March 2021

3.1 Client Pathway

Summary of Directive

Outlines the various stages in the client pathway to employment and describes employment supports service delivery from the time of application to job placement and retention.

Intent of Policy

To describe the client path toward competitive employment and provide applicants with a comprehensive understanding of ODSP employment supports, and what they can expect from the program.

Legislative Authority

Section 33 (d) of the ODSP Act
Section 35 (1) and (2) of the ODSP Act

Application of Policy

Program Inquiries

Any person may make inquiries or request information about ODSP employment supports. These inquiries may come from people receiving ODSP income support and their families, community organizations, health-care professionals, service providers, etc., or they may come from the general public.

Inquiries can be made through the ODSP office, or may be made directly to an employment supports service provider. In response to inquiries, ODSP staff and/or service providers will provide general information about the program, the application process, eligibility criteria, and an overview of the client pathway.

If the person making the inquiry does not wish to pursue an application, suggestions may be given about other services and supports available in the community that might be appropriate.

If the person making the inquiry would like to apply for ODSP employment supports, they will be provided with an application package.

As part of Individual Action Planning, ODSP staff will discuss ODSP employment supports with ODSP income support recipients who are interested in employment. Applicants who are not in receipt of ODSP income support will self-refer or be referred by community organizations and service providers.

Applying for ODSP Employment Supports

People with disabilities who are interested in employment can call or visit their local ODSP office or an ODSP employment supports service provider to apply for ODSP employment supports and get more information about specific services that may be available to them.

Applicants in receipt of ODSP income support:

ODSP income support recipients who want to work and are interested in employment supports can speak to their caseworker about applying for ODSP employment supports.

ODSP income support recipients may also apply for employment supports through an ODSP employment supports service provider.

ODSP income support recipients are not required to complete the Verification of Disability/Impairment form as part of their employment supports application package.

Applicants not in receipt of ODSP income support:

Individuals who are not receiving ODSP income support and who are interested in employment supports can apply through an ODSP employment supports service provider or by contacting their local ODSP office.

Individuals do not have to be receiving income support from ODSP to be eligible for employment supports.

For applicants who are not receiving ODSP income support, the Verification of Disability/Impairment form must be completed by an approved health care professional who can describe their disability/impairment and explain how it impacts their ability to find and keep work.

Applicants must sign the Consent to Release Medical Information section included in the Verification of Disability/Impairment form before taking it to an approved healthcare professional.

Application Package

Individuals who wish to access ODSP employment supports are required to complete an application package. The application package includes the following:

  • Application for Employment Supports form;
  • Verification of Disability/Impairment form, if applicable;
  • Welcome to ODSP Employment Supports form, and may contain
  • Service Provider to ODSP Employment Supports Referral template, if the client has already met with a service provider.

(See Directive 2.1 Program Eligibility for applicants who are not required to complete the Verification of Disability/Impairment form).

Completed applications are submitted to the ODSP office. Applicants who need more information or assistance to complete the forms may contact their local ODSP office or an ODSP employment supports service provider.

In exceptional circumstances, an applicant may authorize someone to sign the application on their behalf. In such cases, the person acting on behalf of an applicant must have a signed authorization or equivalent authority acceptable to the applicant and the caseworker.

Once an applicant has submitted a completed application package, an ODSP caseworker will review the package to determine eligibility.

Welcome to ODSP Employment Supports Form

The Welcome to ODSP Employment Supports form outlines the applicant’s rights and responsibilities under ODSP employment supports, including the applicant’s rights regarding decisions relating to eligibility and/or cancellation/suspension of employment supports. It also outlines the terms and conditions of the program.

Eligible applicants must sign the Welcome to ODSP Employment Supports form before receiving services. Generally, this will be done with their selected service provider.

Some applicants may only require a one-time support to obtain or maintain employment or to accept a firm job offer. In these cases, if eligible, caseworkers may provide direct funding to the applicant for the good or service. In such cases, the applicant is not required to select or meet with a service provider, and the applicant will sign the Welcome to ODSP Employment Supports form with their caseworker.

(See Directive 4.2 Job Retention and Advancement)

Service Provider Referral Process

Where an applicant applies directly to a service provider for employment supports rather than through their local ODSP office, the service provider must verify the applicant’s age and work status in Canada.

