Canadian Social Research Links

Commission for the
Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
2010-2012

Sites de recherche sociale au Canada

Commission d'examen du
système d'aide sociale de l'Ontario
2010-2012

Updated September 17, 2014
Page révisée le 17 septembre 2014


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NEW

Social Assistance Rates Update (eff. September/October 2014):
Ontario Works & Ontario Disability Support Program and the Ontario Child Benefit

http://incomesecurity.org/documents/OWandODSPratesandOCBasofSeptOct2014.pdf
[ Version française : http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/OW-and-ODSP-rates-and-OCB-as-of-July-Aug-2014-french.doc ]
September 16, 2014
The 2014 provincial Budget increased Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates. Different family types will receive different increases. This chart shows Basic Needs and Maximum Shelter amounts for different family types, as well as Ontario Child Benefit amounts. The increases come into effect starting on the September 30 ODSP cheque and the October 1 OW cheque. These and other rate increases are described on the second page of the file.

Source:
Income Security Advocacy Centre
http://www.incomesecurity.org/

Current Welfare benefit levels in Ontario and much more:
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/onbkmrk.htm#rates
Social Assistance, Pension and Tax Credit Rates
Updated quarterly
This factsheet contains current rate information (benefit levels) for 15 federal and Ontario financial assistance programs.
[NOTE : Clicking the link above will take you partway down the Ontario Government Links page of this website.]

Prepared by the
Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services
[ http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/ ]

Ontario gives with one hand, takes with the other: Goar
Social assistance recipients are reeling from an $8 drop in their monthly benefit.
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/07/31/ontario_gives_with_one_hand_takes_with_the_other_goar.html
July 31, 2014
(...)
According to John Stapleton of Open Policy Ontario [ http://openpolicyontario.com/ ], which tracks financial support for families in need, welfare incomes adjusted for inflation have dropped by 34 per cent since the Liberals took power in 2003. Disability support payments have fallen by 14 per cent.
(...)
[Kathleen Wynne's] Liberals are less punitive than the Conservatives who chopped welfare rates by 21.6 per cent under former premier Mike Harris [ http://goo.gl/UAJxqM ] and kept them frozen for eight years. But both McGuinty and Premier Kathleen Wynne have steadfastly ignored pleas by the province’s poorest citizens to put food in the budget; provide a shelter allowance; or bring welfare rates up to Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off.

Source:
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/

Rates Sheet : OW & ODSP Rates and OCB amounts
as of July / August 2014
(Microsoft Word file - 99K, 2 pages)
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/OW-and-ODSP-rates-and-OCB-as-of-July-Aug-2014.doc

Version française du barème en vigueur en juillet et en août 2014 (fichier Word)
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/OW-and-ODSP-rates-and-OCB-as-of-July-Aug-2014-french.doc

Source:
Social Assistance Review
http://sareview.ca/

The SA Review website is an initiative of the
Income Security Advocacy Centre:
http://www.incomesecurity.org/

Ontario nixes merger of province's two welfare programs
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/04/07/ontario_nixes_merger_of_provinces_two_welfare_programs.html
By Laurie Monsebraaten
April 7, 2014
Anti-poverty and disability-rights activists are claiming victory after the Wynne government’s decision this week not to merge social assistance programs for disabled and non-disabled Ontarians.

“We are very pleased the government has decided not to do this,” said Kyle Vose, who has HIV and is among about 440,000 Ontarians who rely on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Another 450,000 are supported by Ontario Works (OW), the province’s welfare program for everyone else. “People with disabilities have different needs that are unique to our population,” said Vose, co-chair of the ODSP Action Committee, which opposed the merger. “The program’s focus on those needs would be lost if we were folded into OW,” the Toronto man said Friday.

Community and Social Services Minister Ted McMeekin made the surprise announcement in the legislature Thursday after activists spent more than a year lobbying against the move. The merger was one of the key recommendations of the Liberals’ Social Assistance Reform Commission, co-chaired by former NDP cabinet minister Frances Lankin and former Statistics Canada head Munir Sheikh. The commission reported in the fall of 2012.

Source:
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/

NEW

Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario

Commission for the Review
of Social Assistance in Ontario

(2010-2012)
NOTE : The Commission's website is no longer available.
The above link and all other links on this page that point to the Commission website are actually pointing to an archived copy of the site and all its content from Archive.org
More on that just a bit further down on this page...

--------------------

Background

In the 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Ontario government committed to reviewing social assistance — Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) — with a focus on removing barriers and increasing opportunities for people to work. It subsequently appointed the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC) to provide advice on a proposed scope for the review. Taking into account the advice of the Council, the government established the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario in November 2010. The Commission’s task is to carry out a comprehensive review and provide specific recommendations and a concrete action plan for reforming the social assistance system. The Commissioners are expected to submit a final report to the government by June 30, 2012.
[Excerpt from the June 2011 Discussion Paper]

--------------------


The Commission's final report

On October 24, 2012, the Commission released its final report to the government, Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario.
Click the link to access a collection of related releases, backgrounders, video clips and statements, along with the link to the report itself.

Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario (PDF - 2.5MB, 184 pages)
http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/documents/en/mcss/social/publications/social_assistance_review_final_report.pdf
October 2012
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NOTE : For links to a dozen more resources re. the final report of the Commission,
including highlights and analysis/critique of the report by several NGOs, go here:

http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/on_sa_review.htm#final_report

(This link will take you further down on the page you're now reading.)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Commission's second progress report:

Approaches for Reform:
Discussion Paper 2
(PDF - 1.2MB, 77 pages)
https://web.archive.org/web/20121230151147/http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/uploads/File/Discussion-Paper-2---Approaches-for-Reform-FINAL3.pdf
February 2012
(...) This paper advances the dialogue with Ontarians that we began in our first discussion paper “Issues and Ideas” in June 2011, and continued
over the summer and fall through community visits and other opportunities to engage with people and organizations with diverse perspectives on social assistance.
(...)
Our purpose in this paper is to discuss different approaches to improving some of the key areas of the social assistance system.
This paper provides opportunities for further discussion, as opposed to final recommendations. (...)
---
NOTE : See the References section of the report (p. 67) for links to eight related studies from various sources.

---

The Commission's first report:

A Discussion Paper : Issues and Ideas (PDF - 480K, 50 pages)
June 2011
Excerpt:
We are pleased that our mandate is cast in the context of the 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy, and are committed to keeping this in mind as we do our work.
We are in full agreement with the view reflected in the Terms of Reference that the most promising way to improve outcomes for people receiving social
assistance is to substantially improve their employment opportunities and --- as a second and essential part of our task --- to provide adequate income security to those who cannot work.

------------------

From the Commission's (archived) website:

About the Review - Introduction - Outcomes - Approach - Commissioners' Biographies - Commission Staff - Terms of Reference

Commission Publications
- incl. links to :
* Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform
* What We Heard: A Summary of Discussions on Social Assistance
* Discussion Paper 1: Issues and Ideas
* Summary and Workbook
* Guide to Hosting a Community Conversation

Selected Reports on Key Social Assistance Issues
- links to over a dozen relevant reports from the Ontario and federal governments, the non-governmental sector and even TD Economics

---

Backgrounder from the Commission:

Social Assistance Today
Ontario’s social assistance system is made up of two programs: Ontario Works for people in temporary financial need, and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which is intended to help people with disabilities live as independently as possible and to reduce or eliminate disability-related barriers to employment. Together, Ontario Works and ODSP serve approximately 857,000 Ontarians each month. In 2009–10, total provincial expenditures on social assistance were about $6.6 billion, about six per cent of the provincial budget.
*Recommended reading!
- Click the link above, then use the links in the left margin to find out more about:
* Eligibility
* Income Assistance and Other Benefits (incl. Total Annual Income for Selected Households,OntarioWorks and ODSP as at December 2010)
* Employment Services and Supports
* Program Delivery and Cost-sharing
* Other Programs
* Profile of People Receiving Ontario Works
* Profile of People Receiving ODSP

---

The latest from the Commission:

280+ Submissions to the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario (2011-2012)
http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/publications/social/socialServices_commssion.aspx
January 2014
[NOTE : Submissions to the Lankin-Sheikh Commission were posted to the website of the Ministry of Community and Social Services - that's why the URL for this collection is "http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/..."]
COMMENT [by Gilles]:
I highly recommend this collection of Ontario social assistance review submissions - it's an extensive analysis of the province's social assistance program from a multitude of perspectives. Anyone who spends any amount of time doing social research already knows this, but submissions to program reviews contain a wealth of information on the initiative(s) under review (and not just for Ontario!).

< Begin rant >

The Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) has released close to 300 submissions to the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario --- AFTER the Commission’s website has been taken over. In fact, it appears that MCSS has allowed the domain [ http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/ ] to lapse and that a resourceful Content Management service has purchased the domain, thereby attracting a whole whack of free website traffic to their commercial site. Click the link in the preceding sentence to see what I mean. All content from the Commission website is gone.
(The 280+ submissions mentioned above have been posted to the MCSS website, but not all of the "old" content made the cut...)


A BIG, FAT BROOKLYN CHEER FOR MCSS!

http://youtu.be/bdmcmgIkt6c
It would cost a fraction of a penny to store the complete Commission website and all of the submissions in the Ontario government website archive.
This is *not* what transparency and accountability should look like
.

< /End rant >

Rant notwithstanding, I highly recommend this reading list of 280 submissions!
Gilles

-----

Source:
Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario

https://web.archive.org/web/20130329024214/http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/home?language=en_CA&

A HUGE THANKS to Archive.org [ https://archive.org/ ] for preserving this bit of Ontario welfare history.
SHAME on the Ontario governnment for not "getting" accountability.



NOTE:
The Lankin-Sheikh Commission's review of social assistance in Ontario took place in the larger context of Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy, code-named "Breaking the Cycle", which is ongoing. Social assistance review and reform are part and parcel of the poverty reduction plan, so I recommend that you also check out the
Ontario Anti-poverty Strategies and Campaigns page of this site:
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/antipoverty_ontario.htm


The rest of the page you're now reading is more or less in reverse chronological order...

From
St. Michael's Hospital (Toronto)

Building on evidence: 13 things to include in Ontario’s
municipal homelessness reduction strategies, a resource

http://www.stmichaelshospital.com/crich/reports/building-on-evidence/
October 2013
In 2013, as a result of the province’s Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative [ http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page9183.aspx ], municipalities across Ontario are in the process of re-designing their strategies to address homelessness and housing stability. This document summarizes what many researchers at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health see as essential elements for successful homelessness reduction strategies. It is meant for community representatives, policy-makers, program administrators, funders and frontline workers.

Complete report:

13 things to include in Ontario’s municipal homelessness reduction strategies:
A resource from the Centre for Research on Inner City Health
(PDF - 152K, 12 pages)
http://www.stmichaelshospital.com/crich/wp-content/uploads/buildingonevidence10222013.pdf
RECOMMENDATIONS:
* Take on racism and discrimination at every level of the housing and homelessness prevention system.
* Make housing quality a criterion for housing stability.
* Make respite care available.
* Match people to the level of care and support they need.
* Offer housing first.
* Make sure people have meaningful choice.
* Work from a harm reduction framework.
* Take a trauma-informed approach.
* Provide appropriate, multi-disciplinary supports, not just a place to live.
* Pay attention to transitions.
* Create an accountable evaluation strategy that is able to deal with complexity.
* Be accountable to people who are facing homelessness or are precariously housed.
* Offer a high level of mandatory training and skilled supervision for people working in the homelessness reduction system.

Source:
St. Michael's Hospital (Toronto)
http://www.stmichaelshospital.com/

Income Security Advocacy Centre
Social Assistance Review Website

http://sareview.ca/

Budget Changes to Social Assistance Began September 1
http://www.incomesecurity.org/FactsheetsonOWandODSPchangesfromBudget2013.htm

The 2013 Ontario budget included a number of changes to social assistance, most of which kicked in as of September 1, 2013.

ISAC has prepared several fact sheets on these changes to provide information to people receiving support from Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and the people who work with them.

The following fact sheets are now available:

* Social Assistance Rates Update
*
Changes to OW Rules about Assets
*
Changes to OW and ODSP rules about how much money you can keep from work, self-employment, or training
*
Changes to OW Rules about Gifts

Source:
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

http://www.incomesecurity.org
ISAC works with and on behalf of low income communities in Ontario to address issues of income security and poverty.

