In 2007 and 2008, ISAC was very involved, along with a number of other partners in the 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction, in advocating with government for the creation of a Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario.
As part of that advocacy work, ISAC produced “Rethinking the role of Social Assistance within a Poverty Reduction Strategy: A submission to the Cabinet Committee for Poverty Reduction”.
This document outlines ISAC’s perspective on the need to transform Ontario’s two social assistance programs, Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), in order to actually support the goal of reducing poverty among Ontarians. It also provides a plan of action for how that transformation could occur.
As the document says:
A successful poverty reduction strategy for Ontario must include a new approach to the province’s social assistance programs, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, which are the products of an outdated approach to income security.
Ontario Works does not meet the needs of the people who rely on it, and it does not meet the needs of an economy that experts say is facing looming shortages of skilled labour. ODSP does not effectively provide for the long-term well-being of people with disabilities. Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program deepen poverty, and increase the social exclusion of recipients. And the philosophy, rules, and rhetoric surrounding both programs foster negative stereotypes that limit community support and opportunities for social assistance recipients.
It’s time for a paradigm shift in how we think about social assistance, its objectives and its role. Social assistance programs must incorporate an explicit objective to move people out of poverty, by offering meaningful support opportunities for those who can work and ensuring that those who cannot are able to live with dignity.
The document was submitted to the provincial government’s Cabinet Committee for Poverty Reduction on July 31, 2008 as part of that Committee’s deliberations on the creation of a Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ontario.
You can download the document below: