An Act Respecting the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons and the Co-ordination of Rehabilitation Services was assented to on June 1st of that year and proclaimed in force on December 1, 1961. In operation by in 1962, the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (VRDP) Program was managed as a joint Federal-Provincial/Territorial program to provide assistance and services to disabled persons to train for, seek out or maintain employment.
In 1945 the Saskatchewan Department of Social Welfare sent out a questionnaire to the Secretary-Treasurers of all rural municipalities and local improvement districts to determine the number of "crippled and handicapped persons" in the province who received public aid and were believed to be able to gain sustainable employment given appropriate training and support services. In addition, the Department began studying the methods and programs offered by agencies in order to formulate a plan to accommodate an increase in public demand for training services. In 1946, the Department set up the Civilian Rehabilitation Division to administer a program for the rehabilitation of disabled persons. The services offered were to be the precursors of those offered by the VRDP program. The services included: i) Vocational Diagnosis; ii) Counselling and Guidance; iii) Vocational, Technical and Educational Training; iv) Prosthetics; v) Employment Placement; vi) Auxiliary Services; vii) Public Relations.
This program was a joint venture between the province and municipalities. Municipalities were asked to contribute 50% of costs for the vocational, technical or education training, and prosthetics, the Department of Social Welfare assumed the administration costs.
In 1948, the Department of Public Health made an effort to classify jobs in various hospital industries with a view to organizing certain areas for the accessibility and placement of those occupationally or mentally handicapped. As well, national grants became available to enhance programs associated with the care of children.
The Federal Government called a meeting with the provinces, territories, and private agencies in February, 1951 to discuss the need for a federal-provincial initiative for the rehabilitation of handicapped persons. The main resolution from this meeting urged the establishment of the Civilian Rehabilitation Program for Handicapped Persons to provide suitable allowances, physical restoration, guidance and training. The resultant goal of this initiative was to develop skills and capacities to enable handicapped persons to undertake permanent employment and live a "reasonable life."
In view of the limited resources and shortage of skilled personnel at the time, services were aimed at those individuals capable of "economic independence and social usefulness." Municipalities were invited to share in the costs of restoration, training, tools and equipment; and provide medical, psychiatric and vocational diagnostic services. A conference held later in 1951 established an advisory committee with representatives from the provincial governments, labour, industry, medicine and private organizations.
By 1952 -1953, the Saskatchewan Department of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation was working closely with the Department of Education to arrange for clients to participate in sheltered training workshops. In August, 1953, the Minister of the Department of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation signed an agreement on rehabilitation services for disabled persons, under which the costs of establishing a provincial government office for the co-ordination of these services within the Government of Saskatchewan would be shared on a 50-50 basis with the Federal Government. Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to sign such an agreement and the first to appoint a Provincial Co-ordinator of Rehabilitation Services.
By 1954 the Department of Public Health participated in a similar program to assist paraplegics in receiving financial assistance, and arrangements for transportation - with efforts being coordinated with the Departments of Public Health, Education and Labour and the Workmen's Compensation Board. Furthermore, in 1954, a federal-provincial agreement was reached with the Federal Department of Labour and the various provincial Departments of Education for the selection and training of disabled persons and for the provision of shared costs for transportation, tuition, books and maintenance of certain disabled persons undergoing vocational training. The provinces were to provide individual evaluations and reviews of cases prior to acceptance into the program.
In 1961 the Federal Government entered into agreements (for six years or less) with individual provinces to supply 50 per-cent of the funding. Provincial and Territorial Governments held discretion as to specific services and individual financing. The program offered the following general services: i) Assessment and counselling; ii) Training and employment placements along with training or maintenance allowances; iii) Assistance in accessing the services and programs and services offered by voluntary organizations who participate in the vocational rehabilitation of disabled persons; iv) Training of persons as counsellors or administrators to carry out programs; and v) Books, tools/equipment and aids.
Additionally the VRDP Program provided funding for certain volunteer agencies that offered individual vocational rehabilitation services (i.e. Canadian Paraplegic Association, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and Canadian Hearing Society).
In 1964, a Review Committee with representation from the provincial Departments of Welfare, Public Health and Education, and National Employment Services was struck; this committee ultimately reviewed and granted approval for training. This was followed by a review program that gathered information six months and one year after completion of training in order to assist officials in future program planning. [By the end of the program, this follow up period was extended to 36 months.]
In Saskatchewan, the administration of the VRDP program continued the earlier practice of having services to disabled persons offered cooperatively by three provincial departments - Education, Social Services and Health coordinated through a Director of Vocational Rehabilitation. The role of the Department of Social Services was primarily to administer the funds, to handle negotiations between the Federal and Provincial government departments and to provide for sheltered workshops. These workshops encouraged disabled persons to develop work and social skills until they were able either to reach their potential level of independence or to obtain sustainable employment. In addition the Department of Social Services offered the Long-Term Employment Initiative in order to offset the costs of additional supervision and/or job placement and/or job development costs, this included such initiatives as wage subsides and core funding to provincial disability organizations.
The Department of Education administered the funding to applicants for training (unpaid employment training and pre-employment training) and recreation/therapy programs for adults with disabilities. Support for post-secondary education was a major component of the individual vocational rehabilitation programs providing cost sharing for tuition, books and supplies, living allowances and support services such as attendants, interpreters, tutors and technical aids.
Under the Department of Health, the VRDP program provided assistive devices; medical supplies and equipment; alcohol and drug recovery services; individual and group counselling; psychological assessments; and vocational services/training in life skills and job search techniques. The Consultant Medical Social Worker was an officer working within the Department of Health, responsible for receiving referrals to the Program from various agencies and passing along to these agencies the results of the evaluation by the Training Selection Committee.
The VRDP Program, scheduled to end on 31 March 1997, was extended an additional year at a cost of $168 million (nationally) for existing programs while negotiations continued for the development of a suitable programming successor. By October 1997, the Government of Canada and provincial and territorial ministers responsible for social services approved the Employability Assistance for Peoples with Disabilities (EAPD) Initiative.
The Province of Saskatchewan entered into the five-year EAPD agreement with Human Resources Development Canada in March 1998 that allowed for a three-year transition period in which programs and services cost-shared under VRDP could be adjusted to reflect a new employability focus and avoid significant disruptions in client service.