Ontario welfare reforms roll out this month
The province’s first steps on the road to welfare reform start in September when new earnings and asset limits kick in.
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/09/02/ontario_welfare_reforms_roll_out_this_month.html
By Laurie Monsebraaten
September 2, 2013
(...) Starting this month ... people on social assistance will be able to keep the first $200 they earn before triggering welfare claw-backs.
The measure, announced in last spring’s provincial budget, is a change [that] anti-poverty advocates say is long overdue.
[The previous earnings exemption policy stipulated that ALL of the client's declared earnings were clawed back at 50%, i.e., the client's welfare cheque decreased by fifty cents for each dollar of work income.]
As of September, asset limits for people on Ontario Works increased from $606 to $2,500 for a single person and from $1,043 to $5,000 for a couple. It means people applying for welfare will no longer have to drain their bank accounts before becoming eligible for help and those already on welfare will be allowed to save. People on Ontario Works will also be allowed to accept gifts of up to $6,000 and keep a vehicle worth more than $10,000.
(...)
Welfare rates in Ontario have not kept up with inflation and continue to fall well below the province’s poverty line of about $20,100 for a single person, after taxes, said social policy expert John Stapleton. The new $626 monthly rate for a single person on welfare is still less than the $663 that same person would have received 20 years ago, he said. Inflation has increased 44 per cent since then.

Source:
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/

Bringing it all back Home : Inflation,
Poverty Lines and Social Assistance Rates

http://openpolicyontario.com/bringing-it-all-back-home-inflation-poverty-lines-and-social-assistance-rates/
By John Stapleton
August 29, 2013
Toronto-based social advocate John Stapleton recently compared the Statistics Canada Low income Cut offs (LICOs) for 1993 and 2013 with the corresponding benefit levels for single employable people on welfare in Ontario. He found that the increase in LICOs for that 20-year period was just under 22%. But inflation, as measured by the Bank of Canada from 1993 to 2013, was almost double that percentage. Stapleton also notes in his commentary : "In 1993, the single social assistance maximum in Ontario was $663 a month. It will soon move up to $626 a month in October (2013)."
(BTW - That $663 is in 1993 dollars. If annual indexing equal to the cost of living (Consumer Price Index) were applied to that amount, employable welfare singles in Ontario would be receiving over $950 per month.)

"We need new thinking that refuses to justify erosion and fails to think that nickels and dimes make a difference. Social assistance has no more money to give. But a completely transformed system of income security- that opens doors without penalty – just might."

Source:
Open Policy (John Stapleton's website)
http://openpolicyontario.com/

McMeekin says welfare report getting push back
http://www.thespec.com/news-story/3891191-mcmeekin-says-welfare-report-getting-push-back/
ByDaniel Nolan
July 13, 2013
Social Services Minister Ted McMeekin says a landmark report on reforming Ontario's $8.3 billion welfare system is getting a rough ride from groups across the province. The minister is in the midst of a 20-city tour gathering input to the 183-page report that came out last fall and was put together by commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh. He says he's also met with 118 groups since becoming minister in Premier Kathleen Wynne's government in January. (...) The minister said merging OW and ODSP has drawn "a fair bit" of comment because stakeholders believe it will create "winners and losers" over the issue of benefits. He said he has "mixed feelings" about the recommendation.

Source:
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/

“Minister Jeffrey: Tear down this wall”
http://openpolicyontario.com/minister-jeffreys-tear-down-this-wall/
May 31, 2013
By John Stapleton
In July 2013, I visited Berlin for the first time since 1972 when the Berlin wall was still standing. It was interesting to see how parts of the wall had been retained as an outdoor museum. No matter where I went, memorabilia celebrating the famous call by Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987 were available. On that day, Reagan famously intoned “Mr. Gorbachev – tear down this wall.”

On June 11, 2013, just one day short of the anniversary of Reagan’s famous speech, many of us will be celebrating the launch of Linda Chamberlain’s scrapbook: Not Anytime Soon – the life and times of Linda Chamberlain.

We shall invite Ontario Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey to the event.

Not Anytime Soon contains excerpts of a meditation I wrote in 2010 called Zero Dollar Linda [ PDF - http://goo.gl/Tlqga ]. In this piece, I coined the term the ‘Linda Chamberlain rule’ to describe what is known as the monthly non –benefit rental income limit that increases the rent of a single ODSP recipient to the rent geared to income scale when their earnings exceed $440 a month. This is the rule that sent Linda’s rent from $109 a month to $623 when she began to work at CAMH. Ontario Housing legislation was renewed in 2011 but the Linda Chamberlain rule remains intact. (...) Minister Jeffrey can change the Linda Chamberlain rule by capping RGI rent increases to the maximum ODSP shelter maximum. By allowing rents to go higher than the maximum ODSP, the housing scale creates a wall – a wall that Linda could not surmount.

Source:
Open Policy (John Stapleton's blog)

http://openpolicyontario.com/

---

More about
Not Anytime Soon – The life and Times of Linda Chamberlain (small PDF file):
http://openpolicyontario.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Update-on-Not-Anytime-Soon.pdf
...and how to obtain a a copy of the book

---

Also by
John Stapleton:

Establishing a ‘Goldilocks Standard’ for people earning money
while receiving social assistance : What should we make of the Ontario Budget
measure to exempt the first $200 in earnings?
(PDF - 124K, 8 pages)
http://openpolicyontario.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/How-should-we-think-about-the-earnings-of-social-assistance-recipients.pdf
By John Stapleton
May 2013
(...)
Depending what bothers governments most about the current system of incentives tends to guide how they deal with the earnings exemptions each will implement. But Kathleen Wynne has followed the case made in Brighter Prospects in a fairly sensible way and one that will make even more sense should minimum wages be raised. She is recognizing the need to get into work force, to stay in the work force and to pay attention to politically contentious ‘surface’ equity issues respecting the working poor. All in all, she is making a reasonable start under the circumstances.

Source:
Open Policy (John Stapleton's website)

http://openpolicyontario.com/

---

More about
Not Anytime Soon – The life and Times of Linda Chamberlain:

* http://ontario.cmha.ca/news/not-anytime-soon-the-life-times-of-linda-chamberlain/

From Jennefer Laidley of the
Income Security Advocacy Centre:

Media and Policy News for 9 May 2013
http://goo.gl/3C8Ep

Click the above link to access any of the articles below.

Ontario Budget 2013: Coverage

* “Far reaching and fundamental”
* “Heading in the right direction”
* “The right direction, but more work to do”
* “Long awaited improvements to social assistance”
* “A path to transformation”
* “Good news on the poverty front”
* “A lot further than we were last week”
* “A good start”
* "An NDP-ish budget"
* "An overarching emphasis on cutting the deficit"
* "A missed opportunity"
* NDP proposes an independent budgetary watchdog to ensure accountability
* Kevin Page, former Parliamentary Budget Officer, says it’s a good idea

Ontario Budget 2013: Reactions

* ISAC’s Analysis
* Anglican Diocese Social Justice and Advocacy
* ARCH Disability Law Centre
* Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
* CARP
* Daily Bread Food Bank
* Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination
* Hamilton Poverty Roundtable
* ISARC
* OCASI
* Ontario Campaign 2000
* Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
* Ontario Non-Profit Network
* Pathway to Potential
* Poverty Free Ontario
* 25in5 Network for Poverty Reduction
* Wellesley Institute

And the Conference Board of Canada notes:
“The only spending category slated to receive any meaningful growth in funding will be social services, reflecting the government’s planned increases to social assistance and its plan to increase the Ontario Child Benefit in 2013 and 2014.”

-----------------------------------------------

Compiled by
Jennefer Laidley
Policy & Research Analyst
Income Security Advocacy Centre
http://www.incomesecurity.org/

Once-in-a-generation chance to modernize welfare lost: Goar
Premier Kathleen Wynne wanted to be the ‘social justice premier’ but ended up tinkering with the status quo.

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/05/06/onceinageneration_chance_to_modernize_welfare_lost_goar.html
By Carol Goar
May 6, 2013
Ontario’s best hope of creating a modern, humane social assistance system has expired.
Thursday’s provincial budget was its last gasp. Premier Kathleen Wynne wanted to do the right thing. She was prepared to take a political risk for the 850,000 Ontarians struggling to get by on subsistence-level welfare payments. But three months into the job, she realized there was no realistic prospect of “charting a new course on social assistance” as a far-sighted provincial commission proposed. Even the people she aimed to help were balking.
So the premier took the safe, conventional route. She made a couple of minor changes to the existing program. They won’t break the bank or ruffle many feathers. In fact, most Ontarians won’t notice them at all. It was exactly the same strategy her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, had followed.

So who really lost in the 2013 Ontario Budget?
(...)
Social assistance recipients themselves — although few recognize it. Wynne was ready to offer them a $100-a-month boost to the lowest welfare rate ($606 per month) plus the two measures in Sousa’s budget. Instead, they lobbied for — and got — a stay of execution for the Special Diet Allowance
[ http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/social/special_diet_apply.aspx ]
...(which will be whittled back anyway) and a continuation of the two-tier benefit structure put in place by former premier Mike Harris in 1997* so he could slash welfare rates without being accused of punishing the sick and injured."

Source:
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* COMMENT (by Gilles) :
It's not often that I find a factual error in a Carol Goar article, but I really must jump in here with my welfare historian hat on.
In the above excerpt, Ms Goar refers to "the continuation of the two-tier benefit structure" (i.e., lower benefit levels for employable clients) that was put in place by the Harris government in 1997. In fact, the two-tier welfare benefit structure was put in place a few generations ago, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the implementation of the Ontario Family Benefits Act and General Welfare Assistance Act.

May 2, 2013
Ontario Budget 2013
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/budgets_2013.htm#on
The 2013 Ontario Budget was tabled in the Ontario Legislature on May 2, 2013.

The link above will take you to the Ontario section of the 2013 Federal and Provincial-Territorial Budgets page, where you'll find links to:
* The 2013 budget papers from the Ontario Ministry of Finance
* Media budget coverage from CBC News, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun
* Analysis and critique of the budget measures from the following:
---The Income Security Advocacy Centre
--- The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction
--- The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
--- Ontario Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
--- Canadian Union of Public Employees - Ontario
--- Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
--- TD Bank Economics - Federal and Provincial Budgets

It’s time to end the erosion of public assistance in Ontario:
Welfare has eroded to the point that it would take a 56-per-cent rate increase to bring the single rate back to where it was in 1993.
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/04/26/its_time_to_end_the_erosion_of_public_assistance_in_ontario.html
By John Stapleton
April 26, 2013
We had three prime ministers, including our first woman leader in Kim Campbell. Bob Rae was premier. The Blue Jays won the World Series. Bill Clinton became president of the United States. The North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified and Jurassic Park was box office gold. The year was 1993 and it marks another milestone — something few will remember. It was the last time social assistance in Ontario increased in real (inflation-adjusted) terms.
(...)
It is safe to say that the post-recession round of social assistance [caseload] increases is largely at an end. Despite stubbornly high unemployment, many key bellwethers peaked in March and May 2012 and ODSP experienced its first decline in over 150 months in December 2012. But although we have the post-recession increases behind us, the same is not true for either hardship or poverty. Social assistance reform is urgently required but at least we don’t face the spectre of “retooling during peak production.”
We can now hope that Ontario’s May 2 budget will take the opportunity to get on with the unfinished business of real social assistance reform.

---
John Stapleton, an Innovations Fellow at the Metcalf Foundation, worked for the Ontario government for 28 years in the areas of social assistance policy and operations and was research director for the Task Force on Modernizing Income Security for Working-Age Adults in Toronto.
Visit John 's website at http://openpolicyontario.com/
---

Source:
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/

CUPE & OCAP seek 55% boost in social assistance
'Would help people recover from 18 years of declining income from the Harris-McGuinty cuts'

http://www.thebulletin.ca/cbulletin/content.jsp?ctid=1000006&cnid=1003406 [dead link]
By David Robbins
April 12, 2013
Anti-poverty activists visited the office of Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa today to bring him and Premier Kathleen Wynne a message: raise social assistance rates by 55% in the 2013 budget. "Today we're handing Charles Sousa a bill for real social justice in Ontario," says Liisa Schofield of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). "It's time the Liberal government took social justice seriously and accounted for the amount past due to those who have been unjustly denied."

Raising social assistance rates by 55% would help people recover from 18 years of declining income from the Harris-McGuinty cuts, said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, the chair of CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) Ontario's Social Services Workers' Coordinating Committee.

Source:
The Bulletin --- Journal of Downtown Toronto
http://www.thebulletin.ca/

Related links:

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
http://cupe.ca/
CUPE is Canada's largest union.
With 627,000 members across Canada, CUPE represents workers in health care, education, municipalities, libraries, universities, social services, public utilities, transportation, emergency services and airlines

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)
http://www.ocap.ca/
OCAP is a direct-action anti-poverty organization based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We mount campaigns against regressive government policies as they affect poor and working people.

---

From the
Toronto Star:

A more moderate OCAP? Probably not.
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/03/06/a_more_moderate_ocap_probably_not.html
A recent peaceful action by the anti-poverty group was lauded by police. But that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning crisis tactics.
By Katie Daubs
March 6, 2013
When OCAP members occupied city hall in February to demand more shelter space, a security guard removed a garbage can before police arrived.
Perhaps it was nightly routine. Maybe it was projectile management. But nothing flew that night, save for chants and slogans. Police waited for Ontario Coalition Against Poverty organizer John Clarke to finish speaking with the media before they arrested him. Then, police lauded OCAP for their cooperation. It was all so cordial. But this is not a new conciliatory era for a group whose name has become synonymous with disruptive tactics on behalf of the poor, homeless and vulnerable.

Source:
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/

New from the
Wellesley Institute:

Social assistance reform is happening: Three things to look out for
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/news/social-assistance-reform-is-happening-heres-three-things-to-look-out-for/
January 30, 2013
By Steve Barnes
Incoming premier Kathleen Wynne announced this week that social assistance reform is one of her key priorities. Wynne has asked the Secretary of the Cabinet – Ontario’s top civil servant – to put together an implementation plan for the recommendations made by the social assistance review commission. Moreover, Wynne appointed Commissioner Frances Lankin to her transition team.
(...)
Here are three things that the government needs to consider to ensure good health for all as it moves ahead with reforms.
1. Adequacy
2. Increasing earnings allowances
3. Bringing everybody up

Source:
Wellesley Institute
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/

Incoming Ontario premier Wynne announces transition team
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/incoming-ontario-premier-wynne-announces-transition-team/article7984291/
By Adrian Morrow and Karen Howlett
January 29, 2013
Ontario’s incoming premier, Kathleen Wynne, signalled her intent to overhaul the province’s social assistance programs by including the co-author of a report calling for more generous welfare rates on her 16-member transition team. Frances Lankin, a former head of United Way Toronto and co-chair of the Social Assistance Review Commission, is among a who’s who of public- and private-sector officials appointed to the team, unveiled Tuesday evening.

246 comments about this article:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/incoming-ontario-premier-wynne-announces-transition-team/article7984291/comments/

Source:
Globe and Mail

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/

Kathleen Wynne should take fast action on welfare reform
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1321140
Editorial
January 28, 2013

Kathleen Wynne may have hit the ground running as Ontario’s new premier-designate, but if she really wants to make a quick mark there’s one issue that’s ripe for attention.
Welfare reform. Wynne declared it one of the top priorities for her new government, along with youth unemployment, public sector wages and the return of extra-curriculars in the province’s schools. And that’s good news, since Ontario’s welfare system is an $8.3-billion mess.

Source:
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/

Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak on wrong track with welfare [reform proposals]: Editorial
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1317261
January 20, 2013
If Tim Hudak becomes the next premier of Ontario, welfare recipients can expect to get a second dose of the deprivation and shame they experienced under Mike Harris in the 1990s. Emulating his former boss, the Progressive Conservative leader is pledging to cut welfare rates for able-bodied recipients who have depended on social assistance for too long.
(...)
What is required now, Hudak contends, is another dose of tough love. He hasn’t said how much he will cut welfare rates, how many of the 400,000 Ontarians who depend on social assistance will be affected, or how much he expects to save. But he has made it clear that under a Tory government, the only acceptable excuse for not working will be a disability that makes it impossible.
Along with cutting payments, he intends to deliver a portion of welfare in the form of a debit card that can be used only at food stores. “By limiting where the money can be spent, we can ensure that the money intended for necessities is set aside.”

Source:
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/

What’s wrong with debit cards for social assistance recipients?
http://openpolicyontario.com/whats-wrong-with-earmarked-debit-cards-and-lower-benefits-for-long-terms-social-assistance-recipients/
By John Stapleton
January 18, 2013
What’s wrong with earmarked debit cards and lower benefits for long terms social assistance recipients?
Nothing as long as they are not earmarked!

What’s wrong with restrictions on debit cards e.g. no liquor or cellphones?

1. The desired outcome of better spending of funds would simply not occur - no evidence is available that it would change spending patterns.
2. There would be a black market for cards just like food stamps in the US
3. Restricting inadequate funds for necessities would mean that people may not be able to pay the rent and therefore get evicted
4. A system with 800 rules would be burdened with at least 10 more rules and likely closer to 50.
5. The root causes of questionable spending e.g. addiction, lack of education would remain unaddressed and unsolved.
(...)

What’s wrong with cutting benefits to long term recipients?

1. Historically, rates for longer term recipients were increased because of the need to replace clothing, utensils etc., something that you would not require (in theory) in an emergency.

2. How does taking food off someone’s plate make them more employable? Especially the plates of children (if the policy were to apply with recipients with kids).

3. The system is now awash in incentives as a full time minimum wage job in fast food pays $17 k and social assistance pays $7,272. Anyone who can make this trade-off would pick work. Will paying less social assistance make that job less elusive?

4. It would take a 56% rate increase to get (single) rates back to where they were in 1993, the last year in which there was a real increase in social assistance incomes. Arguably the reductions the PC’s are talking about have already taken place. Job done. Mission accomplished! (And they apply to all recipients – why wait to cut?)

5. Social assistance caseloads have already begun to moderate – what’s the big concern?
(...)
Getting social policy advice from the PC’s is like getting marriage tips from the Kardashians.

Source:
Open Policy (John Stapleton's website)
http://www.openpolicyontario.com/

UPDATE by the Income Security Advocacy Centre:
Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB)
http://sareview.ca/isac-news/update-csumb/
January 18, 2013

[ Version française (format Word):
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Update-CSUMB-Jan-17-2013-FRENCH.doc
]

On December 27, 2012, the provincial government announced $42 million in one-time funding for local housing and homelessness initiatives. The announcement says that the money “will assist eligible municipalities as they develop and implement their Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) [ http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page9183.aspx ] plans. (...) The funds will be provided to municipalities for the period January 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014.

The entire text of the government announcement can be read here:
http://news.ontario.ca/mcss/en/2012/12/enhancing-housing-and-homelessness-supports.html

---

Tracking the Impact of the Loss of CSUMB
http://sareview.ca/isac-news/tracking-tool-loss-of-csumb
January 18, 2013

[ Version française:
http://goo.gl/PQHm8 ]

ISAC has partnered with the Wellesley Institute [ http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/ ] to create an online tool to track the impact on individuals across Ontario of the loss of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).
This tool is aimed at housing workers, social workers, community legal clinic workers, OW / ODSP caseworkers, and the many other advocates who work regularly to support people receiving OW and ODSP – those workers who have in the past used CSUMB to help their clients.
The tool allows people in these positions to input information about their clients’ circumstances, what expenses were required, the availability and adequacy of municipal replacement programs, and the outcomes and impacts on their clients. And a geographic mapping function will show the impacts graphically.

Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit – Information Repository
http://sareview.ca/isac-resources/csumb-info-repository/
January 18, 2013
In June 2012, ISAC partnered with our sister legal clinic ACTO (the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario - http://www.acto.ca/ ) and community legal clinics across the province to begin a campaign to protest the elimination of CSUMB from social assistance, which was announced in the March 2012 provincial budget.

In the repository, you'll find a number of resources created for that work, along with links to a number of government documents and resources about CSUMB, including information on the government’s December 27 announcement of a one-time grant of $42 million to help municipalities cope in the short-term with the funding shortfall caused by the elimination of CSUMB. In addition to the above, the repository includes links to a Letter to Liberal Leadership Candidates from ISAC / ACTO, a backgrounder paper on CSUMB and the Home Repairs Benefit (in English and in French), a study by the Wellesley Institute on the Real Cost of Cutting CSUMB and related Ontario Government resources and papers.

Source:
Social Assistance Review
http://sareview.ca/

[Income Security Advocacy Centre:
http://www.incomesecurity.org/ ]

From the
PC Party of Ontario:

Welfare to Work

Break Down Bureaucracy To Build Up Opportunity
http://www.ontariopc.com/news/break-down-bureaucracy-to-build-up-opportunity/
January 16, 2013
TORONTO – Ontario can help people bridge from dependency to work while saving taxpayers money if we untangle the jumble of rules and regulations around social assistance, PC Leader Tim Hudak said today. Hudak made the comments with Community and Social Services critic Toby Barrett in advance of Thursday’s release of Paths to Prosperity: Welfare to Work – the eighth in a series of PC papers on ideas to stop overspending, deliver more value to taxpayers and create jobs.

Paths to Prosperity – Welfare to Work [dead link]
January 17, 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Summary
Ontario’s Job Crisis
Creating Opportunity from Challenge
Reducing Bureaucracy and Eliminating Waste
Better Service Delivery and Accountability
Improving Oversight and Targeting Fraud
Breaking Down Barriers for People with Disabilities
Social Impact Bonds
Ensuring Benefits Go to Necessities
Share Your Path
Contact Us

Source:
PC Party of Ontario

http://www.ontariopc.com/

---

Related link:

From
CTV News Toronto:

Tories seek to overhaul Ontario's welfare system
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/tories-seek-to-overhaul-ontario-s-welfare-system-1.1118558
January 17, 2013
Ontario Conservatives are proposing big changes to the way the province's welfare system works, including a suggestion recipients be given debit-style food cards that can't be used to buy booze or cigarettes. At a news conference Thursday morning, Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak said the proposed changes are aimed at overhauling a system he believes is long-outdated and does little to encourage peoples' return to the workforce.

Highlights of the twelve "paths to prosperity" outlined in the 22-page Tory "white paper" introduced Thursday include:

* Rolling Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program into one agency with streamlined rules;
* Submitting all social programs to "value-for-money" audits;
* Opening up social program delivery to non-profit agencies, charities or the private sector;
* Requirement for individualized employment plans that detail the monthly activities required to qualify for income support;
* Steadily declining benefits, to discourage long-term reliance on welfare cheques;
* Implementation of a "benefits-directed debit smart card system" to ensure benefits are spent on essential food items rather than other expenses.

Related stories:

* Ontario's welfare program needs transformation, commission says
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-welfare-program-needs-transformation-commission-says-1.1008875

* Group protests cuts to benefits for low-income Ontarians
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/group-protests-cuts-to-benefits-for-low-income-ontarians-1.1000259

* Gap between rich and poor rising quickly in Ont.: report
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/gap-between-rich-and-poor-rising-quickly-in-ont-report-1.934558

Source:
CTV News Toronto
http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/

---

- Go to the Ontario Social Assistance Review Links page:
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/on_sa_review.htm

- Go to the Ontario Government Links page:
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/onbkmrk.htm

From the
Wellesley Institute:
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/

Ontario’s holiday gift to Toronto restores some of housing and homeless funding that was cut
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/news/ontarios-holiday-gift-to-toronto-restores-some-of-housing-and-homeless-funding-that-was-cut/
January 4, 2013
By Michael Shapcott
Toronto will get a $12.3 million holiday gift from the province – partial repayment, for one year only, of $21 million in housing and homelessness funding cuts that took effect on January 1st. The Ontario government rushed out its announcement of $42 million in transitional housing and homelessness funds to municipalities in the middle of the holiday season, just days before major cuts to provincial housing and homelessness funding were due to take place. While the new funds are one-time only and only a partial replacement for the funds that were cut, municipal and community advocates are welcoming the news as a partial victory in their campaign to restore funding for the cuts to Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit [ http://goo.gl/jDMBi ] and other provincial housing and homeless funding.

Source:
Wellesley Institute:
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/

---

Related media links from Jennefer Laidley of the
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC):

Media and Policy News for 3 January 2013
http://goo.gl/aIAQr

Click the above link to access any of the articles below.

Top Story: $42 Million Reprieve on CSUMB

On December 27, the Ontario government announced a last-minute, $42 million fund to "ease the transition" to consolidated housing and homelessness funding.
(CBC coverage).
Note that ISAC will be circulating information about the impact of the transition fund in the coming days - subscribe to our main ISAC E-List to receive this info - see below.

Some responses to the government announcement:

* Hamilton Community Legal Clinic
* Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
* Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
* Wellesley Institute
*
Impacts by Community:
---
Bruce County instituting a Housing Stability Fund
--- Guelph-Wellington gets $115K
--- Hamilton gets $3.19M more
--- Hamilton councillor says it’s a “pyrrhic victory”
--- London gets $1.4M
--- Niagara gets $1.9M [But still wants CSUMB back...]
--- Ottawa gets $2.5M
--- Peterborough gets $1.5M
--- Sault Ste. Marie gets $650K more
--- Halton Region won’t get any of the $42M, as CHPI gives them more than before
--- Peel Region doesn’t get any either, for the same reason
--- Waterloo Region reflects on the past year ( note they are suggesting a special property tax levy to address the shortfall

Coverage Just Prior to the Dec 27 Announcement

* Activists meet in Hamilton for Ontario Communities Uniting
* Hamilton Spectator editorial :improve social assistance in 2013, not more cuts
* London Free Press opinion piece :Ontarians have been left on their own
* Belleville
* Brant
* Cornwall
* Hamilton
* London
* Niagara
* Nipissing
* Northumberland
* Peel
* Sault Ste. Marie
* Sudbury
* Toronto
* Toronto - campout at Glen Murray’s office:
* Waterloo

Source:
Jennefer Laidley
Policy & Research Analyst
Income Security Advocacy Centre

http://www.incomesecurity.org/

Check the Media and Policy News archive:
http://goo.gl/I32FD
(Back to August 2012, but doesn't include a table of contents for each issue)

Subscribe to ISAC's Latest Media and Policy News mailing list:
http://goo.gl/XEGZg

Subscribe to the main ISAC E-List (to receive info on ISAC's law reform work, the social assistance review, and other OW / ODSP -related information):
http://goo.gl/j3gzt

How do we begin a dialogue about inequality with conservative Canadians?
http://openpolicyontario.com/how-do-we-begin-a-dialogue-about-inequality-with-conservative-canadians/

December 18, 2012
By John Stapleton
As someone who spent a career in social welfare, I have often been a sounding board for conservative acquaintances, particularly those who are advanced in years. “I say, let them starve,” one of my relatives declared to me at a family dinner. What he meant by that is:
“Why don’t these people behave? Why don’t they just do what they’re supposed to do? I went out, I worked hard, why shouldn’t they work hard? And if they don’t work hard, then they should starve.”

