A report will be released by the provincial government very soon that could be very important for everyone living on OW and ODSP and people working in precarious jobs, and for all those who support them.
In June 2016, the Income Security Reform Working Group was appointed by the Minister of Community and Social Services, Dr. Helena Jaczek. Two additional working groups were formed shortly thereafter – the First Nations Income Security Reform Working Group and the Urban Indigenous Table in Income Security Reform.
The three groups were asked to come up with recommendations to transform Ontario’s income security system.
The groups are made up of people with lived experience, representatives from organizations in the community with expertise on the system and the needs of particular populations, as well as academics and administrators. ISAC’s Director of Advocacy & Legal Services was a member of the Income Security Reform Working Group.
A consolidated report from all three groups will be released soon. A short period of public consultation will follow. We will share the report, and ideas for how to engage with it, once it has been released.
We all know that social assistance in Ontario does a poor job of supporting the people who need it. Incomes from Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program are far too low – often dangerously so. The programs are punitive and treat recipients like they don’t deserve the benefits they are entitled to. OW in particular doesn’t respond to the variety of unique needs that people have when accessing benefits. And caseworkers have to spend more time policing benefits than actually supporting people.
Indigenous peoples face particular problems with social assistance and other benefit programs. Accessing the specialized services they need to prove eligibility can be very hard, due to racism, remoteness, language, and other factors. The programs need to change to recognize the impact of colonization and the unique needs of all Indigenous peoples. And given the inherent right of First Nations peoples to govern and administer the programs and services they need, reforms must respect the right to self-governance.
And people in low-wage precarious jobs need public supports and programs. Health care supports are a particular concern for those whose employers don’t provide benefits. Precarious workers need other supports as well, to help them afford basic needs like housing and supports to raise their kids.
We encourage all those who have an interest in income security reform in Ontario to read the report once it is released and to contribute to the public consultation process.
It will be especially important for government to hear from people with lived experience, and we encourage people on OW and ODSP and those in precarious work to read the report and comment on it. We also encourage groups and agencies to engage people with lived experience in discussion about the report and to help those who need it to contribute to the public consultations.