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Legal,  Trending News

Ontario’s Social Assistance System: 100 days to fix it or to break it?

An article by Jennefer Laidley, Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC): Eleven years ago, I started work at the Income Security Advocacy Centre, a legal clinic advocating for improvements to the income benefit programs available to low-income Ontarians, with social assistance as a primary focus. It didn’t take long before I realized how counterproductive Ontario’s social assistance system is and how much of a disservice it does to the people who are forced to rely on it, and to our society at large.

A healthy social safety net is vital to a productive and just society. It’s one that properly supports people when a good job is out of reach. When a crisis like violence, illness or family breakdown have struck. When education hasn’t properly prepared people for a changing labour market. Or when family or charity can’t be relied on for support.

When everyone can afford to properly feed and clothe themselves and pay the rent, all of us are healthier, our communities are more resilient and the enormous financial costs of poverty that we all bear (in health care, justice, and lost opportunities like greater tax revenue) are greatly reduced.

19 Improvements to Ontario’s Broken System

Twenty years after its introduction in 1998, Ontario’s social assistance system was finally starting to shift to a more supportive, rational model. But a recent announcement by Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s new Minister of Children, Community and Social Services has put that progress in doubt.

The announcement generated a lot of public outcry, which focused on the negative impacts of eliminating the Basic Income Pilot Project and cutting in half a planned hike to social assistance rates. These moves are distressing, but there’s another story that isn’t being told. Even more was lost.

19 improvements to Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program were scheduled to come into effect this fall, based on years of advocacy by community members and recommendations in a non-partisan, evidence-based stakeholder report called the Income Security Roadmap for Change.

These improvements would have met many of the goals that Minister MacLeod said she wants the system to produce. Like helping people get off of assistance and into employment, decreasing the amount of time caseworkers spend on paperwork, and reducing poverty and improving quality of life, with compassion.

Read more: Ontario’s Social Assistance System: 100 days to fix it or to break it?

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