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.
The panel wants the government to launch a full-scale review of all income-assistance programs.
NDP critic Michael Prue is skeptical anything will come of it under the Liberal Party.
“The last platform had that they were going to do dental. They cancelled dental. They were going to build house. They’re not building houses. What kind of government is this? It’s not a government that’s going to help the poor. It’s going to study the poor,” Prue said. Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur, has yet to respond to the report.
“The consensus in the community is very clear, that the system’s broken, and it’s not working for anyone,” said Gail Nyberg who chaired the panel, and runs Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank.
“Just tinkering with the system isn’t gonna work,” she said.
The report says the main welfare program, called Ontario Works, should be turned upside down — that its focus should not just be on financial assistance but on providing people a way to break out of poverty. Nyberg said that means overhauling employment programs…
“They need a lot more than just résumé writing. They need to attain skills to get real jobs so they can provide for themselves and their families,” she said.
The report also says social assistance hasn’t evolved with the dramatic changes that have taken place in the job market.
Nyberg said employment has to be made more attractive, with increases to the minimum wage, and more working tax credits.
“They can’t fix the welfare system, the social-assistance system, without looking at the broader spectrum of income assistance in this province,” she said.
Although the panel says there’s widespread agreement that welfare has to be fixed, it says there’s no consensus on how it can be done.
It wants the government to launch a full-scale review of income assistance programs, including federal ones, and to spend at least a year asking Ontarians what changes they want made.