In pondering how to respond to sentiments like these, I have been much aided by Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt himself is a liberal social democrat. But he has successfully analysed why conservatives and the conservative mindset wins in our current political climate. In a chapter called “The Conservative Advantage” Haidt compares the “moral palette” of conservatives and of liberal, progressive, social democrats.He says that people who are liberal, progressive, social democrats have a moral palette comprised of two great concerns. The first is care, care for others. We think about people who are less well off than we are. We think about people who are making a lot more money than we do. We are always thinking about equality. We want everyone to do well. He says that the other part of our moral palette is fairness. Our greatest concern is having a society that’s based on fairness and equity.

The moral palette of the conservative also has caring and fairness in it, but caring and fairness come at the bottom. Four other components of the conservative moral palette come first:
* Sanctity
* Loyalty
* Liberty
* Authority
(...)
Any of us who wish to reduce inequality will have to tackle the policy dilemma of turning the negative abstraction of ‘inequality’ into a positive and concrete course of action. We will have to recommend lasting, publicly acceptable ways in which equality should be achieved.

Source:
Open Policy
(John Stapleton's website)
http://www.openpolicyontario.com/

From the
Wellesley Institute:

December 20, 2012
Counting down to the end of the Community Start-Up
and Maintenance Benefit: there’s still time for Ontario to avoid a crisis

http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/news/counting-down-to-the-end-of-the-community-start-up-and-maintenance-benefit-theres-still-time-for-ontario-to-avoid-a-crisis/
By Steve Barnes
We’re now less than two weeks away from the Government of Ontario terminating the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) and an impending and avoidable housing and homelessness crisis. The CSUMB helps people receiving social assistance to pay for large or unexpected housing-related costs, supporting them to become and remain housed. As of January 1st, this benefit will be terminated and 50 percent of its funding will be passed to municipalities to run their own programs, which as yet are mostly undefined; the remaining 50 percent will be cut.

---

Earlier impact analysis
by the Wellesley Institute:

November 14, 2012
The Real Cost Of Cutting the
Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit

http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/publication/the-real-cost-of-cutting-csumb/
By Bob Gardner, Steve Barnes and Jennefer Laidley
In its 2012 budget, the Ontario government announced that it was eliminating the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) as of January 1, 2013. The CSUMB is designed to assist people receiving social assistance who have large or unexpected housing-related costs. Having access to this kind of immediate and flexible fund can often be the difference between getting a home and staying in a shelter or staying housed and losing one’s home. It can also be the critical support for people to leave abusive situations.
Access to housing that is safe and affordable is a key determinant of health and the cancellation of the CSUMB has the potential to increase the number of low income Ontarians who are precariously housed or who are homeless. This paper sets out some of the potential health implications of this decision through an equity lens.

The Real Cost of Cutting the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit:
A Health Equity Impact Assessment
(PDF - 852K, 13 pages)
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/The-Real-Cost-of-Cutting-CSUMB1.pdf
November 2012

Source:
Wellesley Institute

http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/

Meeting the Poverty Reduction Target:Strong Leadership and Good Policy Required
Fourth Annual Progress Report on Poverty Reduction in Ontario
(PDF - 299K, 18 pages)
http://25in5.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Meeting-the-Poverty-Reduction-Target-Dec-4-2012.pdf
December 4, 2012

Anti-poverty target in peril: Ontario’s aspiring political leaders called to action
Toronto (Dec 4, 2012) – Ontario’s political leadership hopefuls are being warned that the province will fall short of its goal to reduce child and family poverty by 25% in 2013 unless urgent action is taken. As the Ontario Liberals choose a new leader and Opposition parties eye a spring election, a progress report by the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction is calling for immediate investments to support those who are struggling.

Source:
25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction

http://25in5.ca/
The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction is a multi-sectoral network comprised of more than 100 provincial and Toronto-based organizations and individuals working on eliminating poverty in Ontario.

---------------------------------------------

Related links:

From the
Wellesley Institute:

Time for Ontario to make some tough choices: poverty and inequality are not inevitable
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/news/time-for-ontario-to-make-some-tough-choices-poverty-and-inequality-are-not-inevitable/
December 4, 2012
Bby Steve Barnes
In 2008, the Ontario government committed to reduce child poverty by 25 percent in 5 years. 2013 marks the final year in the province’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, and a new report by the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction shows that we have a long way to go to meet our target.

25 in 5 sets out key investments that we need to make now to ensure that we meet our target, including:
1) Fully implement the Ontario Child Benefit in 2013.
2) $100 increase for single adults on Ontario Works.
3) Restore the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit
4) Updating Ontario’s minimum wage

Source:
Wellesley Institute

http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com
The Wellesley Institute is a Toronto-based non-profit and non-partisan research and policy institute. We focus on developing research, policy and community mobilization to advance population health.

From the
Toronto Star:

Ontario risks missing anti-poverty pledge
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1297127
December 4, 2012
By Laurie Monsebraaten
Without a promised hike to Ontario’s child benefit, Queen’s Park will not meet its pledge to lift 90,000 children out of poverty by 2013, anti-poverty advocates warn.
“With one year and one final budget remaining in Ontario’s historic first poverty reduction strategy, we call on all … political parties to commit to fulfilling the first poverty reduction target,” they say in their fourth annual progress report being released Tuesday.

The provincial strategy, released in 2008, promised a broad range of measures to cut Ontario’s child poverty rate by 25 per cent within five years. They included an annual child benefit of up to $1,310 per child by next December. More than one million Ontarians live in poverty, including about one in every seven children and teens.

11 comments about this article
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1297127#comments

Source:
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/

Welfare reform a ways off, says premier
http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2012/11/07/welfare-reform-a-ways-off-says-premier
By Jeff Bolichowski
November 7, 2012
Poor and disabled people facing the loss of a key housing assistance program could be left waiting awhile for a full-out social assistance reform, said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Questioned on the province’s cuts to the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit Wednesday, he said the government is looking to a new report on social assistance reform for solutions on making the system more fair. But, he said, implementing that report could take time.
“If we had to redesign the system from scratch, would it look the way it does today? I don’t think so,” he said. “Rolling out that reform is not going to be the kind of thing to do in a year or two. Changing the system so it’s fairer, particularly to recipients, is going to take a number of years.”
(...)
Source:
The St. Catharines Standard
http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/



October 24, 2012
Final Report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario

Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
recommends sweeping reforms to create paths into employment and out of poverty
http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1058305/prospects-report-charts-course-to-transform-social-assistance
News Release
October 24, 2012
Ontario's social assistance system must do a better job of helping people move into employment and supporting all recipients, including those with disabilities, to participate in the workforce to the maximum of their abilities. These findings are among the comprehensive Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, the final report to government of the 22-month Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, led by Frances Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh. Together, the report's 108 recommendations chart a new course for social assistance towards a simpler, more effective and accountable system that removes barriers to employment and increases opportunities to work.

Complete report:

Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario (PDF - 2.5MB, 184 pages)
http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/documents/en/mcss/social/publications/social_assistance_review_final_report.pdf
October 2012
(...)
This report charts a new course for social assistance in Ontario, a course designed to support all recipients to participate in the workforce to the maximum of their abilities and to guarantee income security for those who cannot work. It is the final report of the review of social assistance established as part of Ontario’s 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy. That strategy articulated a vision of a province where all people have the opportunity to realize their full potential.
[Source : Excerpt from the Executive Summary, p.19]

Highlights of Proposed Reforms (MS Word file - 59K, 5 pages)
https://web.archive.org/web/20121230130421/http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/uploads/File/Backgrounder---Highlights-of-Proposed-Reforms---Eng.doc
The report makes 108 recommendations to transform social assistance into a simpler, more effective and accountable system that is better at moving people into jobs and out of poverty.
Proposed reforms are grouped under the following headings:
* A single, integrated social assistance program delivered at the local level
* A simplified benefit structure
* Treatment of child support as earned income (incl. earnings exemptions)
* Initial steps to improve adequacy of financial support
* Strengthening accountability
* Acting on income security
* First Nations and social assistance
* Implementing change

Related links
https://web.archive.org/web/20121230130421/http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/final-report
- includes links to the following:
* News Release: Prospects report charts course to transform social assistance
* Video News Release
* Fast Facts About Social Assistance
* Highlights of proposed reforms
* Backgrounder: Improving the Employment Prospects of People with Disabilities
* Backgrounder: What People Are Saying
* Letter from Business Advisory Panel on Income Security Reform
* Letter from Social Assistance Review Advisory Council
* Video statement from Bill Downe, Chair, Business Advisory Panel on Income Security Reform
* Video statement from Gail Nyberg, Chair, Social Assistance Review Advisory Council
* Video clips from Frances Lankin, Commissioner
* Video clips from Munir A. Sheikh, Commissioner

Source:
Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
Commissioners : Frances Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh

From the
Toronto Star:

Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh give Ontario an affordable plan to modernize social assistance: Goar
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1280032
October 30, 2012
By Carol Goar
No government is ever likely to get a welfare blueprint as clear, comprehensive, far-sighted and affordable as the plan Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh unveiled last week.
Not only did the two commissioners — a social service leader and an accomplished economist — come up with a way to transform Ontario’s social assistance system from an $8.3-billion program that perpetuates poverty into an $8.6-billion strategy that reduces it; they won endorsements from business leaders, health professionals, community activists and social analysts. That is a monumental achievement — but not enough to guarantee its success. Four daunting hurdles stand in the way...

---

Ontario commission calls for integrated welfare program, including for disabled, that removes barriers to work.
http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/1276481
October 24, 2012
By Laurie Monsebraaten
Ontario’s $8.3 billion welfare system should be transformed into a simpler, more effective and accountable system that helps move more people, including the disabled, into jobs and out of poverty, says the long-awaited report from the province’s social assistance review commission.
Under this “transformational change,” disability benefits, children’s benefits and health benefits would be removed from social assistance and be available outside welfare to all low-income Ontarians, say commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh in their 183-page report released Wednesday. The commission, established in November 2010 to remove barriers and increase opportunities for people to work, was part of the province’s 2008 poverty reduction strategy. Central to the report’s 108 recommendations is the proposed merger of Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) into a single, integrated program with provincial standards but delivered locally by municipalities, which already administer OW

144 Comments about this article
http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/1276481--ontario-commission-calls-for-integrated-welfare-program-including-for-disabled-that-removes-barriers-to-work#comments

Source:
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/

Reviews / Critiques of the report:

From
Poverty Free Ontario:

PFO Bulletin #10 – Final Report on the Social Assistance Review: Limited Improvements, Serious Concerns
http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/2012/10/31/pfo-bulletin-10-final-report-on-the-social-assistance-review-limited-improvements-serious-concerns/
October 31, 2012
Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh released their long-awaited report Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario on October 24, raising both hopes and anxieties in the community that received it. The Report proposes a major restructuring of social assistance, funded mostly by eliminating existing benefit programs in the short-term and proposed internal administrative savings in the longer roll-out, including a projected decrease in the disability caseload from 5% to 3% a year.
Poverty Free Ontario (PFO) and its community partners across the province have consistently advocated to the Ontario Government for an end to deep poverty for people on social assistance and an end to working poverty for low income earners.
Selected contents:

* Several Income Improvements Proposed
* Propose a Minimal Subsistence Standard for Adequacy
* Risks in a Standard Rate with “Building Blocks”
* Institutionalizing Divisive Trade-offs Among Low income People
* “Embracing Workfare”?
* Most Vulnerable at Highest Risk
* Conclusion
(...)
PFO joins other voices in the community and the labour movement in challenging the political claims of austerity that Ontario is without fiscal capacity to address deep poverty for those on social assistance and working poverty (PFO Bulletin #4 : http://goo.gl/Wjs2n ). Revenue recovery through reversing tax cuts over the past decade remains the responsible political path for a just social order in Ontario.

