The Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC) has issued a report to the Minister of Community and Social Services about changes to Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rules that could make life better for people relying on social assistance in Ontario. ISAC’s Director of Advocacy and Legal Services, Mary Marrone, is one of nine members of the Council.
SARAC’s mandate is to make recommendations to the Minister about the scope and terms of reference for a review of Ontario’s social assistance system, and to advise the Minister about possible short-term changes that could improve the programs for the people who rely on them, without adding substantial costs.
The report outlines the 13 recommended rule changes, which are:
- Increase asset limits
- Extend asset exemptions to registered savings plans i.e. Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Tax‐Free Savings Accounts
- Let friends and families give Ontario Works recipients casual gifts
- Treat Employment Insurance Benefits as earnings for people receiving Ontario Disability Support Program
- Extend Ontario Works eligibility to persons disqualified from Ontario Student Assistance Program
- Charge social assistance rent scale to Ontario Works / Ontario Disability Support Program recipients with higher earnings ‐ increase Social Housing Reform Act thresholds
- Retain eligibility for recipients using windfalls to reimburse Government
- Do not reduce assistance for sharing accommodation / boarding
- Do not treat loans to recipients as income
- Change Ontario Works suspensions for non‐participation
- Do not stop payments to dependent children leaving school
- Allow parents to keep partial child support
- Increase medical transportation rates