United Way’s decision to de-fund popular matching program leaves Citizen Advocacy with few short-term alternatives
OTTAWA, May 30, 2011 – Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa will close its popular Everyday Champions program to new applicants starting June 1. The not-for-profit organization’s core program matches people living with disabilities with volunteers in the community. Citizen Advocacy will also tell the 300 people with disabilities already on its waiting list that they are going to have to wait even longer to obtain one-to-one matches with volunteer advocates.
The move follows the announcement in March 2011 that the United Way will no longer fund Citizen Advocacy’s Everyday Champions program. This stems from an earlier decision by the United Way to channel donations raised by the community to just five focus areas as part of its Impact Initiative. For people living with disabilities, the United Way is now focusing exclusively on programs that support employment.
The United Way’s decision means that Everyday Champions will face a funding shortfall of $166,000 next year or almost one-third of its operating budget.
“The United Way’s decision to de-fund our Everyday Champions program for people living with disabilities is a harsh blow to us,” states Brian Tardif, Executive Director of Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa. “For the past 35 years, we have worked in partnership with the United Way to support people with disabilities through our popular one-to-one matching program. Unfortunately, Everyday Champions no longer fits with the United Way’s focus area on employment since our goal isn’t to find jobs for people with disabilities.”
Tardif says Citizen Advocacy will try to seek alternative funds to ensure that its Everyday Champions program can continue to create and sustain long-term matches between people living with disabilities and volunteer advocates. Until that happens, the agency is taking steps to ensure the program’s long-term viability. Beginning June 1, it will no longer accept new applications from people with disabilities seeking matches. Moreover, it will eliminate two full-time staff positions this summer and possibly more in 2012. With these reductions, the organization’s ability to find and make matches for existing clients will be extremely limited.
“Citizen Advocacy is fundamentally opposed to the United Way’s exclusive focus on employment not just for the sake of our Everyday Champions program but for what it says about people living with disabilities,” says Christopher Walters, President of Citizen Advocacy’s Board of Directors. “While jobs are important, they don’t guarantee acceptance in society. Many people who work still feel isolated and sometimes the work itself isn’t exactly meaningful. In our view, the focus area also devalues those individuals with disabilities who are simply unable to work.”
Focussing on employment at the expense of other quality-of-life factors such as social networks and supports could also affect the physical and mental health of people with disabilities resulting in more pressures on healthcare system and other social services.
Tardif and members of Citizen Advocacy’s Board of Directors have met with United Way representatives and asked them to broaden the United Way’s focus area to be more inclusive for these reasons.
“Our goal is to bring the United Way back as a key funding partner as soon as possible. But in the meantime we also have to speak up for the most vulnerable in our community,” states Tardif.
About Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa
Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa is a registered charitable organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate fully in the community life of Ottawa. Established in 1974, it has supported thousands of people with disabilities and has touched the lives of thousands more.
Citizen Advocacy currently supports 275 active matches in the Ottawa area through its core program Everyday Champions. It also provides other services and programs: Chance For Choice (for elderly individuals living with disabilities); Lifetime Networks (to facilitate long-term caring networks for people with disabilities); Independent Facilitation and person-Directed Planning (to increase the number of trained facilitators available to people with disabilities to assist with “life-planning” and Real Plans for Real Life (to provide person-centered planning services for those “most in need”). Chance for Choice continues to be supported by the United Way.
For additional information please visit the web site at: www.citizenadvocacy.org
Executive Director Brian Tardif
(613) 761-9522 ext. 225