Employment Supports – who pays?

We are all in agreement that people deserve to earn a fair wage – that is not in question.

Forget Me Not

Forget-me-not when making decisions about ME

 

When we are working with a population of people with significant intellectual/developmental disabilities who may often have additional mental/medical/physical/behavior disabilities we are talking about a very complex situation.  Our goals are to encourage as much independence and integration as possible and we realize that this most often includes personal supports to be in place.

For services and supports that are to be driven by person-centered planning and thinking with personal choice, most often this population has no choice or the choices are made by those who have no idea what the collateral damage of their decisions will be on those they are making the choices for.  Choices which are said to “improve the quality of life” – without asking and working with those actually involved – how are these so-called choices proven to improve the quality of life of those affected?

One very recent issue is the closure of pre-vocational training jobs and facilities.  Many people worked at these sites by CHOICE but that has been taken away because everyone deserves minimum wage.  That’s fine – but in order to do the work to earn minimum wage, many of these people need paid supports in order to find and keep a job.

The issue is not only what the employer will pay the employee but who will pay for the support needed so the employee is able to work?  We need to address this issue.

Currently the wage to a job vendor (in King County, Washington) is $73.00/hour whether an individual is receiving supports to find a job, or receiving job coaching to maintain a job.  The counties authorize a certain number of hours for each person within employment services.  There is a cap of $3,600 payment to a vendor per month (approximately 50 hours of employment for the employee who makes about minimum wage if they are actually employed.)

When the choice of pre-vocational training jobs was eliminated, most have been left with scraps.

King County PVS clients 2019

Pre-Vocational Training – clients spent an average of 58.4 hours a month on-site – time that was both work/therapy/socialization.  Clients worked an average of 43.9 hours a month of that 58.4 hour average. .  This means that all people in the pre-vocational services had an average weekly engagement of 14-15 hours.

Fast Forward to the collateral damage of the current situation due to their choice taken away –

Community Inclusion – 45 people – average of 9 hours a month (decrease of 49 hours of engagement)

Employment Services – Total 62 people –

  • 23 people are actually “employed” working an average of 8.75 hours a week (decrease of 49 hours of engagement a month)
  • Employment rate of 37% (depends on how this is figured – could be 25%,  37% or 58% – I believe the correct percentage is 37% based off of how many are in the employment service and how many actually have a job)
  • 39 people have no employment – ZERO hours of engagement

King County Previous PVS clients

 

The Take Away –

  • who is paying for the authorized funds for support?  How much and for what supports and services?  For those with NO employment are the vendors still being paid for supports?
  • We went from a high employment and engagement rate for this population to an extremely low employment and engagement rate.  What was the cost?  Not just in dollars but in meaningful life experiences.
  • Do these people feel more integrated and engaged and feel their life has more meaning than before this choice was taken away?

It behooves us to look at this and understand the collateral damage.

We believe in choice and wise use of the meager resources we have in methods that will best serve the most people.

Encourage your legislators to address the JLARC report and issues regarding person-centered planning and choice, quality of life for both the individual and their supports -we do not live and work in isolation.

 

HB 1706 – Elimination of Special Certificates

Below is a copy of an email to sponsors of this bill that was heard today in the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee.   This bill is being heard without an understanding of the full impact and pushed “as the right thing to do”.  I’m sorry, but we have already seen how policies driven by ideology with little regard to facts, evaluation and assessment of changes has contributed to our current and continued crisis in the supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
It’s time to stop the charades, work together and come to real, sustainable solutions that best benefit the most people.  HB 1706 is not one of those solutions.
Collaboration concept in word tag cloud

As a sponsor of HB 1706 I am writing you this email with information regarding the discrimination of this bill by denying the opportunity of any disabled person to work as an apprentice, learner or messenger.  By eliminating the special certificates for people with disabilities, the other jobs are also denied.  Apprenticeship, learners and messengers can be great jobs for people with certain disabilities and it’s shameful to deny those choices.

As stated in the documentary “Bottom Dollars” produced by Disability Rights Washington and Rooted in Rights  – “If people are given the proper services and supports and proper assistive technology, the sky is the limit for many, many individuals”  I truly believe this – unfortunately, HB 1706 does not address any of the issues of support – just the wage.  Do not pass HB 1706 until all the issues are addressed and planned as is recommended in research by national agencies.