Source:
Poverty Free Ontario
http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From the
Income Security Advocacy Centre:

Ontario Social Assistance Rates Update (Word file - 56K, 1 page)
http://www.incomesecurity.org/documents/1percentincrease-NovDec2012.doc
November / December 2012

---
Version française:
Mise à jour des barèmes d'aide sociale en Ontario
http://www.incomesecurity.org/documents/1percentincrease-NovDec2012_FRENCH.doc
---

The provincial government is increasing Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates by 1%, starting on the November cheque (for ODSP) and December (for OW). The table shows the monthly Basic Needs and Maximum Shelter amounts both before and after the increase for select family types. Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) amounts are included here to give a sense of the total maximum monthly income that people on assistance get from these provincial sources. No increases were made to the OCB this year.

NOTE : The updated rates sheet also includes information on how some other benefits will also be changing.

Source:
Media and Policy News
("New Social Assistance Rates - Nov / Dec 2012")
http://goo.gl/reE1W
November 2, 2012

---

In the same issue
of Media and Policy News:

"...you likely know that the government is making changes to other benefits for people on social assistance. Information on these changes can be found in ISAC’s response to Budget 2012:
[ Word file - http://www.incomesecurity.org/documents/OntarioBudget2012-UpdatedAnalysis.doc ]
... and in the government's budget:
[ http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2012/addendum.html#sec3c ]
[ http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2012/addendum.html#sec4f ]

Please click here[ http://sareview.ca/isac-news/act-now-to-save-housing-supports-for-people-on-ow-and-odsp/ ] to learn more about cuts to housing and homelessness funding (the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit and the Home Repairs Benefit) and to take part in our campaign on this issue.

And please note that the Social Assistance Review Commission’s final report and recommendations were released on Wednesday, October 24. Look here for a roundup of media articles and various responses to the report:
http://goo.gl/N8vAx

ISAC will be providing additional analysis and information on the report and next steps in the coming weeks.

Media and Policy News is a project of the
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
http://www.incomesecurity.org/

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From the
Wellesley Institute:

Important progress toward a health-enabling social assistance system, but more work is required
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/economics/important-progress-toward-a-health-enabling-social-assistance-system-but-more-work-is-required/
October 24, 2012
By Steve Barnes
The release today of the final report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario recommends a number of important steps toward improving the health of people on social assistance.
* Increasing rates (...)
*
Merging programs (...)
*
Extending benefits to all low income Ontarians (...)
*
Assessing health and health equity impacts (...)
*
Urgent need to reinstate the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (...)
*
Important progress, but more work is required
(...)
The Commission’s report makes significant progress in a number of critical areas within the social assistance system. Increasing the single OW rate and allowing people on social assistance to keep more of their employment income are major steps forward that the Province should act upon immediately.

Source:
Wellesley Institute

http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/
The Wellesley Institute is a Toronto-based non-profit and non-partisan research and policy institute. We focus on developing research, policy and community mobilization to advance population health.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From the
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) welcomes the final report from the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario; People with mental illness and addictions need income and employment supports to live their best lives
http://goo.gl/cmgWb
October 24, 2012
Today CAMH welcomed the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario’s final report “Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario” especially those proposals that would improve the lives of people with mental health issues.
(...)
CAMH contributed research and clinical expertise to the development of the report, particularly related to best practices for the employment of people with mental health issues. The report highlights the importance of sustainable employment for all social assistance recipients, including those with disabilities, while also recognizing that a stable income is necessary for those who cannot work.

Source:
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

http://www.camh.ca/
CAMH is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in the area of addiction and mental health.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) responds
to the final report of the Social Assistance Review
http://goo.gl/oSHOu
October 24, 2012
The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) is urging the provincial government to respond to the report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario by immediately engaging with people on social assistance. “It is time to move social assistance away from punishment and surveillance and toward dignity and support,” said Mary Marrone, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services. “The first step must be to evaluate the Commission’s recommendations in consultation with the people who will be most affected – those on OW and ODSP.”
(...)
“The report includes some important recommendations, many of which reflect a broad-based consensus,” said Marrone. “We urge the province to act immediately on these – including improving income adequacy, 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”. Marrone noted that other recommendations should clearly not be adopted by government...

Source:
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

http://www.incomesecurity.org/
ISAC works with and on behalf of low income communities in Ontario to address issues of income security and poverty.

What did ISAC say to the Commission during its consultations?

* ISAC's submission in response to the Commission's first discussion paper
http://sareview.ca/isac-resources/submission-to-the-commission-for-the-review-of-social-assistance-in-ontario/

* ISAC's submission after the second discussion paper
http://sareview.ca/isac-resources/isac-response-to-second-discussion-paper/

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

More reviews and critiques in the
Latest Media and Policy News: 25 Oct 2012

http://goo.gl/xGJ6H
By Jennefer Laidley of the
Income Security Advocacy Centre
Click the above link to access any of the articles below.

Top Story

The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance released its final report and recommendations yesterday, October 24
Statement from Minister Milloy

Media Coverage

* The Toronto Star
*
Milloy responds – there’s not enough money for a raise
* W
ho will reform the system?
*
Hamilton Spectator
*
CTV
*
Northumberland Review
*
NewsTalk 1010
*
Metro News

Responses

ISAC’s response - a mixed report
Association of Ontario Health Centres
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Daily Bread Food Bank
Hamilton Roundtable and HOPE
ODSP Action Coalition
OPSEU
Poverty Free Ontario
Put Food in the Budget / OCAP / CUPE
Wellesley Institute
YWCA Toronto

Related Media

Op Ed in the Record on the importance of social assistance reform
Pre-announcement push on rates in Hamilton
What about a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI)?

Source:
Jennefer Laidley
Policy & Research Analyst
Income Security Advocacy Centre

http://www.incomesecurity.org/

February 3, 2012
Small fixes to Ontario’s welfare system not enough, says progress report
http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/1125640
February 2, 2012
By Laurie Monsebraaten
Small fixes will not be enough to bring about the transformational change Ontario’s social assistance needs, says a progress report by the province’s social assistance review commission. More employment support for those on welfare, including those with disabilities; streamlined delivery and new benefits available to all low-income people outside the welfare system are some of the ideas the commission is exploring. “Across the province, people asked us to be bold in thinking about how to reform the social assistance system,” says the report being released Friday [Feb. 3) by commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh. (...)
The commission, established in November 2010, is aimed at removing barriers and increasing opportunities for people to work. It is expected to release its recommendations in June. The progress is the result of 11 community meetings across the province with more than 2,000 participants, numerous informal meetings and 700 written submissions. Rather than a comprehensive report on options for reform, the update discusses different approaches and highlights areas for more discussion.
Source:
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/

--------------------------------

New from the
Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario:

Message from the Commissioners
https://web.archive.org/web/20130103002203/http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/a-message-from-the-commissioners
February 2012
With the release of Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform we are entering the second phase of our engagement process. Our purpose with this paper is to seek your perspective on the different approaches to improving social assistance that we are considering based on what we heard and learned through our research. We hope you will take the time to send us your thoughts, which you can do through this website.
(...)
We have summarized the feedback we received [to the first discussion paper] in What We Heard: A Summary of Discussions on Social Assistance, also available on the Commission's website. We encourage you to read the summary as a companion to the second discussion paper.


The Commission's 2nd progress report:

Approaches for Reform
Discussion Paper 2
(PDF - 1.2MB, 77 pages)
https://web.archive.org/web/20121230151147/http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/uploads/File/Discussion-Paper-2---Approaches-for-Reform-FINAL3.pdf
February 2012
(...) This paper advances the dialogue with Ontarians that we began in our first discussion paper “Issues and Ideas” in June 2011, and continued over the summer and fall through community visits and other opportunities to engage with people and organizations with diverse perspectives on social assistance.
(...)
Our purpose in this paper is to discuss different approaches to improving some of the key areas of the social assistance system. This paper provides opportunities for further discussion, as opposed to final recommendations. (...) We would like to receive your input by Friday, March 16, 2012.
---
NOTE : See the References section of the report (p. 67) for links to eight related studies from various sources.

---

--------------------------------------------


The first discussion paper:

A Discussion Paper: Issues and Ideas (PDF - 478K, 50 pages)
https://web.archive.org/web/20121230151147/http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/uploads/File/A-Discussion-Paper---Issues-and-Ideas---English.pdf
June 2011
Context:
In the 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Ontario government committed to reviewing social assistance — Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) — with a focus on removing barriers and increasing opportunities for people to work. It subsequently appointed the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC) to provide advice on a proposed scope for the review. Taking into account the advice of the Council, the government established the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario in November 2010.   The Commission’s task is to carry out a comprehensive review and provide specific recommendations and a concrete action plan for reforming the social assistance system. The Commissioners are expected to submit a final report to the government by June 30, 2012.
[Excerpt, page 7]

Related material:

Summary and Workbook (PDF - 343K, 34 pages)
https://web.archive.org/web/20121230151147/http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/uploads/File/Summary-and-Workbook---English.pdf
June 2011

Source:
Commission for the Review
of Social Assistance in Ontario

Related link:

Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) - Ontario ministry responsible for social assistance

The yellow box below contains links to the websites of the main NGOs involved in the review.Scroll down past the yellow box to the latest news from and about the Ontario Review of Social Assistance.


Non-governmental organizations
involved in the Ontario welfare reform initiative

Poverty Free Ontario (PFO) - formerly Poverty Watch Ontario
The mission of Poverty Free Ontario is to eliminate divided communities in which large numbers of adults and children live in chronic states of material hardship, poor health and social exclusion. An Ontario free of poverty will be reflected in healthy, inclusive communities with a place of dignity for everyone and the essential conditions of well-being for all.

- includes links to : * About * Event Calendar * Policy Agenda Overview [ End Deep Poverty /End Working Poverty / Protect Food Money] * Poverty in Ontario [Background / Status of Poverty in Ontario / What Does Poverty Eradication Mean?] * Cross Community Mobilization * Archives

---

Social Assistance Review
This is the Income Security Advocacy Centre's sub-site on the Ontario social assistance review

Income Security Advocacy Centre

---

25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction
- latest update December 2011
http://www.25in5.ca/
25-in-5: Network for Poverty Reduction is a multi-sectoral network comprised of more than 100 provincial and Toronto-based organizations and individuals working on eliminating poverty. We have organized ourselves around the call for a Poverty Reduction Plan with a goal to reduce poverty in Ontario by 25% in 5 years and 50% in 10 years.

All links below are in reverse chronological order, more or less...

Ontario Leads in Poverty Increases and Dead Last in Social Program Funding:
New Report Says Ontario is Falling Behind
http://www.weareontario.ca/index.php/fallingbehind/
August 29, 2012
Media Release
An Ontario-wide coalition of more than 90 groups and organizations concerned with growing inequality released an unprecedented new report today showing that Ontario has sunk to last place in Canada when measured against every important social indicator.

Complete report:

Falling Behind : Ontario’s backslide into widening
inequality, growing poverty and cuts to social programs
(PDF - 2.4MB, 48 pages)
http://www.weareontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/OCF-RPT-FallingBehind-20120829.pdf

Falling Behind : Fact sheets (PDF - 4.4MB, 15 pages)
http://www.weareontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/OCF-RPT-Factsheets.pdf

Source:
Ontario Common Front ("
We Are Ontario")
http://www.weareontario.ca/

Reforming social assistance in Ontario: progress so far and an update
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/economics/income-inequality-economics/reforming-social-assistance-in-ontario-progress-so-far-and-an-update/
June 18, 2012
Recently, the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario announced that their report would be delayed until September. Since submitting our formal responses– one on how to build a social assistance system that enables health equity [ http://goo.gl/J2boE ] and the other a response to the Commission’s second discussion paper [ http://goo.gl/7HC9k ] – the Wellesley Institute has been working with the Commission and with community and professional partners to develop options that would advance population health in the social assistance system.

---

Three reasons why cutting the Hardship Fund is unfair and inequitable
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/news/three-reasons-why-cutting-the-hardship-fund-is-unfair-and-inequitable/
July 26, 2012
1. The Hardship Fund provides support to people who do not receive social assistance.
2. The cut will unfairly impact recent immigrants, who are often overrepresented in precarious and low-paid work, which has negative health implications.
3. Homeless and poorly-housed people will lose one of the few benefits that support their health.

Source:
The Wellesley Institute

http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/

Social Assistance Update - June 2012 (PDF - 32K 2 pages)
http://goo.gl/y311S
June 13, 2012
The Social Assistance Update - June 2012 reports on important changes to ODSP and OW:

* Home Repair Benefit is ending, so apply by June 30, 2012
* Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) is ending, so apply before December 31, 2012
* Campaign to save the Home Repair and CSUMB
* Ontario Budget and Social Assistance
* Social Assistance Review
"... the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario has been conducting a major review of Ontario’s Social Assistance system.
The Commission has announced that its final report, which was due in June 2012, will be released in September 2012."

