now. The messaging, which follows closely the work of the Federal Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, is consistent with our own beliefs and messaging. To have this issue so strongly profiled at the national level is a wonderful big picture outcome. We just don’t know (yet) what it means in practical terms at the grassroots level for agencies like LiveWorkPlay that make employment relationships happen.
With more than 30 local employment partners and an employment rate that more than doubles that of individuals who are not receiving our help, it is not employers, attitudes, or economic challenges in the community that are holding LiveWorkPlay back from helping more individuals get jobs. The reality is that there are currently scarce resources available to support us in these efforts, and that’s our biggest barrier. Our external success in helping the community is an internal challenge to the organization. Here’s why.
With each passing day we develop new employment partners, or employment partners come forward to work with us – and this is turning into great jobs for the people we are supporting to make their way in the world of paid employment. And it is helping employers find great staff and build more inclusive workplace environments that are appreciated by all staff, as well as their clients and customers. But we are challenged by our own success in that we don’t currently have a source of funding that grows with our success in helping make this happen.
We are grateful to United Way Ottawa and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for the time-limited grants that are supporting our current efforts. By any measurement, the outcomes are a dramatic success, and many new and wonderful employment outcomes are on the horizon. Our work with United Way Ottawa has also expanded far beyond that of a funder and a recipient, as we work together with other community partners to develop awareness and action at the local level through the Employment Accessibility Resource Network, . Partnerships with Rotary at Work and the Ontario Disability Employment Network have helped us learn from others as well as contribute on a provincial, national, and international scale.
Our success in these endeavors is tempered by the reality that the more jobs and job opportunities we help create, the more resources are required to support that success. Right now, we don’t have a solution – we are struggling to sustain our current resources, let alone grow them so we can have an even bigger and better impact on our community.
So, is Ready, Willing and Able part of the solution?
We don’t know.
In the joint press release it is stated that:
CACL (Canadian Association for Community Living) and CASDA (Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance) have joined forces to launch ‘Ready, Willing and Able’ to…
• Engage and support local and national scale employers to hire people with developmental disabilities;
• Promote understanding and awareness among employers and the general public on the value of hiring people with developmental disabilities;
• Enhance the capacity of the community employment services system to be the effective bridge builders that small, medium and large scale employers need.
It is not clear what, if anything, this could mean for an agency like LiveWorkPlay. We already have great relationships with employers of all shapes and sizes and are adding more every day, so the real impediment to greater success is our need for more internal resources to continue making it happen. Quality professional staff with the right training and local partnership connections are the most important ingredients to bringing employers and employees with disabilities together.
If there is to be any potential direct benefit to LiveWorkPlay from Ready, Willing, and Able it would come from the third point listed above “Enhance the capacity of the community employment services system.” Understandably, it will take time for this to take shape. We’ll do our best to get involved in the process by whatever means are available, and keep our local community informed.
LiveWorkPlay has recently renewed its affiliate membership with Community Living Ontario and among the many benefits of this relationship is access to policy experts who will likely not only be the first to understand how Ready, Willing, and Able will roll out across our province, but may well have a contribution to make in determining what activities this important initiative will be supporting.
Although our need is immediate and urgent, we will need to be patient. A federal initiative of this magnitude is going to require a great deal of preparation and planning. We’ll respectfully advocate for direct support to agencies like LiveWorkPlay that know how to get the job done, while at the same time continue to lend support to the big picture. We are keeping our eyes on the real prize: a day when 75% unemployment for people with intellectual disabilities is nothing but a historical reference in the chronicling of the journey to equitable status for citizens with intellectual disabilities.