Supported Employment is great – it can open up many opportunities for people.  It needs funding to be successful and this bill does not address the issue of supporting funds for job coaches, job development, job training or transition planning.  It only looks at eliminating the special certificates.  Eliminating special certificates without addressing the critical issue of funding supported employment/integrated employment for this population will result in a crisis.  This population is already involved in a crisis situation with lack of caregivers and supported living with many people stuck in hospitals with no place to go.  Passing this bill at this time is not in the best interest of anyone.

It is interesting to note that not one research report of any advocacy agency recommends immediate elimination of certificates.  A well planned and funded transition is needed for a stable and sustainable integrated supported employment opportunities.  There is nothing in this bill that addresses any issues regarding transition.  It has been stated that a rapid elimination would actually be detrimental to our population.

Elimination of special certificates without taking into consideration the other issues involved will only result in job loss.  It will not increase the employment opportunities nor will it mean that those with disabilities will now make a living wage. When a person is only able to work 10 hours a week, minimum wage will not allow them to be self-supporting.

In Seattle, the legislation caused people to lose hours at their jobs.  Yes, their wages increased but their hours decreased.  For some of these people their job was also their opportunity to be integrated in the community – with the loss of hours, their community integration opportunity decreased too. A question asked in today’s public hearing by Representative Mosbruker was regarding an evaluation of what has happened in places that have eliminated the special certificate.  This is a very critical question that also needs to be answered before moving forward.  There is information available on this for New Hampshire, Maine and some other states – I would be more than happy to provide links to you.

In Seattle, there were 8 people who were working under a Special Certificate – 6 at Ballard Locks were working 5 hours a day had their hours cut to 3 hours a day, the person at Ballard Lutheran had her hours cut from 15 hours a week to 12 hours a week and the person at Ballard Market was working 6 hours a week and did not have hours cut but the manager express concern about being able to hire employees with significant intellectual/developmental disabilities in the future.  It should be noted that none of these employees needed 1:1 job support for their jobs.

I did not hear anyone testify about the support needs for those involved in integrated employment or talk about the number of hours these employees may work a week or the coordination of supports (transportation, housing, personal needs support)  needed to be employed.  These are all critical issues that need discussion before a bill such as this is passed.

Again, as an example, my son who lives in Supported Living also has supported employment.  He works 9 hours a week at Lowe’s and makes $16.59 an hour.  This means that his gross wages are $597 per month.  He also receives SSI which is reduced due to his wages so overall his income is roughly $900.00.  He needs to pay rent, utilities, groceries and all living expenses from that $900.00.

The County (through DDA) pays the employment vendor about $2400.00 a month to provide the support to my son for his 1:1 job support.  What have you heard about the funding for these integrated jobs for people like my son who needs 1:1 support to be employed in an integrated community setting?  While the employer is paying the employee minimum wage, someone needs to pay the job coach or there is no job at all.

Please do not pass HB 1706 at this time.  Yes, fair and equitable wages are important but in order to have fair and equitable wages in an integrated setting we need to look at the whole picture.

At the risk of continued personal assaults from one of the people testifying today, I feel obligated to inform people of the consequences of taking such rash actions without a full understanding and acknowledgement of the various issues involved in coordination of supports. It was not a collaborative process at all with Shaun Bickley (he was co-chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities) taking the helm and violating the First Amendment by censoring and blocking comments from constituents to the Seattle Commission and later writing libelous comments about others and most recently commiting fraud, conspiracy and interference with contractual relations with regards to my work as a registered nurse.  This is all in retaliation against me for trying to have accountability and transparency in the process of the elimination of special certificates in Seattle.

I would be more than happy to provide information on national research regarding the issue of special certificates and special wages, integrated and supported employment and transition planning to ensure sustainability and success.

Thank you for your concern and attention to this critical issue.  

Haste Makes Waste – Seattle Style

Seattle has been played by a disability activist who has worked extremely hard to have legislation passed that removed the use of special certificates for people with disabilities.  While this may seem like a great step forward in the name of social justice, in reality, it has caused people to lose employment hours and discriminates against people with disabilities by limiting choices and alternatives.

The old saying “haste makes waste” was very evident in the process that has occurred.  Information from concerned and involved stakeholders was blocked which made it impossible to collaborate with the Commission and the Office of Labor Standards with regards to the rule change. Several City of Seattle staffers questioned the urgency of the issue but continued to push this along at the rapid-fire rate the activist was insisting upon.