Source:
Your Legal Rights

http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/

Hopes fade for humane welfare system in Ontario
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1166017
April 22, 2012
By Carol Goar
Their last hope is Frances Lankin. And they’re no longer sure whether she’s a friend or a foe. Two months from now Lankin and Munir Sheik, co-chairs of Ontario’s social assistance review will release their blueprint. Their aim is to turn the province’s threadbare, demeaning welfare system into a modern income security system.

Initially, the 880,000 people who depend on social assistance — which includes welfare and disability support — regarded Lankin, former president of the United Way of Greater Toronto, as their champion in the corridors of power. She knew they couldn’t live on the province’s meagre allowance. She knew they needed affordable housing and child care. She knew the system stripped them of their privacy and their dignity.

But in recent months, doubts have set in. The commission’s discussion paper in February was vague and unsettling. Last month’s provincial budget was ominous. And the rumours they’re hearing scare them.

Comments (17)
http://goo.gl/zGcXd

Source:
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/

From Jennefer Laidley
Income Security Advocacy Centre
http://www.incomesecurity.org/

Latest Media and Policy News
http://goo.gl/mhGYY
April 2, 2012
[Click the link above to access any of the articles below.]

Ontario Budget 2012
--- Have your say on Budget 2012 - click here to take action
--- Carol Goar column: Requiem for a Caring Province
--- Freeze to social assistance rates and OW health benefit cuts will hurt people with HIV/AIDS
--- Fred Hahn letter in the Ottawa Citizen
--- Parents decry lack of child care funding
--- Eugene Lang says this was a progressive budget
--- The Spec says some things just don't make sense
--- NOW reports on critical responses

Social Assistance Review
--- Hamilton activists say it's nowhere near bold enough
--- Op Ed in The Spec
--- Disappointment in Sudbury

Ontario budget: Child benefit increase being delayed and social assistance rates frozen
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1151781
March 26, 2012
By Robert Benzie
Social assistance rates are being frozen and a planned increase in the Ontario Child Benefit delayed as the province tries to reduce its $16 billion deficit, Premier Dalton McGuinty says. McGuinty warned that Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s budget on Tuesday will be the “toughest” since the Liberals were elected in 2003.
(...)
About one in seven children in the province — or 393,000 — still live in poverty, according to a recent report by Ontario Campaign 2000.At least 71,000 more kids must be lifted out of poverty to meet the government’s goal of cutting child poverty by 25 per cent by 2013.

Source:
Toronto Star

http://www.thestar.com/

---

Ontario’s budget will include welfare freeze: McGuinty
http://goo.gl/TH0xB
March 25, 2012
Ontario's cash-strapped Liberals are freezing welfare and delaying planned increases to the Ontario Child Benefit in Tuesday's budget to help slay a $16-billion deficit. Social assistance, which includes Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, will be frozen for a year, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Sunday.

349 comments on this article
http://goo.gl/puU6F

Source:
Globe and Mail

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/

---

From the
Wellesley Institute:

Freezing welfare: The wrong decision at the wrong time
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/health-care/freezing-welfare-the-wrong-decision-at-the-wrong-time/
March 26, 2012
By Steve Barnes
Yesterday Premier McGuinty announced that social assistance rates will be frozen for a year and that the scheduled $200 increase in the Ontario Child Benefit will be reduced to $100, with the remaining $100 being delayed until July 2014. These choices, which the Premier claims are not aimed to reducing the provincial deficit “on the backs of families who may find themselves in difficult circumstances for the time being or on the backs of our children,” will have negative and inequitable health outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society, and particularly for women and children.
(...)
What is also concerning about yesterday’s announcement was that it preempted the work of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, which is due to report to the government in June. The Commission’s most recent discussion paper, to which the Wellesley Institute responded, set out adequacy, fairness, and work incentives as three competing priorities that must be balanced against one another. The Premier has sent a message to the Commission that adequacy is no longer on the table, and his decision will increase unfairness and inequality.

Source:
Wellesley Institute
http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com

The Wellesley Institute is a non-profit and non-partisan research and policy institute that focuses on finding solutions to problems of urban health disparities.


The Ontario Budget for 2012-2013 was tabled on March 27.

For links to budget papers and analysis of budget measures, go to the 2012 Canadian Government Budgets Links page:
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/budgets_2012.htm

NOTE : The section of the 2012-13 Budget that's entitled Children's and Social Services includes the key points with respect to the social assistance rate freeze and the delay in payments under the Ontario Child Benefit.
Here's where you can find those references:
HTML : http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2012/ch1.html#c1_strong
PDF : (starting on p. 43) http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2012/papers_all.pdf

Submissions in Response to
Social Assistance Review Discussion Paper #2

http://goo.gl/qRFgz
March 20, 2012
The Ontario Social Assistance Review Commissioners asked for any submissions in response to their Discussion paper #2 by March 16, 2012.

Poverty Free Ontario has no central coordinating resources to enable any organizing around this but we did provide a PFO Bulletin and Call to Action resulting from our last cross-community tele-call in February.

A number of communities have used these materials and their own local discussions to get their views in, all very consistent with the conversation that we had in February. Below are links to the submissions received by PFO as of March 20, 2012.

Click the link above to select a submission (in PDF format) from the list below.

* 25in5 Hamilton Network for Poverty Reduction/HOPE
* Beth Baskin
* Bridges Community Health Centre (Port Colborne)
* Hastings & Prince Edward Children & Youth Services Network
* Christian Resource Centre (Toronto)
* Community Roundtable on Poverty (Welland)
* Toronto Christian Resource Centre
* Do the Math Working Group of York Region
* Fairlawn Avenue United Church (Toronto)
* Food Security Network of Hastings & Prince Edward Counties
* Hope Centre Group (Welland)
* Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition
* Niagara Prosperity Community Committee
* Niagara Region
* O.D.S.P. Action Coalition
* Poverty Free Halton/Community Development Halton
* Put Food in the Budget (PFIB) Community Toolkit
* The Provincial Council of Women of Ontario
* Regent Park Community Health Centre (Toronto)
* The Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
* Social Issues Networking Group (SING) (Kingston)
* Social Planning Council of Sudbury
* June Callwood Campaign Against Child Poverty (Toronto)
* Income Security Advocacy Centre
* Voices for Change Halton
* Oak Centre ODSP Group (Niagara)
* The Stop Community Food Centre (Toronto)
* Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo
* Anglican Diocese of Niagara

Source:
Poverty Free Ontario

http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/

 Putting a Face to Social Assistance
Source:
Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
http://www.hamiltonpoverty.ca/

Austerity mania threatens Ontario’s poor and disabled
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1150724
By Melissa Addison-Webster
March 22, 2012
As a woman with quadriplegia receiving payments from the Ontario Disability Support Program, I am extremely concerned with the present “austerity” agenda the Ontario government is proposing.
(...)
Employment can be a wonderful opportunity for some people on ODSP but current rules do not allow it to be a means of getting out of poverty. Presently, the province claws back 50 per cent of the income I earn. That means if I have a job that pays $13 an hour, I am only really working for $6.50 an hour. When I make more than the $1,059 a month that I currently get from ODSP — less than $13,000 annual income — I am kicked off the program. This means losing funding for my wheelchairs and my drug and dental coverage. Many similar rules prevent people on OW from finding meaningful work and gaining more independence.

Source:
Toronto Star
http://www.thestar.com/

Update on the
Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario:
March 15, 2012

On February 3, 2012, Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh released Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform and announced the start of the second phase of the Commission's engagement process. Discussion Paper 2 seeks feedback about the different approaches to improving social assistance that are being considered based on what was heard and learned through the consultation and research.

The deadline for input was Friday, March 16, 2012.

Responses to Discussion Paper 2

---------------------------------------------------

Submissions in Response to
Social Assistance Review Discussion Paper #2

http://goo.gl/qRFgz
March 20, 2012
The Ontario Social Assistance Review Commissioners asked for any submissions in response to their Discussion paper #2 by March 16, 2012.

Poverty Free Ontario has no central coordinating resources to enable any organizing around this but we did provide a PFO Bulletin and Call to Action resulting from our last cross-community tele-call in February.

A number of communities have used these materials and their own local discussions to get their views in, all very consistent with the conversation that we had in February. Below are links to the submissions received by PFO as of March 20, 2012.

Click the link above to select a submission (in PDF format) from the list below.

* 25in5 Hamilton Network for Poverty Reduction/HOPE
* Beth Baskin
* Bridges Community Health Centre (Port Colborne)
* Hastings & Prince Edward Children & Youth Services Network
* Christian Resource Centre (Toronto)
* Community Roundtable on Poverty (Welland)
* Toronto Christian Resource Centre
* Do the Math Working Group of York Region
* Fairlawn Avenue United Church (Toronto)
* Food Security Network of Hastings & Prince Edward Counties
* Hope Centre Group (Welland)
* Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition
* Niagara Prosperity Community Committee
* Niagara Region
* O.D.S.P. Action Coalition
* Poverty Free Halton/Community Development Halton
* Put Food in the Budget (PFIB) Community Toolkit
* The Provincial Council of Women of Ontario
* Regent Park Community Health Centre (Toronto)
* The Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
* Social Issues Networking Group (SING) (Kingston)
* Social Planning Council of Sudbury
* June Callwood Campaign Against Child Poverty (Toronto)
* Income Security Advocacy Centre
* Voices for Change Halton
* Oak Centre ODSP Group (Niagara)
* The Stop Community Food Centre (Toronto)
* Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo
* Anglican Diocese of Niagara

Source:
Poverty Free Ontario

http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/

--------------------------------------------------------------
NOTE : Some of the content from the
link above also appears below in more detail.
--------------------------------------------------------------

From the
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC):

ISAC Responses to the Commission’s Second Discussion Paper
http://goo.gl/K9hH5
March 12, 2012
Since the release of the Commission’s second discussion paper, ISAC has been reviewing the paper in detail to both provide information on what the paper says [ http://sareview.ca/isac-resources/options-paper-webinar/ ] and to craft the best response possible by the Commission’s March 16 feedback deadline.

ISAC staff have been working with partners in the community legal clinic system and community partners with concerns around the impact of social assistance on people with disabilities, women, members of racialized communities, and newcomers. Below, you'll find links to short papers on a number of issues related to the review. ISAC will post links to the issues below as soon as they are completed.

Each of the links below will take you to a 2-3-pager in Word format.

March 13, 2012

* Introduction and Overview
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/0-Introduction-and-overview.doc

* An Equity Approach to Employment Supports
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/1-Employment-Supports.doc

* Redefining Income Tradeoffs
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Redefining-Tradeoffs.doc

* Simplification and Adequacy
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/2-Simplification-and-Adequacy.doc

* Audits and Rule Changes
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/3-Audits-and-Rule-Changes.doc

* Assets

* Program Delivery

* Interactions with Other Programs
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Interactions-With-Other-Programs.doc

* Program for People with Disabilities
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Proposed-transformation-of-ODSP.doc

NOTE : The list above was current as at 4:00pm on March 15.
Click here [ http://goo.gl/K9hH5 ] to see if the two remaining texts (Assets and
Program Delivery) have been uploaded since then.

Source:
Social Assistance Review
http://sareview.ca/

[ Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
http://www.incomesecurity.org/ ]
ISAC works with and on behalf of low income communities in Ontario to address issues of income security and poverty.

Related link:

Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/

---------------------------------------------------

From the
ODSP Action Coalition:

Positive or Punitive: What Will Reform Mean for People with Disabilities?
Response to "Approaches for Reform", the 2nd Discussion Paper of the
Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
(Word file - 123K, 25 pages)
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Positive-or-Punitive-march-15.doc
(...) What is the fundamental goal of these reforms? Is it reducing the poverty of people in Ontario? Or is it reducing the ODSP caseload and saving money for government? Our most important message is to remind you that the review of social assistance was originally part of the Poverty Reduction Strategy. The recommendations you make, therefore, should have lifting people out of poverty as their primary focus. The design of a new income support system for both people with disabilities and those in need for other reasons must recognize the value to our society of investing in people.

Source:
ODSP Action Coalition
http://www.odspaction.ca/

NOTE : The ODSP Action Coalition submitted two papers to the Commission during the first phase of consultation. Dignity, Adequacy, Inclusion outlines our comprehensive vision for an income and employment supports program that implements the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and An Activation Agenda for People with Disabilities focuses on key questions related to employment. Both papers are posted on the Commission's web site:
http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/

---------------------------------------------------

From the
Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition:

A Tale of Two Reports
http://isarc.ca/news.php?id=1000
March 12, 2012
(...) Ontario and Canada need a holistic, cross-government approach to addressing poverty and social inequality. Such a new approach would focus on poverty and inequality as both ethical and financial challenges.

Response to the Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform
Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
(PDF - 436K, 9 pages)
http://goo.gl/wnjBZ
March 8, 2012
(...) The paper acknowledges that the stigma of living on low-income is reinforced at many places in the social assistance system. It recognizes the policies that plummet people into deep poverty by depleting their assets, thereby reducing people’s financial resilience, making it hard to get back on their feet, and undermining their future financial stability. (...) At the same time, we are disappointed in the lack of a message for urgent action to our political representatives, policy makers, and the general public to immediately address the reality of deep poverty for many Ontarians living on low-income.

