Ontario is working on a plan to reform Social Assistance so that it helps more people break the cycle of poverty, re-enter the workforce and get back on track.
“We need to do more than just help people remain mired in poverty,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, in announcing the reform plan. “We’re going to hit the pause button on the previous government’s patchwork system and replace it with a system that helps stabilize people in need and support them to succeed.”
MacLeod highlighted that the government has set an accelerated 100 day deadline to develop and announce a sustainable Social Assistance program that focusses on helping people lift themselves out of poverty. In the intermediate term, the government will provide current Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients with an across-the-board 1.5 per cent increase in support rates to help them with a higher cost of living. As part of this reform, MacLeod also announced that the Province will be winding down Ontario’s Basic Income research project in order to focus resources on more proven approaches.
“Our plan will help get people back to work and keep them working, while supporting people with disabilities to work when they are able and participate in their communities,” said MacLeod. “And our efforts to fix social assistance will go hand-in-hand with our commitments to reduce gas prices by 10 cents per litre, lower hydro rates, and provide targeted tax relief for working parents and minimum wage earners, all of which will provide focused benefits to lower income families.”
Over the past 15 years the number of Ontarians forced to go on Social Assistance has skyrocketed by 55 per cent. One in five people stays on Ontario Works for five or more years, and if they leave almost half return, 90 per cent of them within a year. This is what a cycle of poverty looks like.
“Social assistance will always be about compassion for people in need, but it must also be about lifting people up and helping them get their lives back on track through more jobs, more opportunities and more hope. Tackling the serious issues facing our social assistance system is not an easy thing to do. But it is the right thing to do. And we will get this right.”