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Sunday, February 03, 2013

What's Next for the Social Assistance Review In Ontario

The latest news from ISAC
Income Security Advocacy Centre
Centre d'action pour la sécurité du revenu
Income Security Advocacy Centre / Centre d'action pour la sécurité du revenu

Social Assistance Reform is On the Agenda:

What Does the Commission’s Report Really Say?

In October 2012, the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario issued its final report, complete with 108 recommendations.

That report is suddenly getting a lot of attention.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has released a discussion paperoutlining his intention to implement some of the Commission’s recommendations.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has announced that her three priorities for the upcoming legislative session includes an important recommendation made by the Commission.

And Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne says that social assistance reform is "a priority" for her government and has pledged to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

But what are the Commission’s recommendations?

What are their implications for people receiving social assistance? What does the Commission’s report actually say?

As we've said in the pastthe report is uneven - some recommendations are good, reflecting a broad consensus after years of policy development. Others will make things worse, deepening the poverty of some people receiving assistance. Some  require more study to evaluate the impacts.

More than this, however, for people currently receiving Ontario Works, the recommendations would generally lead to improvements. However, many of these same recommendations would either be a setback or pose a huge risk for people with disabilities who are on ODSP – many of whom would, for example, get less money in benefits than they do currently.

Government should act on some of the report's recommendations immediately - like significantly increasing rates for singles on OW, increasing asset limits, improving supports for employment, providing a 50% exemption for child support payments, improving access to other supports like childcare and housing, and expanding drug and dental benefits to all low income Ontarians.

Some recommendations should clearly not be pursued. For example, the proposed benefit structure would mean many people with disabilities would see reduced benefit rates. Rolling the Special Diet Allowance into a new 'standard rate' could be devastating to people with serious medical conditions. And the impacts that would arise if OW and ODSP were merged as a first step toward reform are potentially serious and far-reaching for people with disabilities.

Want to know more? Watch our Dec 2012 webinar for an explanation of what the report says and an analysis of what the recommendations mean. Download the accompanying slides to share with others.

And watch this space for more in the coming days and weeks.

Income Security Advocacy Centre
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