Applicants must review and sign the Welcome to ODSP Employment Supports form and complete the Application for Employment Supports with the service provider.

Service providers must complete the Service Provider to ODSP Employment Supports Referral template, and include it in the completed application package that is submitted to the local ODSP office. An ODSP caseworker will review the package to determine eligibility.

ODSP caseworkers will review the Service Provider to ODSP Employment Supports Referral Template that was included with the application to ensure all steps in the application process were completed and to officially refer the applicant to the service provider once eligibility is determined.

Eligibility Determination

ODSP caseworkers will determine eligibility for employment supports for all applicants (income support recipients and those not in receipt of income support) by reviewing applications to confirm basic program eligibility requirements such as disability, age, residency in Ontario, and if the applicant is legally entitled to work in Canada.

Applicants deemed ineligible for employment supports are informed in writing and are advised of other appropriate programs or sources of support that may be more suitable. Ineligible applicants must be informed of their right to an internal review if they disagree with the decision.

(See Directive 6.2 - Internal Review and Dispute Resolution)

Applicants who have been deemed eligible for employment supports may be contacted by ODSP staff to provide information about the next stages in planning for employment, and to offer the applicant the opportunity to participate in an Employment Information Session if appropriate.

Employment Information Session

The purpose of the Employment Information Session (EIS) is to provide detailed information to the applicant about what they can expect while participating in employment supports. The session also helps applicants decide whether they are ready to prepare for, obtain, and maintain competitive employment and meet all program requirements.

Applicants may attend the EIS before, during, or after the application process based on their needs and circumstances.

The same approach to the EIS applies to both ODSP income support and non-income support recipients, regardless of whether they apply through the local ODSP office or directly through a service provider.

The EIS is offered to eligible applicants to help them understand:

  • the mandate and purpose of ODSP employment supports;
  • how ODSP employment supports works;
  • what they can expect from service providers;
  • supports, resources, and services that may be available inside and outside of ODSP employment supports;
  • the responsibility and commitment required if they choose to proceed;
  • the impact that employment may have on their ODSP income support, including benefits available, income reporting requirements, income exemptions and deductible expenses and the rapid reinstatement process; and
  • the review/complaint process available, if the applicant/client disagrees with decisions.

The EIS may be provided in several formats such as group session, one-on-one meeting or, over the telephone.

Based on the individual circumstances of the applicant, caseworkers may decide to forgo the EIS and provide an employment supports information package to the applicant by courier or mail). If an applicant is also an income support recipient, caseworkers should review how the treatment of earnings works under ODSP. The caseworker should follow up by telephone to answer questions and address any concerns.

When the EIS is conducted as a group "seminar", ODSP caseworkers will be available to answer any questions or concerns relating to employment supports or to the employment process ahead.

ODSP staff should involve other community employment resources in the group EIS to provide information about the range of employment services that are available in the community including ODSP employment supports. These additional resources could include:

  • Service providers;
  • Services provided by the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (e.g. Employment Ontario);
  • Services provided by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) funded programs (e.g. Opportunities Fund).

If an EIS is needed, it should be held no later than 14 calendar days after receipt of an application for employment supports.

Employment Information Session - Follow-up Discussion

After the EIS, ODSP caseworkers may hold a follow-up discussion with the applicant to answer questions or address concerns the applicant may have so the applicant understands what is required of them and what will take place throughout their employment journey. The follow-up discussion should take soon after the EIS to ensure prompt access to service.

ODSP caseworkers will determine the most appropriate means of conducting the follow-up discussion based upon what is most suitable for the applicant. These may include:

  • holding the discussion at the end of the EIS,
  • scheduling a separate meeting, or
  • a follow-up phone call.

After the follow-up discussion, the applicant will decide whether they wish to pursue competitive employment and to participate in ODSP employment supports.

Applicants who feel they are not prepared to proceed can voluntarily withdraw from the program. ODSP caseworkers should discuss alternative options to employment, if requested and as appropriate.

Applicants who choose to proceed in employment supports will need to connect with a service provider if they have not done so already.

Selection of a Service Provider

It is the service provider (not ODSP staff) who assist the applicant in accessing the supports needed to get and keep a job.

