National and provincial partners, including employment service providers and various policy think tanks, have launched www.lmaworks.com, a new website to provide an open and collective voice for organizations developing, delivering and interested in the continuation of effective labour market agreement (LMA) programs. LMAs are federal-provincial funding agreements for the delivery of employment programs. They were signed in 2008 and were intended to ensure the most vulnerable individuals, including persons with disabilities, could get access to skills training, literacy and basic skills upgrading through provincial employment service providers. The employment programs funded by LMAs, including Ontario Disability Support (employment) and Ontario Works programs, have delivered many successes.
The LMAs are to be renegotiated in March 2014. However, employment programs may be at risk of reduced funding or termination if the federal government makes the changes to the LMAs that they announced in the 2013 budget. In the budget, Ottawa unveiled a new Canadian Job Grant program that would see the federal government, provincial counterparts, and employers each contribute a third of the funding to this program. The full federal portion, however, will be created using just 60 percent of the LMA funding that is currently provided to the provinces. This decrease would have a direct and serious impact on labour market training for vulnerable workers in Ontario, perhaps meaning provincial employment programs would have to scale back service or be forced to close.
The LMAWorks website is the main public vehicle being used to raise awareness of this issue, document success stories of provincially-funded programs, and garner support in an effort to ensure the continuation of provincial employment programs to the most vulnerable job seeker. To lend your support and assist in spreading awareness of this issue, please visit www.lmaworks.com
Currently, CMHA Ontario works actively in informing the government of the impact changing funding structures in the employment field will have on job seekers with mental health conditions. As a convener of the Mental Health Employment Supports Network, CMHA Ontario has advocated for continued funding for specialized providers.