These are powerful stories, interwoven with themes of fear and desperation, of shame and frustration, of dignity and resilience. The stories raise the need for more appropriate education and training, for more sensible treatment of income, and for rules that are easy to understand and designed to encourage people rather than break their spirits. They highlight the punitive nature of the current social assistance system, and the need to break down the systemic barriers that keep people trapped in poverty.
Social Assistance Reform
The Ontario government’s announcements today on the social assistance review and special diet allowance program are both welcome steps forward on the road to improved income security for Ontarians.
“This is the bold and broad review that we’ve been looking for, led by two credible commissioners who we have confidence will lead an independent and thoughtful review process,” says Mary Marrone, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services for the Income Security Advocacy Centre.
The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction welcomes the news that Ontario’s long awaited Social Assistance review will start in January and be led by two very able commissioners: Frances Lankin and Dr. Munir Sheikh.
“We’re very pleased with the broad terms of reference for this review. It will provide recommendations not only on how to transform social assistance but on how it should connect to other income security programs that many of us need to rely on at some point in our lives, such as disability support programs and Employment Insurance,” said Jacquie Maund, Coordinator of Ontario Campaign 2000.
The Social Assistance Review Advisory Council issued a report on June 14, 2010. In this report, the Council calls on the provincial government to conduct an Ontario Income Security Review.
The Council’s report is important, because it gives the government a roadmap for how to review social assistance and other income security programs in Ontario. But it’s also important because it expands the focus of the discussion.
Everyone agrees that Ontario’s welfare system is a mess. In a report released Monday, a panel of experts cites “deep and continuing dissatisfaction” with the status quo in all quarters — government, business, labour, community groups, and welfare recipients. What is lacking is a consensus on how to fix it, which is why the provincial government is planning a major policy review of welfare.
REPORT OF THE ONTARIO SOCIAL ASSISTANCE REVIEW ADVISORY COUNCIL
There is deep and continuing dissatisfaction with the existing approach to social assistance from all quarters: community groups, business, labour, policy makers, the people who run the system and those who receive its benefits.
Ontario’s core social assistance programs – Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program – together with the other programs that make up Ontario’s income security system, continue to fall short in providing an economic safety net for individuals and families as well as promoting opportunity to ensure everyone can contribute to the long-term prosperity of the province.
Ontario’s Social Assistance Review report, released Monday morning, called for Ontario to create a plan to ensure income security for the province, saying such a plan would help the economic recovery.
Over the years, different political parties who hold power in Ontario have said welfare reform was needed, and after hearings and reviews, changes would be implemented. The most devastating changes were made under Mike Harris’s leadership, which saw Ontario’s Social Assistance programs essentially gutted.
Ontario will take a deeper look at a major revamping of its welfare system after a report called for broad changes to help the disadvantaged into jobs, Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur said Monday.
The review will take 12 to 18 months, she said, with the NDP noting that means the issues of helping the poor are effectively on hold until after the October 2011 election.
A government-appointed panel says the Ontario welfare system is not working, and is calling for it to be completely overhauled.
The Social Assistance Review Advisory Committee released its report Monday morning at Queen’s Park.
It says the emphasis of welfare should be shifted from providing financial assistance to helping people break out of poverty.
Ontario should adopt a bold vision for welfare reform that includes new income supports and services for all low-income residents, says a government-appointed panel in a report being released Monday.