Adult literacy programs in trouble, warns advocacy group

There are concerns the federal government is pulling the plug on funding for some adult literacy programs.

Minister says funding will now go to 'useful literacy projects' instead of administration

The federal Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, under the direction of Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney, has informed several literacy organizations across Canada that it is not approving their funding proposals. (Shutterstock)

There are concerns the federal government is pulling the plug on funding for some adult literacy programs.

Philip Hoffman, the executive director of Literacy Alberta, says organizations like his are having their funding proposals denied by the federal Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES).

"It's a major concern. It's troubling to us,” said Hoffman.

"It does have an effect on us and impact on us in terms of our staffing potentially and the projects that we're able to continue to support."

Hoffman says it will affect people who are already struggling.

'It means fewer services'

"It means fewer services. It means they'll have fewer opportunities to advance to get the access to educational opportunities that they're seeking to improve their job levels and job skills,” he said.

"Certainly it will have a direct impact on end users, on adult learners. The exact extent of that is difficult to see and we're all — all of us who are involved in this field — going to need to look for ways of adjusting our programming and our revenue models to accommodate the needs that are out there."

Paul Moist, with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), says literacy organizations are laying off staff and turning people away.

"If the federal government is responsible for labour force development to some degree, this is a component of it. Nine million Canadians have some degree of literacy issues."

CUPE is calling on the federal government to renew funding to literacy programs immediately.

Government responds to concerns

Alexandra Fortier, press secretary for Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney, says for many years federal literacy funding was going to the same organizations to cover the costs of administration and research papers instead of funding projects that result in improving the literacy skills of Canadians. 

"These organizations were advised three years ago to give them ample time to prepare that the federal government was changing the structure of funding through the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills to make it more effective," she said in an email. 

"Canadian taxpayers will no longer fund administration of organizations but will instead fund useful literacy projects."

One program currently receiving funding is the development of a national curriculum to help apprenticeship students upgrade their literacy skills.

"Some aspiring apprenticeship students lack a Grade 12 diploma, which is a prerequisite for entering apprenticeship training,"  Fortier said. "This project will help these students get the literacy and essential skills they need to get their Grade 12 diploma."


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