A new research centre has been launched at McMaster University in Hamilton to improve how people with disabilities are supported in the job market.
The Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP) aims to develop evidence-based policy options that will allow Canada’s current disability policy system to provide better income support and labour-market engagement for people when they are injured, ill or disabled.
“Throughout my six years in office, I’ve spoken to employer groups, service clubs and community organizations around the province about the strong economic case for employing people with disabilities,” David Onley, lieutenant governor of Ontario, said last month in his New Year’s message. “I’m pleased to say that I’ve witnessed some great progress, but there is still more work to do.”
The new research centre is a seven-year initiative funded by the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Co-led by doctors Emile Tompa and Ellen MacEachen, senior scientists at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto, the centre includes regional hubs in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Taking into account all forms of disability — acute or chronic, temporary or episodic, physical or mental, coming early in life or late, work-related or otherwise — it’s not hard to see that work disability touches most people at some point in their lives,” said Tompa. “We are bringing together academic talent from across the country and working closely with partners to identify a roadmap for the future of work disability policy in Canada.”
The centre also involves 46 partners from across the country. These partners represent disability and injured worker community organizations, provincial and federal-level disability support program providers, labour organizations and employers, and research institutions.
According to Statistics Canada, about 2.3 million people in Canada between the ages of 15 and 64 — representing one in 10 working-age Canadians — reported in 2012 that they were sometimes or often limited in their daily activity due to a long-lasting health impairment.
“More and more people with health conditions or impairments are falling into the grey zone of unemployment,” said MacEachen. “They can and want to work, and need help to get there, yet may not qualify for work integration support from any one program. With our partners, we will do research to help us understand how this is happening and how our system might be improved to address it.”