From Wellington Advertiser – original article here.

ARC Industries to remain open; sheltered workshops to close

by Jaime Myslik

GUELPH – The ARC Industries (Adult Rehabilitative Centre) building here will not be closing despite the eventual elimination of sheltered workshop programs.

ARC Industries is a program run by Community Living Guelph Wellington that offers adults with intellectual disabilities employment training and support.

That includes sheltered workshops, which are now in jeopardy after the Minister of Community and Social Services recently made a commitment to shut them down.

“My understanding is they’re not interested in closing down ARC Industries as a building,” said Laura Hanley, interim executive director at Community Living Guelph Wellington.

“What they’re interested in is stopping the sheltered workshop environment, of which that is part of our building.”

She continued, “The ministry is saying if it’s truly pre-employment training that you’re doing, because you are training them to then become employed in the community, that’s fine, if it’s a life skills thing that’s fine, but eventually people get taught then so … this is their theory, you can’t keep just having them do that.”

However, the challenge is that the developmental issues that lead people to ARC Industries don’t go away, so Hanley said there are individuals who have been a part of the program for a number of years.

At ARC Industries in Guelph there are about 85 participants in sheltered workshop programs, which include wood working, placing nuts and bolts in plastic wrapping and putting plastic wrap over newspapers. While the workshop runs from about 8am to 3pm, it’s considered an activity, not employment, and the participants receive between 40 and 70 cents an hour as a participation allowance.

“That’s the piece where all the fury has happened about whether or not you pay them, whether you don’t and if you do why isn’t it minimum wage and so it will be those pieces that need to shift,” Hanley explained.

She said the organization has five years to eliminate the workshops and rework the programming to ensure participants are receiving the services they require.

However, as of the Advertiser’s press time, Hanley was still waiting for official word from the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

“I think … that’s … doable and we will work in partnership with the ministry to make sure that there’s no individual that ends up with un-met needs as a result of this change,” she said.

Earlier this year the organization received a $300,000 Employment Modernization Fund grant from the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the term is from February 2015 to March 2017.

“We have already started … on that process of getting more job coaches trained, working in partnership with other organizations and get out there seeking more employment opportunities for people and how that would work and what training they would need,” Hanley said.

Those who attend day programs at the Harriston, Mount Forest and Erin offices shouldn’t see any changes in their programming, she said.

And the majority of those who attend the Fergus office also won’t see any changes. However, Hanley said there is one program that may be affected.

“People will donate computers and then the people we support will take the parts all apart and recycle what they can and then use what they can if they need to use it for another computer,” she said.

“I don’t know if that would be considered [a sheltered workshop]. We’re looking at that just to see.”

For people currently in sheltered workshops, it’s business as usual for now, and Hanley said the organization will keep them informed of changes moving forward.

However, for those who would be entering a sheltered workshop program, Hanley said the organization will offer a different program.

“If they’re coming in with the intent for employment we’re just going to stream them in through a different path and we will still be able to give them some pre-employment training and all of that stuff,” Hanley said. “We would be saying ‘here’s a whole raft of things that you could participate in,’ and so we would really focus on pre-employment or life-skills or those avenues that would move them along the continuum.”

The other programs offered at the ARC Industries building in Guelph, such as the gym, music room and cooking lessons, will run as usual through the transition process.

December 25, 2015

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