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“No new admissions to sheltered workshops” in Ontario

A historic announcement – now the work begins!

This is a historic day for Ontario and we look forward to working with the Government of Ontario and our community partners to be a part of the solution. The excerpt below is from the Toronto Star, November 11, 2016.

Ontario is moving to stop new admissions to the provincially funded sheltered workshops where people with intellectual disabilities labour for pennies a day, says the Minister of Community and Social Services.

“I don’t ever want to see someone who has not been involved in a sheltered workshop move into one,” Minister Helena Jaczek said. “That would not, in my view, be acceptable at all.”

Jaczek was responding to the Star’s series on the segregated workshops, where people with intellectual disabilities spend decades getting “employment training” even though most never leave.

At LiveWorkPlay we have had a long and rich history of challenging our practices in an effort to get better results.  Since 2011 LiveWorkPlay has had a formal policy of supporting authentic employment and other community-based activity and outcomes, and since 2008 has not operated any segregated programs.

This has taught us to believe in and rely upon individual citizens as well as businesses, non-profit and government organizations big and small and the results are surpassed only by the achievements of individuals with intellectual disabilities, who have responded with courage and determination to take their rightful place as respected and valued members of society.

This is not about a simple swap of full-time artificial agency environments for full-time authentic employment. It’s about helping each individual build their own life in the community with all the variety of challenges and possibilities available to other citizens, including employment.

The role of service providers will now be focused on community-based outcomes which is not less work rather it is different work that helps with access and engagement in community, rather than investing in agency environments that keep people with intellectual disabilities separated from their own communities.

There will be a great deal of emotion attached to arguments about sheltered workshops and day programs in the coming months. This will include the very valid concern that “If not this, then what?” It will be similar to the debate around the closure of Ontario’s mass institutions at Rideau Regional, Huronia, and Southwestern. The challenge to that transition was met with collaborative (but very difficult) planning and ultimately by service agencies that took up the challenge, and by all accounts, delivered with tremendous and encouraging results.

The good news is that how to provide person-centred, assets-based, community-focused results is not a mystery. The more challenging news is that outside of the LiveWorkPlay community and a few other agencies and jurisdictions in Ontario, it is unfamiliar to many individuals and families, who will react with fear and worry about the transformation away from sheltered environments. We can support them with practical information that demonstrates positive outcomes, and it is our own members and their families who are best positioned to do this. We’ll be looking to you for help and we know you’ll deliver!