More from ISARC on Ontario’s Social Assistance Review
http://isarc.ca/projects.php?id=537
January 28, 2012
- includes info on the anticipated outcomes of the review, terms of reference for the Commission, the Commission’s approach, links to the Commission's reports, ISARC’s response to the first discussion paper and the Put Food in the Budget Campaign.

Source:
Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC)
http://isarc.ca/
ISARC is a provincial network of faith groups working together for greater social justice. ISARC was born out of the hope that together a coalition of faith groups could contribute to new public policies based upon greater justice and dignity for Ontarians marginalised by poverty.

---------------------------------------------------

From
Poverty Free Ontario:

Poverty Free Ontario Bulletin #9:
Social Assistance Review Discussion Paper 2: Missed Opportunity, Even Backsliding, as Austerity Agenda Looms
http://goo.gl/H1VXc
February 6, 2012
The Social Assistance Review Commissioners issued a low-key release of their “Options” paper on its web site late Thursday, February 2 (see the link below). Although promoted for months as an “Options Paper”, it is actually framed as Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform. While various ways to go for reform of social assistance in the long-term are presented in a technical policy terms, the paper lacks any clear, compelling overall direction to end poverty for social assistance recipients. Questions and problems raised are barely advanced from the first Discussion Paper of last fall and, on some issues such as establishing a poverty measure for adequacy in benefit levels, the Paper actually moves the process backwards. The Commissioners ask for further input on their discussion questions from the community by March 16. Their final report with recommendations is targeted for release in June 2012.

Source:
Poverty Free Ontario
http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca

Poverty Free Ontario is an initiative of the
Social Planning Network of Ontario
:
http://www.spno.ca/

Choice in Tax Credit Payments Coming
http://www.incomesecurity.org/documents/TaxCreditsPaymentandRefunds.htm
The Minister of Finance has recently stated that low- to moderate-income people receiving provincial tax credits are going to be given a choice in how they receive these credits – either in monthly cheques or in a lump sum.

A Star article from last Friday [ http://goo.gl/1nGVG ] quotes the Minister as saying: “We’re looking at ways of allowing people to choose. There are some administrative issues, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me.”

And in a CTV “consumer watchdog” interview conducted with the Minister earlier this week, he says the government acknowledges that they “dropped the ball” on this issue by not properly communicating the change to quarterly and monthly payments. He confirms that they are going to let people choose whether to receive their tax credits in one lump sum cheque or in monthly instalments.

However, the Minister is very clear that the change to a system that lets people choose “won’t happen this year”.

ISAC has prepared two information bulletins related to these changes that we hope will be helpful to you.

The first information bulletin describes the changes.

English version (Word file - 101K, 4 pages):
http://goo.gl/2s9Yw

Version française (fichier Word) :
http://goo.gl/fuKPo

The first information bulletin says:
* how payments for three tax credits have been changing since 2009
* how these payments are changing again in 2012
* why these changes are being made
* some of the implications of these changes
* who is eligible for these tax credits
* how to get help with filing your tax return, which you must do in order to get the tax credits
* action you can take to get government to provide more help for people with filing their income tax return.

The second information bulletin talks about a problem that some low income people have had with getting their taxes done this year, in hopes of getting a lump-sum tax refund.

English version (Word file - 74K, 3 pages):
http://goo.gl/kdvcW

Version française (fichier Word) :
http://goo.gl/sbWKd

The second information bulletin says:
* some companies that do people's taxes are asking people to enter into a contract in order to get their taxes done
* the contract means people have to sign up for a bank account and a debit card
* they also have to change their direct deposit so that all tax-delivered benefits go into this new bank account
* both the bank account and the debit card charge high fees
* the companies get paid first, when benefits get deposited into the bank account
* there are other ways to get your taxes done that don't require you to enter into these contracts
* these other ways to get your taxes done are free.

Source:
Income Security Advocacy Centre
http://www.incomesecurity.org/
ISAC was established in 2001 by Legal Aid Ontario to serve low income Ontarians by conducting test case and Charter litigation relating to provincial and federal income security programs. These programs include Ontario Works (OW), the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), (un)Employment Insurance, and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

---

From TVOntario's
The Agenda with Steve Paikin:

Transforming Ontario's Social Assistance System
http://theagenda.tvo.org/blog/agenda-blogs/transforming-ontarios-social-assistance-system
By Allison Buchan-Terrell
February 28, 2012
You'd be forgiven for having missed it, especially given the hoopla around Don Drummond's long-awaited recommendations, but the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario released "Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform" earlier this month. The commission is headed by Frances Lankin, former president and CEO of United Way Toronto, and Munir Sheikh, former chief statistician at Statistics Canada.
[NOTE : Click the link above, then Scroll to the bottom of the page that opens to read the online version of Discussion Paper 2. If you wish to offer the commissioners your two cents' worth about social assistance reform in Ontario, there's a workbook you can use to send your feedback, along with options for you to send in your views.]

On February 28, 2012, The Agenda with Steve Paikin welcomed (1) both commissioners, and two people with lived experience of the system: (2) a recipient and (3) a caseworker. All three links below are to MP3 audio-only files; if you wish to watch the program segment in addition to hearing it, go to http://feeds.tvo.org/tvo/TxZN and click "Play Now" for videos of each segment.
[Humongous File Alert for anyone on a "light" Internet account : the video version of the first segment below is 95 Megabytes and the other two are 50+MB apiece. Also murder if you're on a slow Internet connection...]

----------------

(1) Overhauling Ontario's Social Assistance
Audio podcast MP3 format, 8.4MB, duration 23:52
http://podcasts.tvo.org/theagenda/audio/2001252_48k.mp3
February 28, 2012
Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh were tasked with looking over Ontario's social security system. They join Steve Paikin to discuss the findings from their second discussion paper.

----------------

(2) Laura Cattari: Living on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program)
Audio podcast MP3 format, 4.3MB, duration 12:18
http://podcasts.tvo.org/theagenda/audio/2002123_48k.mp3
February 28, 2012
Laura Cattari wants to reform Ontario's social assistance program. She says it's unwieldy and difficult to navigate. And she should know, as she is an ODSP recipient. She shares her experience with Steve Paikin.

----------------

(3) Crystal Murphy: The Caseworker Perspective
Audio podcast MP3 format : 4.5MB - duration 12:50
http://podcasts.tvo.org/theagenda/audio/2002731_48k.mp3
February 28, 2012
Crystal Murphy has been an Ontario Works caseworker in Toronto for almost a decade. She tells Steve Paikin what she believes would help transform social assistance

----------------

Source:
The Agenda

http://theagenda.tvo.org/
TVOntario
http://ww3.tvo.org/home

The Ontario Special Diet Allowance
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/on_special_diet.htm
A Canadian Social Research Links page
- 45 links to information about the Ontario Special Diet Allowance that's available under Ontario's two social assistance programs
- includes several Ontario Auditor General's reports pointing to potential abuses of the allowance and what the Ontario is doing - or proposing to do - about it. The Commission of Review of Social Assistance in Ontario is asking for feedback on its second discussion paper, including the Special Diet Allowance, by March 16, 2012.

The Drummond Report
February 2012
Chapter 8
Social Programs
Recommendations:

http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/chapters/ch8.html
* Hold growth in social programs spending to 0.5 per cent per year.
* Move aggressively towards a fully integrated benefits system
* The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario should examine system design options that deliver a more efficient and higher-quality service to social assistance recipients. This examination should consider combining Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, and having the combined program delivered at the local level.
* Advocate for federal reforms in two key areas:
--- Work with other provinces and the federal government to establish a national income-support program for people with disabilities who are unlikely to re-enter the workforce.
--- Implement the final recommendations of the Mowat Centre Employment Insurance Task Force.
* the maximum level of the Ontario Child Benefit is frozen.
[Click the link above for more, including changes to child and youth mental health services, children’s services, health, education, youth justice, developmental services funding, the non-profit sector, etc.]

Source:
Public Services for Ontarians : A Path to Sustainability and Excellence
Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services

February 2012
By Don Drummond

PDF version (5.6MB, 562 pages)
http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/chapters/report.pdf

HTML version
http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/index.html

The Options Paper:
What Does It Say and What Does It Mean?
(webinar and backgrounders)
http://sareview.ca/isac-resources/options-paper-webinar/
February 17, 2012
The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario released its Options Paper, entitled “Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform”, on February 3, 2012. There is a very short period for public response and feedback – the deadline for responding is March 16. The options could have far-reaching implications for people on low incomes. In this webinar, Jennefer Laidley of the Income Security Advocacy Centre presents information that will help groups and individuals understand and respond to the Commission’s Options Paper. The webinar explains where the review process is now and what some of the problems with the paper are, gives a brief overview of the current political and economic context, dissects the paper to construct a picture of what is actually being proposed, and goes through some of the implications.

NOTE : Click the link above to access the main webinar/resources page, then scroll down to the video screen and click the Start button. The duration of the webinar is just under two hours, but it isn't a humongous download because the video itself is black-and-white powerpoint slides that follow along with the voice of presenter Jennefer Laidley of the Income Security Advocacy Centre.

Source:
Income Security Advocacy Centre

http://www.incomesecurity.org/

Poverty Free Ontario Bulletin #9:
Social Assistance Review Discussion Paper 2: Missed Opportunity, Even Backsliding, as Austerity Agenda Looms
http://goo.gl/H1VXc
February 6, 2012
The Social Assistance Review Commissioners issued a low-key release of their “Options” paper on its web site late Thursday, February 2 (see the link below). Although promoted for months as an “Options Paper”, it is actually framed as Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform. While various ways to go for reform of social assistance in the long-term are presented in a technical policy terms, the paper lacks any clear, compelling overall direction to end poverty for social assistance recipients.
Questions and problems raised are barely advanced from the first Discussion Paper of last fall and, on some issues such as establishing a poverty measure for adequacy in benefit levels, the Paper actually moves the process backwards. The Commissioners ask for further input on their discussion questions from the community by March 16. Their final report with recommendations is targeted for release in June 2012.

Source:
Poverty Free Ontario
http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/

From the
Hamilton Spectator:

Social assistance report not worth the three-year wait:
Lankin and Sheikh serve up old arguments that divide, rather than help, people in poverty
http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/article/669189
February 10, 2012
By Deirdre Pike
On February 3, a long-anticipated report from the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario quietly appeared on its website. Promoted in advance as the “Options Paper,” it was published as “Discussion Paper 2 — Approaches for Reform.” People who are stuck relying on social assistance for income support, both Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, have waited patiently for three years for its release.
Echoing words from various government officials, they expected “bold changes” in the recommendations. With community allies from across every sector, they waited with “great expectations” that have not been realized. As Poverty Free Ontario says, “The paper lacks any clear, compelling overall direction to end poverty for social assistance recipients” and, in some cases, has actually moved the conversation backwards.

Source:
Hamilton Spectator
http://www.thespec.com/

From
Your Legal Rights:
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/

According to the organizers of the webinar series:
"The options could have far-reaching implications for people on low incomes."

In this webinar series, Jennefer Laidley and Dana Milne of the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) [ http://www.incomesecurity.org/ ] presented on three different options expected in the paper and offered a variety of tools to help groups across Ontario organize consultations in their communities and make submissions.

Links to each of the three webinars:

NOTE : Clicking a link to one of the three webinars below takes you to a content page that includes:
- the embedded video (and a link to a mirror of the video on Vimeo),
- a link to an audio-only version of the webinar in MP3 format
- a link to a Powerpoint presentation to download in different formats (PPT - PDF - DOC)

Part 1 : Tax Delivered Income - January 26
(video duration : 1 hour 46 minutes)
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/webinar/83721

Part 2 : Moving Benefits outside OW and ODSP - February 1
(video duration : 1 hour 52 minutes)
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/webinar/83725

Part 3 : Merging OW and ODSP - February 6
(video duration : 1 hour 57 minutes)
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/webinar/83726
The Options Paper was released before the third webinar – as a result, the third webinar addresses the content of the Options Paper directly.

