Caledon is TRANSITIONing and we all win

OPINION  by Monty Laskin, CEO Caledon Community Services

On the tail of a recent funding announcement from our federal government, we’re excited. The Opportunities Fund has landed and it will bring a program we’re calling “TRANSITIONS” to Caledon. What I know about Caledon Community Services (CCS) is that we take leaps of faith occasionally. On numerous projects, we get that it’s necessary to jump in if we want to move something from a script to the real show! CCS’ guiding vision is “a healthy, engaged, compassionate community for all”. It’s a shame to view this as a stretch goal, but the part about “for all” takes a lot of deep diving. Transitions coaches and supports people who have a disability and want to work.

The U.K. Independent told a story the other day about Shaun Condon, a man with autism who started a job in 1989 and was told he wouldn’t last a month. He’s now retiring to accolades after 28 years of being an integral member of the team. What’s his story? Shaun has autism. That sets him apart and makes this story newsworthy. But should it?

In Needham, Mass., McDonald’s threw a party for retiring 32-year veteran Freia David. “Freia is a terrific employee,” a rep for McDonald’s said. “We learned a lot more from her than she could ever learn from us.” She’s ruled the fryolator, making too many tons of French fries to ever count. She loves and is loved by everyone. Ms. David has Down syndrome.

Most often, it’s families that move the needle on this discussion about inclusion. They want what every parent wants for their child — a future that is bright and fulfilling. CCS has long wanted to work with them and the Transitions Program gives us more to work with!

A 2015 article in the Globe and Mail quoted Laurie Larson, the president of Canadian Association of Community Living. She was commenting on a meaningful move along the pathway of people with disabilities getting what they deserve, as being “real jobs for real pay”. She was talking about businesses that stepped up to work closely with employees who have disabilities. The new Transitions Program is going to recruit these businesses and work closely with them; it’s going to prove the huge value added to their business in employing people with disabilities. Consumers respond well to businesses that reflect community.

Gainful employment is a social determinant of health. It provides income and builds independence and self-esteem, especially important for those whose disabilities have created years of being marginalized. People with disabilities — most of whom can and want to work — deal with barriers every day, a large one being an unemployment rate at close to 50 per cent, according the same Globe and Mail article.

Once Transitions launches, CCS will assist in the training and job searching for people who have some barriers to employment. We’ll also be a partner for our local employers who want to hire good people for all kinds of positions and then be supported throughout their training. Inclusion, not isolation, is exactly what Transitions offers Caledon families and employers. It makes good economic sense, it makes good community sense — it’s just the right thing to do.

We’ll soon be looking for people who want to register for Transitions to find a job or to make one available. We’re staffing up to support this, putting some things in place, and will then take the deep dive into services with community partners who want to build inclusive communities. Call CCS for further information at (905) 584-2300.

 

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