Some applicants may only require one-time support to maintain employment during a job crisis or accept a firm job offer. In these situations, caseworkers should consider providing direct funding to the client for the good or service. In these circumstances, the applicant does not need to select a service provider.

Applicants are responsible for setting their employment goal and selecting a service provider who they believe will best suit their needs and disability, and help them to achieve their competitive employment goal. Applicants may select a service provider prior to applying for employment supports.

ODSP staff will provide the applicant with a list of service providers that includes information about the services they offer to help the applicant make their selection. If requested, ODSP staff may assist the applicant with making their selection and provide support with arranging the initial contact with the service provider.

ODSP staff will encourage the applicant to consider the following when selecting a service provider:

  • What experience does the service provider have with the applicant’s type of disability?
  • Does the service provider have experience with the kind of job the applicant would like to do?
  • Will the service provider come to the client's home or does the applicant have to go to their office?
  • How far will the applicant have to travel to the service provider facility location?
  • Does the applicant have any language or communication concerns?

Applicants should be encouraged to contact more than one service provider and ask any questions necessary to help make their choice.

ODSP staff will advise the applicant that it is possible that once the service provider has completed an employment readiness assessment, they may determine that they are not able to help the applicant find a job at this time. For example, the service provider may believe they are not the most appropriate "fit" for the applicant, or the service provider may not be able to properly provide the specific goods or services required by the applicant.

In other cases, the readiness assessment may indicate that the applicant’s current circumstances will prevent them from participating fully in service and being successful in obtaining competitive, sustainable employment. In such cases, the service provider may refer them elsewhere, or ODSP staff will speak to the applicant about alternatives.

Employment Readiness Assessment by Service Provider

After an applicant is referred to a service provider, the service provider will work with the applicant to assess whether:

  • the applicant is ready to prepare for, accept and maintain competitive employment, and
  • the needs of the applicant will be best served by the service provider or another agency.

The purpose of an employment readiness assessment is to assist both the applicant and the service provider to assess if the selected service provider is an appropriate choice and whether they will be able to provide the necessary goods/services to meet the applicant’s needs.

Based on this assessment, the service provider will either accept the applicant into service or not accept the applicant.

Competitive Employment

Competitive employment is broadly defined as employment paying minimum wage or higher in an integrated work setting where people with disabilities work in typical workplace settings alongside people with and without a disability.

Competitive employment may include:

  • conventional waged employment, where minimum wage standards apply, and can include full-time, part-time, contract or seasonal work;
  • self-employment where the objective is to earn at least the equivalent of minimum wage; or
  • ownership or membership participation in a business enterprise where the objective is to earn at least the equivalent of minimum wage.

Service providers have the flexibility to decide the best way to determine an applicant’s employability. Strategies can include activities such as a job trial, an employability assessment interview, etc. Once a service provider has completed the employability determination, they will advise ODSP staff whether they will provide employment supports to the applicant and assist the applicant to reach their competitive employment goal.

Job Placement versus Job Advancement (exceptional circumstances)

To help determine the appropriate path for employed applicants in exceptional circumstances (placement vs advancement) requires a two-fold assessment, including:

  • an assessment of the person’s current work arrangement (for example, is it competitive integrated employment), and
  • an assessment of the supports and services a client needs to secure competitive employment in an integrated work environment and if these align with the job placement supports outlined in directive 4.1 Job Development and Placement.

Local office staff should assess applicants in situations like these with the program supervisor and service provider and determine which path is most appropriate on a case by case basis.  If the level of support is going to be very substantial, job placement may be more appropriate.

Questions that can help with the determination:

  • Is the workplace a competitive employment environment?
  • Does the job pay minimum wage or higher?
  • Is the setting integrated (meaning people with and without disabilities work together)?
  • Do the job specifications and performance expectations of the work environment differ substantially from other environments where the same type of work is performed?
  • What are the individual’s service needs and skill capacity as a result of the current workplace?
  • Does the individual have ready-to-go transferable workplace skills (including soft skills) with minimal improvement required or is significant further development required? How much development and what kind?
  • Does the individual just need help to find a new job (for example, job search, interviewing, resumé writing, etc.) or do they require more intensive supports (for example, job development, job carving, job coaching, ongoing support to integrate into the new environment, etc.)?