When the voices of those directly involved are silenced and actions are taken without their input, violations occur.  This is an all too common theme in issues related to those with disabilities – particularly those with intellectual/developmental disabilities.  It’s even more frustrating when this rebuff is done by a Commission that is there to advocate with and for those with disabilities.

This transcript sums up fairly well the response that I received to any inquiry or concern.  The Co-Chair alleges that I harassed and stalked him in addition to many other fabricated stories of what I have done.  This conversation was between a disabled community advocate and the Co-Chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.   transcript between Cheryl Felak and Shaun Bickley May 2018

The law, as now written, actually discriminates against people with disabilities who would be able to get a job as “an apprentice, learner or messenger.” 

It is costly and time-consuming to hire and train anyone and employers may be even more wary of hiring a person with an intellectual/developmental disability.  Having the option of using a special certificate for a limited amount of time as a trial is an alternative that actually could have provided an opportunity for both employers and employees to “try out” a job without out a full investment for something they may not be sure would work out for either of them.  Having a time limit to the special certificate is a protection for the employee.

According to the Policy Manager of the Office of Labor Standards, the Minimum Wage ordinance prohibits our office from approving a special certificate  for any individual who meets the criteria of “an individual whose earning capacity is impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or injury” regardless of the individual’s occupation.

It also needs to be noted that the Commission did not contact the City of Seattle Supported Employment Program for any information regarding supported employment.  The City of Seattle is recognized as a “best practice” and has received many awards for the work they do.  Supported Employment Brief Overview_2018 describes the City of Seattle Supported Employment program.

Some excerpts from City of Seattle Supported Employment Overview:

We customize each job by bundling a variety of entry-level duties into positions that individually match candidates’’ skills, which also allows your other employees to maximize their time.  The supported Employment program’s hallmark is its ability to design effective positions that adapt to individual human and organizational needs.

Job coaches provide training and coaching “support’ as needed for the supported employee.  Job coaches are a valuable resource for the entire workplace of a supported employee, and are available at no cost to an employer who hires a supported employee.  Coaches are dispatched from local community agencies that serve the employment-related needs of people with developmental disabilities.

How did the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities totally ignore this program and employees?  One reason is that the Commission refused to communicate with anyone that had concerns or questions about their push for a rule change and legislation.

It’s too late now to change the law in Seattle but there is time to stop this activist from going statewide with this and causing more harm.

Seattle Minimum Wage and People with Disabilities describes some of the deceit, lies, and violations of the First Amendment practiced by The Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities in pursuing the law to eliminate special certificates.

If you are approached by Shaun Bickley (@lLeftistAutist on Twitter) to sign on to the campaign he has posted or circulated – please think it through and understand what is missing in this campaign – mainly planning, transition, funding, collaboration and sustainability for disabled employees and our community.

Shaun Bickley campaign to end subminimum wage in Washington State July 2018

 

I got the city to ban subminimum wage

 

 

“Things I Mean to Know” (Sheltered Workshops and Supported Employment)

I was recently listening to the Podcast “This American Life” and was struck by the very question that I keep asking of advocates with regards to intellectual disabilities.   We are told over and over again that “evidence shows” yet have these advocates really looked at the evidence or are they just taking on faith what they have heard and have believed it?

Questions asked are “how do we know it’s true?”, “what is the proof of it?” “how much have you accepted without evidence?”

“Sometimes there’s a thing that you think you know, even though, right in front of you, staring you in the face, is clear evidence to the contrary.”  There are also the issues of denial  and deceit at play when censorship of opinions and experiences are practiced.

The most recent issue with lack of evidence is in the recommendation of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities (PwD Commission) to immediately eliminate the special certificates for employees with disabilities who would earn a sub-minimum wage.  Supposedly, the commission did 4 months of “intensive research” but they have not been able to provide any documentation of their research other than  opinion pieces, articles that actually oppose rapid elimination of the certificates or outdated research.  (Below this post are links to the documents the PwD Commission provided as their research into the issues of sub-minimum wage).  They have not been able to address the issues I have asked with regards to how this recommendation will affect other aspects of the people’s lives.  Apparently,  from the answer I received, the other aspects are irrelevant in this decision.

