Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

For-profit multinational given welfare project

  • March 6, 2020

The job of helping people on welfare in Ontario’s Peel Region to find a job has fallen to the Canadian subsidiary of an Australian multinational.

WCG Services, based in Victoria, B.C., and part of the APM Group headquartered in Australia, had the winning bid to become the “service system manager” for employment services in Peel. The region that includes Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon is host to one of three Ontario pilot projects trying out a new system which takes the responsibility for helping job seekers on social assistance away from the municipality.

Queen’s Park plans to expand the new model to cover the entire province within three years.

The New York City-based non-profit Fedcap won the right to run the system in Hamilton-Niagara and Fleming College takes over in Muskoka-Kawartha.

Putting a for-profit company in charge of a service traditionally delivered by government is not unusual, said WCG Services CEO Tania Bennett.

“We’re a Canadian organization that has been delivering client services and has been working as a service system manager for over 25 years,” Bennett said. “Our work is always connected to government funding.”

Putting a for-profit company in charge of co-ordinating the employment services offered by a wide range of community and social work agencies isn’t necessarily a bad thing, said Sr. Sue Wilson of the Sisters of St. Joseph Office for Systemic Justice.

“At the pilot stage, I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem to have services delivered differently in different places,” said Wilson in an e-mail. “(It) could add to learning.”

Critics worry about the business model for the winning bid in Peel.

“Under the new model, providers only get paid when a job-match is made, with fees set according to the difficulty of the case,” said an NDP press release from Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife. “Contractors could decide that more challenging cases are not worth the fee, ”

However, Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton’s press secretary Bradley Metlin said performance clauses mean that “service providers will receive increased funding for moving clients with more barriers into employment. This will incentivize service providers to work to achieve results for everyone who comes through their door, especially more complex cases.”

For Church-run services that constitute the safety net below the safety net, the idea that everybody can get a job, or that a job will solve every problem, doesn’t fit with many of the people they serve.

“Some of our people are not employable,” said St. Francis’ Table director Br. John Frampton.

Trying to stream everybody into jobs just takes the focus off a dysfunctional housing market that feeds more homeless people onto the street, according to Frampton.

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