The Ontario Works Program in Lac Seul has more to offer than one might think. Of course, they offer financial aid for individuals in need of emergency assistance. However, the main goal of the program is to help people in the community develop skills so they may obtain employment and achieve self-reliance.
Employment support includes helping people look for jobs, assisting in the job application process, as well as providing support for training opportunities. The Ontario Works Program works closely with the Lac Seul Centre for Training and Excellence to provide training such as computer literacy, WHMIS, First Aid, Safe Food Handling, and job readiness skills (resumes, interviews). Other training opportunities have included outdoor survival, self-esteem, and life skills workshops.
If an individual is hired at a job, the program will continue to work with that person to ensure they maintain employment. Support will be provided to assist with childcare, transportation, or equipment.
A component new to Lac Seul Ontario Works is the Eligibility Review Officer/Family Support Worker. The ERO/FSW works closely with sole support parents, temporary care clients to access services and support in the community and assists with the legal application processes for child support and custody matters. Other supports include referrals to family care, treatment care (addictions), and legal aid. The Eligibility Review Officer position ensures client case files are properly documented and processed according to policy directives.
With offices in Frenchman’s Head and Kejick Bay, the program has a current case load of 228 in total. Last year, Lac Seul also entered into an agreement with the Ministry of Community and Social Services to administer the Ontario Works Program for Slate Falls. When applying for assistance, eligible clients sign a Participation Agreement that requires individuals to perform 20 hours per month of community service. This includes taking courses, helping with community events and activities, or employment placement. For example, over the summer five participants helped to clear an area for a Midewin Lodge. Also, another group of individuals took part in the portable sawmill training (that was part of a subsidy program) to build log cabins, which has been met with great success and has led to full time employment for 6 Ontario Works clients.
An increase in Social Assistance Transfer Funding has also led to full time employment for 14 other Ontario Works clients: ten (10) full time positions at local elementary schools as Education Retention Workers, and four (4) full time store clerk positions at Nishmart Convenience, as well as seven (7) seasonal full time positions at Mahkwa Lodge and the Lac Seul Resort.
The program has come a long way in recent years. Before Lac Seul offered a full delivery Ontario Works program, only two people operated the program. Now, there is a team of seven employees dedicated to helping people find success.