Service Provider Accepts Applicant into Service:

Once an applicant is accepted into service, the service provider and the client will begin the process of preparing the client for job placement and finding a suitable placement. Service providers will work with the client to determine the client's employment goals and will develop an employment plan outlining the steps and supports required for the client to achieve their competitive employment goal.

Service Provider Does Not Accept Applicant into Service

A determination may be made by the applicant and/or service provider that the service provider will not be able to meet the needs of the applicant, or, that employment activities are not viable for the applicant at that time (this can be due to various reasons including the health of the applicant, the decision to pursue other activities, etc.).

If this occurs, the service provider will advise the applicant that they have not been accepted. The service provider will discuss alternative courses of action and/or connect the applicant to other more appropriate services or supports that may be available in the community.

Service providers will be responsible for providing a report to ODSP staff regarding the decision not to provide service to the applicant. The report will detail the reasons for the decision and will outline the alternatives that have been presented to the applicant. The report should also include recommendations, if any, regarding specific conditions that the applicant would need to meet or circumstances that would need to change for the applicant to be more likely to be successful in achieving their employment goal should the applicant choose to reapply in the future. Examples of such conditions may include:

  • applicant’s health needs to improve or stabilize,
  • applicant needs to find stable housing,
  • applicant needs to complete a basic literacy program.

If, as a result of the employability determination, the service provider has determined that employment activities are not viable for the applicant at that time, the ODSP caseworker must make an eligibility determination for the applicant.

The ODSP caseworker will take into consideration the employability determination made by the service provider when deciding whether the applicant is eligible to continue to participate in ODSP employment supports. ODSP staff will work with the applicant to determine whether there is an alternative service provider that would better meet the applicant’s needs.

If the ODSP caseworker determines that competitive employment is not a viable option for the applicant at that time, the ODSP caseworker will determine the applicant to be ineligible for ODSP employment supports and work with the applicant to access community resources (e.g., life stabilization supports, basic literacy, etc.) or determine if other options or activities other than employment are available in the community (e.g., volunteer work) and are of interest to the applicant.

Where applicants do not agree with the eligibility decision, they can request an internal review.

(See Directive 6.2 - Internal Review and Dispute Resolution)

Employment Plan

Employment supports clients are required to develop an employment plan with the selected service provider. The employment plan outlines the employment goal, the plan for achieving that goal, and any supports needed to achieve that goal. A copy of the employment plan may be requested by ODSP staff and the provision of the employment plan, if requested, is a requirement of the compliance review framework.

The employment plan will include the following:

  • The competitive employment goal;
  • Supports needed to pursue competitive employment;
  • Steps, activities, and the goods and services that are required to achieve the employment goal;
  • A timetable that is reasonable and attainable.

For clients who are already employed but facing a job crisis situation, or for clients who have firm job offers but require accommodations to accept a position, service providers should develop a process for quickly preparing and implementing a plan that will ensure the client has access to the necessary supports within the appropriate timeframes.

It is recognized that the employment plan is a living document that will be amended as individual circumstances arise. Both the client and the service provider should agree to any necessary changes if applicable.

Job Placement

The selected service provider will assist the client in securing competitive, sustainable employment that is appropriate to the client's talents, abilities, and skills within the opportunities of the local labour market.

Goods and services are provided in response to the needs of the client and/or the employer. Services may be provided directly by the service provider or coordinated with or purchased from other providers in the community.

The time that is required for a successful job placement will vary with each client. If a job placement is not successful, the client and service provider will work together to identify more appropriate placements or whether alternatives to competitive employment need to be explored.

Job Retention

After the client has been placed in competitive employment for 13 cumulative weeks, job retention supports should continue to be provided to the client and/or the employer by the service provider as needed.

The goal is to ensure that the client is retained in the job for as long as possible or is moved directly to another job. Where a client is unable to retain the job, the service provider will work with the client to identify a more appropriate placement.

Related Directives

2.1 Program Eligibility
4.1 Job Development and Placement
4.2 Job Retention and Advancement
4.4 Self-Employment Supports
6.2 Internal Review and Dispute Resolution