I wrote a letter to the Office of Labor Standards with my concerns about the recommendation and then again about the lack of evidence that was provided by the PwD Commission in making this recommendation (  letter to Ms. Bull in Office of Labor Standards regarding sub-minimum wage August 2017, non-evidence letter to K. Bull of OLS – November 2017)

One position paper submitted by APSE was used as evidence.  It is very interesting that in reading this position paper and looking up the citations,  the so-called evidence is not there.   They seem totally unaware of the significant limitations written by the author (Cimera) and only use part of the conclusion as the evidence.   (APSE is the Association of People Supporting Employment First –  Subminimum Wage Research Documents from PwD Commission)

Need to keep the findings in context:

  1. Did employee begin work immediately upon enrollment (tends to occur in sheltered workshops) or was there a long process to being employed (more likely in community employment)?
  2. The number of hours worked in each setting is unknown. Sheltered workshop employees by be “on the job” of physically present for 40 hours a week, there may be hours of down time when the employee is not actually working.  Also, by definition, sheltered workshops are continually staffed (this also helps with supports during “down time”)
  3. Community supported employees may not need (or may need) job coaches on site with them and therefore the costs are not influenced as much by the hours worked. Not knowing how many hours were worked and what percentage of those hours was staffed by a job coach, Given the number of hours worked by the employees and the amount of job support needed is unknown there is no possible way to make a comparison of the cumulative cost to that of a sheltered workshop.
  4. There is the issue of “skimming” – that is that even though the participants in this study were classified as having the same level of disability (“most significant”) there is no assurance that the level of limitations was identical.
  5. Given that it is impossible to quantify every variable that could affect cost-effectiveness, let alone find sets of supported and sheltered employees who have identical abilities, every study that attempts to compared sheltered and supported employees might be comparing apples and oranges” (Cimera, 2007)

My opinion is that both options are needed to best serve our population of people with disabilities and more specifically people with profound disabilities including intellectual disabilities.  There are pros and cons to each scenario and it needs to be individualized to the person as to which would be the best option.  This is what PERSON CENTERED PLANNING is about.

This is an issue that is happening all across the nation but there is no actual evidence or reliable research which supports the policies that are making sweeping changes to people’s lives.  When reviewing studies, reports and research, it is extremely important to consider the limitations in that study, the demographics and regional differences and the types of jobs that people are employed in.

Yes, there may be problems with the oversight and management of employment (as can be read about in this article – Segregated and exploited article) under the special certificates but that means we need to correct those problems so the system works as intended.  It does not mean to suddenly change to a different type of program or system that has not been documented to provide any better outcomes for a specific population.  Again, this is where is it critically important to read through the studies and understand the limitations.  The conclusions mean nothing without understanding the limitations.

My questions to the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities regarding the recommendation to make a rapid elimination of the special certificates and the answer I received, indicate to me that this commission does not understand the full impact this recommendation will make in the lives.

My hope is that this commission does invite and pay attention to people with intellectual disabilities and their support circles.  It is critical to involve the people who will be affected by the change.  Remember “Nothing About Us, Without Us” 

 

References:

Akkerman, A., Janssen, C. G., Kef, S., & Meininger, H. P. (2016). Job Satisfaction of People With Intellectual Disabilities in Integrated and Sheltered Employment: An Exploration of the Literature. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 13(3), 205-216. doi:10.1111/jppi.12168
Boyd, J. M., & Davis, C. (2016). When good is no longer good enough: Transitioning to greatness. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 44(3), 279-285. doi:10.3233/jvr-160798
Cimera, R. E. (2007). The Cumulative Cost-Effectiveness of Supported and Sheltered Employees With Mental Retardation. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 32(4), 247-252. doi:10.2511/rpsd.32.4.247
Cimera, R. E. (2010). Supported Employment’s Cost-Efficiency to Taxpayers: 2002 to 2007. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 34(2), 13-20. doi:10.2511/rpsd.34.2.13
Cimera, R. E. (2016). A comparison of the cost-ineffectiveness of supported employment versus sheltered work services by state and demographics of program participants. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 45(3), 281-294. doi:10.3233/jvr-160829
Cimera, R. E., Avellone, L., & Feldman-Sparber, C. (2015). An investigation of the outcomes achieved by individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 43(2), 129-135. doi:10.3233/jvr-150762
Cimera. (n.d.). The percentage of supported employees with significant disabilities who would earn more in sheltered workshops.