Frequently asked questions about sheltered workshops


[mcssaccordion expand=”show”] [actitle state=”open”] Why is Ontario moving away from sheltered workshops? [/actitle] [acbody] This shift away from sheltered workshops is about helping people become more included in their communities. This means helping people pursue activities and interests they enjoy in their communities alongside people of all abilities.

Just as we have moved beyond institutions toward more inclusive residential supports for people with developmental disabilities, we have now moved beyond traditional sheltered workshops.

Other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, have been shifting from the sheltered workshop model for a number of years.

Community agencies in Ontario have, for some time, been moving away from sheltered workshops. Community Living Algoma, for example, completed its transition in September 2015. Everyone who was in the sheltered workshop there is now participating in the community in new ways. About two dozen individuals have secured local employment that pays minimum wage or better. Others are volunteering, joining clubs and organizations, and exploring their community.
[/acbody] [actitle state=”close”] What’s the current status of Ontario’s transition from sheltered workshops? [/actitle] [acbody] Ontario’s transition away from sheltered workshops started in late 2015. As of June 30, 2017, about 30 agencies have completed transitions. About 45 more agencies are working to complete their transitions.

The ministry has been working with these agencies to support their transitions away from sheltered workshops towards inclusive community supports and competitive employment. The ministry hosted province-wide workshops in collaboration with the Ontario Disability Employment Network (ODEN), to hear about best practices and lessons learned by agencies that have successfully made the transition away from programs such as sheltered workshops.

No sheltered workshop program will be phased out without appropriate alternatives in place for individuals and their families. Agencies will work closely with individuals and families to provide inclusive supports that best meet their needs and preferences.
[/acbody] [actitle state=”close”] How long will it take to transition away from all sheltered workshops? [/actitle] [acbody] We expect all transitions to be completed by January 1, 2019.

This is when new legislation, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017, will come into effect and remove exemptions from the Employment Standards Act that currently allow sheltered workshops to operate.

The Ministry of Labour’s Changing Workplaces Review, which preceded the new legislation, recommended that these exemptions to law should be removed. We fully supported this recommendation.

We are committed to getting this right and ensuring full transition by the enforcement date of January 1, 2019. We will continue to work with agencies as they work to transition away from sheltered workshops towards a more inclusive Ontario – one in which people with developmental disabilities live as independently as possible in their communities.
[/acbody] [actitle state=”close”] What do you mean by competitive employment? [/actitle] [acbody] For individuals who choose to work, we want them to get real work for real pay – this means jobs working alongside people of all abilities in the community and being paid at a competitive wage.

This is about making our employment support programs more effective in helping people meet their goals of securing real jobs in the community.

Competitive employment has many benefits, including:

  • emphasizing a person’s abilities and strengths
  • promoting the development of broad social networks
  • enhancing workplaces and communities
  • increasing the person’s sense of self-worth
  • enhancing an individual’s financial ability to achieve personal goals

Employment may or may not be full-time and does not prevent people from considering other supports or options related to their interests and goals, such as volunteering, recreation or other community-based activities
[/acbody] [actitle state=”close”] What about people who still want to participate in these programs and don’t want to pursue competitive employment?[/actitle] [acbody] There is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting the right fit in the community. The move away from sheltered workshops is not just about employment. It is about inclusion.

While employment is one of the options, many other options are available. An individual can choose to become more involved in their community, through community participation, volunteering and recreation.

Agencies will continue to meet the needs and goals of individuals who don’t want to, or are unable to, pursue competitive employment.
[/acbody] [actitle state=”close”] Will you be working with stakeholders on this transition? [/actitle] [acbody] The ministry has had ongoing consultations and discussions with stakeholders on the best path for this shift away from sheltered workshops. Stakeholders we have worked with include:

  • people with developmental disabilities and their families;
  • agencies that have completed transitions;
  • agencies that haven’t yet completed transitions;
  • leaders from other jurisdictions who have completed transitions; and
  • the Ontario Disability Employment Network

The Ministry of Labour has also reviewed relevant legislation through the Changing Workplaces Review, which engaged stakeholders on issues related to employment and training.

We will continue to engage our agencies that support adults with developmental disabilities, as well as their families, to ensure full transition away from sheltered workshops.

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