Conservative Government’s “lapsed funding” hurts Kingston youth and disabled seeking employment
Update, May 2015: After a 7-month delay in service delivery to Kingston’s vulnerable youth, ESDC has confirmed funding for these important KEYS programs. This is very good news, but I remain concerned about the service delivery gaps resulting from lapsed funding.
On May 7, the CBC reported that the Harper government committed – but did not spend – over $97 million dollars to help youth, the disabled and recent immigrants find jobs. This government is very good at announcing funding multiple times to make it seem as though they are doing more than they are, but allowing this “lapsed funding” is especially offensive. The government announces funding in a very public way, but then never actually spends it. It is left with what looks like extra money to “balance” the budget, but really this money was supposed to be spent on important services for Canadians.
When the government allows funding to lapse, there are many consequences beyond programs going unfunded.
In Kingston, KEYS is a community-based career and employment centre that offers a range of services to people seeking jobs and employers. KEYS delivers a lot of key federal programs like the Opportunities Fund Program, which helps persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain and keep employment, and Skills Link, which helps break down barriers for youth seeking employment.
These programs are federally funded. In the past few years there has been significant delays for renewals for contracts to deliver these programs. If a program has been operating successfully for 10 years, as is the case with the Opportunities Fund Program, the renewal of funding should be fairly straightforward. Instead, last year there was a two-month delay between contact expiry and implementation of the new contract (August 2014 – October 2014). This means two months of no funding, of interrupted services for people with disabilities. That is part of the reported $97 million in lapsed funding.
But there were deeper consequences. The government created a serious headache for KEYS’ day-to-day operations. Experienced and knowledgeable employees had to be laid off or reassigned if not lost to another employer. Stopping and starting any program has its own cost in terms of inefficiencies.
I’ve seen evidence that these funding delays, resulting in gaps between a project and its renewal, are widespread, and a fairly recent phenomenon. The government has a responsibility to make sure that the funding it provides is delivered in the most efficient way possible. Lapsed funding means that money isn’t even provided. Delaying funding establishes a human resources and business-continuity gap, and means that not only are the clients negatively affected, but so are the service providers.