Pilot project creates jobs for developmentally disabled workers

‘Maple Ridge has a good track record’ so attempt is to build on that to improve employment prospects

After nearly losing their jobs at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Centre, developmentally disabled people in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows may have their pick of jobs.

A pilot project next month will try to find ways of generating jobs by hiring an employee to coordinate the project and create a plan to create employment.

Getting people together to create a plan and set some local targets, contacting employers and profiling those who already hire those with disabilities, will be other tasks.

“There will be some direct outreach to employers to educate them about the questions they have about hiring an adult with a developmental disability,” said David Hurford, with Community Living B.C.

“There’s a lot of data to support the benefits of hiring adults with developmental disabilities in all types of jobs.”

But many employers already know and are hiring those with disabilities, Hurford said.

“Safeway is one of the big employers.” Tim Horton’s is another big one across the country, he added. The pilot program will also look at what types of services there are that actually help people find jobs.

Dufford said workers are in all kinds of jobs, including CLBC.

“The sky’s the limit. We wouldn’t want to put any limits on it.”

He said that businesses that have disabled workers on hand helps with employee retention. “There are some numbers coming out.”

Once the first year is passed, Community Living BC will take it to another region and say, “Here’s how it worked.”

Dufford said there’s a good track record of success in Maple Ridge which can be built on, compared to some regions which haven’t done any such work.

In 2011, 29 developmentally disabled workers at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Depot almost lost their jobs after CLBC said it wouldn’t renew the contact.

But the $270,000 funding for the program was restored and the program later extended. That should continue on. “So I think we’ve really locked them in and given them some certainty for the future,” Hurford said.

Hurford said the jobs are only for people who want a bit more independence and have said they want to work. It’s only for people who are able and want to work.

Of the 15,000 people in B.C. on disability benefits, about 2,200 currently are working. Improvements have been made to allow those working to keep more of the money they’re making in addition to the benefits.

The goal of the Community Action Employment Plan, released earlier this month, forms the base of the pilot project.

The pilot project includes Burnaby, New Westminster and Tri Cities.

“So the pilots are really focused on regions that have a really good track record,” as opposed to some areas that have no experience.

Vancouver Island and the Cariboo are the two other locations for the pilot project.

“More people with developmental disabilities are telling us they want to work, “ CLBC CEO Doug Wollard said in a release.

He added that the CLBC Community Action Employment Plan released earlier this month is a province-wide initiative and that the consultation process that led up to it confirmed that,  much of the work needs to happen locally.

“The local pilots we are undertaking will build on a strong local track record of success and become models for other B.C. communities in the coming years.”