Positive changes to social assistance are slated to go ahead, following this morning’s announcement by opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath that her party will provide the support required in the Legislature for the 2013 provincial budget to pass.
The provincial budget put forward a number of proposals that, taken together, signal an important direction for social assistance reform. This includes a number of positive rule changes, primarily to Ontario Works (OW), that people receiving assistance and their allies have long identified as priorities.
As well, the budget will not see the Special Diet Allowance or the Work-Related Benefit eliminated, both of which were feared by people with serious health conditions and people with disabilities who receive Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits.
Starting the process of social assistance reform with positive changes to OW, rather than negative changes to ODSP, is the right way to proceed.
ISAC encourages all parties in the Ontario legislature to ensure that a positive approach to social assistance reform continues to be pursued, in order to move the system:
- from intentional inadequacy to decent incomes that support vocational and personal development;
- from a culture of punishment to one of support;
- from surveillance to respect and dignity;
- from compulsion to autonomy and choice;
- from suspicion to collaboration; and,
- from “first available job” to sustainable and sustaining employment.
The budget also includes a positive change to the delivery of the Ontario Trillium Benefit and commitments to engage with communities on the direction of further reform to OW and ODSP.
The budget does not, however, provide enough of an increase to incomes for people to live in dignity and health; give single mothers the ability to keep at least a portion of their child support and the choice to pursue that support; institute the originally committed increase to the Ontario Child Benefit in this year; or give additional funds to municipalities to administer critically important local housing and homelessness benefit programs.
For more details on what the 2013 budget means for people receiving social assistance, download ISAC’s May 3 Ontario Budget 2013 – ISAC Response and Analysis.