Tools You Can Use
In the Social Assistance Review
(Word file - 168K, 25 pages)
http://sareview.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Toolkit-Final.doc
* Frameworks for Reforming Social Assistance
* Options Backgrounders
* Using an Equity Lens
* ODSP Action Coalition Position Statements
* Government's Poverty Reduction Commitments
* Political and Economic Overview
* MPP Lobby Kit
* Detailed info on each of three options
* Government's Poverty Reduction Principles and the Social Assistance Review
* The Social Assistance Review So Far : The Political and Economic Context
* Next Steps

This toolkit was created by:

* The Income Security Advocacy Centre
http://www.incomesecurity.org/

...in partnership with:

* Campaign 2000
http://www.campaign2000.ca/

* Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change
http://www.colourofpoverty.ca/

* Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/organization/74087

* The Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants
http://www.ocasi.org/index.php

* The ODSP Action Coalition
http://www.odspaction.ca/

* YWCA Toronto
http://www.ywcatoronto.org/

* The community legal clinic system's
Steering Committee on Social Assistance

----------------------
NOTE : The webinars and presentation materials are also available on the Income Security Advocacy Centre’s website on the Social Assistance Review at http://sareview.ca/isac-resources/webinars-preparing-for-the-options-paper/

Source:
Your Legal Rights : Training
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/training

[ Your Legal Rights Home Page:
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/ ]

Related link:

Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/

---

From the
Office of the Auditor General of Ontario:

Annual Report of the Auditor General of Ontario for 2011
December 5, 2011
- incl. links to the complete report in one PDF file and a table of contents with links to individual chapter sections in PDF format

Selected sections of the report:

4.09 Ontario Disability Support Program (pdf 207kb)
http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/reports_en/en11/409en11.pdf

4.11 Ontario Works Program (pdf 224kb)
http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/reports_en/en11/411en11.pdf

From 25 in 5 Poverty Reduction Network:

Progress Made on Child Poverty: All Parties Must Work Together to Meet the Goal, Advocates Urge
http://25in5.ca/progress-made-on-child-poverty-all-parties-must-work-together-to-meet-the-goal-advocates-urge/
News Release
December 5, 2011
TORONTO– Ontario must redouble its efforts in order to meet its commitment to reduce child poverty by 25% by 2013, says a new report by the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction. Common Ground: A Strategy for Moving Forward on Poverty Reduction tracks the government’s progress at the third anniversary of the Province’s poverty reduction promise. The report shows that while some progress has been made, it’s critical that all three parties work together to lift 90,000 Ontario children out of poverty by 2013. The report also identifies ten areas of common ground that emerged across parties during the 2011 election campaign, and urges government to work with the opposition parties to take action on these commitments right away.

The report:

Common Ground: A Strategy for Moving Forward on Poverty Reduction
Third Annual Progress Report on Poverty Reduction in Ontario
(PDF - 264K, 32 pages)
http://25in5.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/25-in-5-Common-Ground-final.pdf
December 5, 2011
Ontario has officially passed the halfway point to its promised target date of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent by December 2013. Much has happened since December 4, 2008, the date the Ontario government announced its first five-year poverty reduction commitment. But, especially in light of ongoing economic turmoil, much more needs to be done in order to meet the target.
(...)
During the 2011 election campaign, common ground on poverty reduction emerged in ten distinct areas. Taking action on these “Common Ground Commitments” would go a long way in reducing child and family poverty in Ontario by 25% in 2013.
1. Introduce a new Housing Benefit: Housing
2. Reform Social Assistance
3. Support Transition to Work
4. Raise the Ontario Child Benefit
5. Take Action on Minimum Wages
6. Step up for Fair Employment
7. Build New Affordable Housing
8. Make Early Learning Vision a Reality
9. Support Affordable Education
10. Set the next target.
(...)
In addition, 25 in 5 recommends action in six further areas, which must be on the radar screen of all Ontario’s political parties:
1. Raise social assistance incomes
2. Invest in community-based services that Ontarians turn to when they need help and support
3. Build a public education system that focuses on equitable outcomes
4. Introduce a strategy for disproportionately poor communities
5. Introduce dental care for all low-income
6. Create a transit infrastructure for opportunity.

Source:
25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction
http://www.25in5.ca/
25-in-5: Network for Poverty Reduction is a multi-sectoral network comprised of more than 100 provincial and Toronto-based organizations and individuals working on eliminating poverty. We have organized ourselves around the call for a Poverty Reduction Plan with a goal to reduce poverty in Ontario by 25% in 5 years and 50% in 10 years.

Related links:

Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy
http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/breakingthecycle/index.aspx
- this is the Ontario Government's poverty reduction website.
- incl. links to reports and news releases, along with "Help for Families" : * Education and early learning * Employment *
Financial support * Tax benefits for families * Housing * Health and wellness * Children's Activities
Source:
Ministry of Children and Youth Services
http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/index.aspx

[ Government of Ontario
http://www.gov.on.ca/ ]

---

Poverty Free Ontario (PFO)
http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/
The mission of Poverty Free Ontario is to eliminate divided communities in which large numbers of adults and children live in chronic states of material hardship, poor health and social exclusion. An Ontario free of poverty will be reflected in healthy, inclusive communities with a place of dignity for everyone and the essential conditions of well-being for all.

---

Commission for the Review
of Social Assistance in Ontario
http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/
Led by Frances Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh, the Commission is charged with examining social assistance in Ontario through engagement, research and analysis to provide the government with a concrete action plan to improve the system for the people who need it.

---

Social Assistance Review
http://sareview.ca/
This is the Income Security Advocacy Centre's sub-site on the Ontario social assistance review.
Source:
Income Security Advocacy Centre

http://www.incomesecurity.org/

Reviewing the welfare system – again
Posted on November 23, 2011
By Deborah O’Connor
The author of this article, who is the founder of the Northumberland Coalition Against Poverty, offers her perspective and a number of interesting insights on welfare reforms in Ontario right back to the Social Assistance Review and the Transitions report of the mid-1980s.
Source:
Consider This - A blog about politics, life and journalism in Northumberland County, Ontario

150+ Submissions to the
Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario

(mostly August/September 2011)
- this link takes you to another section of the page you're now reading.
Use your browser's BACK button to return here.

From the
Income Security Advocacy Centre:

Including the Voices of People on Ontario Works (OW) and the
Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

September 8, 2011
The Income Security Advocacy Centre, the ODSP Action Coalition and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario created a Workshop Facilitator’s Guide for advocates to use to hold discussions with people on social assistance. A number of groups across Ontario used the Guide to conduct workshops in their community, and wrote submissions to the Commission based on those workshops.
- click the link above to access submissions to the Ontario SA Review from 11 groups.
Source:
Social Assistance Review
[ Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) ]

Also from ISAC:

Submission to the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
September 1, 2011
The Income Security Advocacy Centre is pleased to make this submission to Ontario’s Commission for the Review of Social Assistance. Our submission sets out a vision for social assistance and an analysis of how the current programs support or undermine that vision. (...) In particular, this submission examines why the current Ontario Works (OW) program cannot reach objectives consistent with poverty reduction under its current policy framework. It will also look at the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). While ODSP shares many of the same problems as OW with respect to financial eligibility, unlike OW it has promising legislative objectives that have been given effect in judicial decisions at the highest level. While these objectives have not been fully realized, the program nonetheless has some important features that should not be discarded but instead built upon.

ISAC Submission to the Review Commission (Word file - 241K, 25 pages)
Excerpt from the Conclusion:
It's time for a new vision for Ontario Works that moves away from the punitive negative financial eligibility and coercive work-first / workfare model to a program that uses opportunity planning to effectively intervene to help people who require assistance move to a better place, providing for both sustainable employment and long-term support where needed. And it's time to bring ODSP program rules and employment supports in line with the program's stated objectives of both providing adequate income and supporting employment aspirations

Source:
Social Assistance Review
This is the Income Security Advocacy Centre's sub-site on the Ontario social assistance review.
Income Security Advocacy Centre
The Income Security Advocacy Centre works with and on behalf of low income communities in Ontario to address issues of income security and poverty.

---

On the subject of reforming
the Ontario Disability Support Program*:

[* for social assistance for people in need who are handicapped]

Disabling effect of Ontario Disability Benefits
August 31, 2011
By Joe Fiorito
Toronto Star columnist Joe Fiorito writes about an encounter with a recipient of Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) at a hearing of the review commission. When asked why she attended the hearing, she listed the five most pressing issues of people on ODSP:
1. We don’t get enough money. We can’t look after our basic needs.
2. No more clawbacks (having her benefits cut if she earns a little extra money on the side in order to get by)
3. Rules that violate privacy and prevent long-term relationships (benefit cuts when two ODSP beneficiaries marry)
4. The quagmire of rules. You can’t keep track of them all. There’s way too many.
5. We’re viewed as criminals; they think that we steal money. I get threatening letters if I’m a day late submitting my income report — computer letters, threatening to cut me off. And the letters are not specific about what documents you need.
The Commission is just wrapping up the initial round of consultations, and it will make a preliminary report in December.
The final report is due next year.
Source:
Toronto Star

An Activation Agenda for People with Disabilities on ODSP
Progress report on the work done by the ODSP Action Coalition and the Review Commission starting in June with the release of the Coalition’s submission, Dignity, Adequacy, Inclusion: Rethinking the Ontario Disability Support Program and culminating (so far) with An Activation Agenda for People with Disabilities on ODSP.

Commissioners Consult with Poverty Free Ontario Cross-Community Leaders
By Peter Clutterbuck
August 4, 2011
On Friday morning, July 29, twenty-five leaders from seventeen communities across Ontario participated in a tele-conference call with Social Assistance Review Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh. Click the link above for a debrief from that tele-conference.

Poverty Free Ontario (PFO)
(Replaces Poverty Watch Ontario - see the yellow box below.)
The mission of Poverty Free Ontario is to eliminate divided communities in which large numbers of adults and children live in chronic states of material hardship, poor health and social exclusion. An Ontario free of poverty will be reflected in healthy, inclusive communities with a place of dignity for everyone and the essential conditions of well-being for all.

Poverty Watch Ontario * "To monitor and inform on cross-Ontario activity on the poverty reduction agenda"
Poverty Watch Ontario is keeping an eye on the provincial poverty reduction consultations and poverty reduction events in Ontario.
Poverty Watch Ontario is a joint venture of the Social Planning Network of Ontario, Ontario Campaign 2000, and the Income Security Advocacy Centre.
[ Poverty Watch Resources - links to websites and reports ]
---
* "As of June 17, 2011, the Social Planning Network of Ontario wishes to give notice that the Poverty Watch Ontario website will now be archived and we encourage all regular and new visitors to go to our new web site – Poverty Free Ontario ."

---

ODSP Action Coalition
The ODSP Action Coalition is made up of community clinic caseworkers, agency staff, and community activists. We undertake campaigns and activities designed to raise awareness of issues affecting persons in receipt of Ontario Disability Support Program ("ODSP") benefits

---

POVERTY PARIAH : Pocketbook politics put a crimp
in bid to up cruel welfare rates

By Paul Weinberg
July 21, 2011

(...)
[In Ontario, social] assistance benefit] levels have been allowed to fall stunningly behind over the years: single people currently receive $592 a month, a living wage when Lester Pearson was prime minister. Singles on the Ontario Disability Support Program get $1,042. Problem is, don’t look for a discussion on rates in the upcoming election; the Liberals have neatly tucked the issue away in their social assistance review process. (...) But call it the Hudak factor: the Libs have crafted the review so that the final report isn’t due until June 2012, missing the election fracas by a country mile. And ...many in the policy community are unimpressed by the timing.
Source:
NOW Magazine (Toronto)

COMMENT (by Gilles)
Recommended reading!

This article includes comments by University of Toronto policy analyst Ernie Lightman, policy analyst and former senior provincial civil servant John Stapleton, Daily Bread Food Bank Executive Director Gail Nyberg, consultant Peter Clutterbuck with the Social Planning Network of Ontario and NDP MPP Michael Prue.

Related link:

Is Social Assistance a “Poverty Pariah?”
By Nick Falvo
July 24, 2011
An article in the current edition of NOW Magazine (see the link above) looks at social assistance in Ontario. The article is aptly entitled “Poverty Pariah,” in light of how apparently unpopular Ontario’s welfare system has become over the past 20 years. As can be seen at the National Council of Welfare’s Interactive Welfare Incomes Map, a single adult on welfare in Ontario receives $7,501 per year. In real terms, this benefit level is roughly 35% lower now than it was in the mid-1990s. I was struck by many examples provided in the article of how politically unpopular some advocates believe it to be to even broach the topic of substantially increasing benefit levels.
Source:
Progressive Economics Forum

For residents of Ottawa:

Ottawa Social Assistance Review Consultation (PDF - 184K, 1 page)
July 27, 2011
The Province of Ontario is doing a review of Social Assistance (Ontario Works and the Ontario Diosability Support Program) and the two Commissioners are coming to Ottawa. They want to hear from people on assistance, service providers, employers and the general public about how Social Assistance can be improved.

There will be two opportunities for the community to have their voices heard on July 27 at St. Joe’s Church (Cumberland & Wilbrod).

· 1-4pm – this session will be reserved for people affected by social assistance, service providers and community organizations. To protect people’s privacy, the media will not be present.

· 6:30-9pm - open to everyone including the media

Bus tickets and childcare costs will be provided for low-income participants who register.
[Click the PDF link above for registration and contact information.]

The Social Assistance Review:
Opportunities and Risks in the Commission’s Discussion Paper
Analysis of Commission Discussion Paper
July 27, 2011
Highlights
Complete paper (Word file - 261K, 16 pages)

Responding to the Review of Social Assistance
July 27, 2011
Envisioning a New Approach:
A Response to the Commissioners for the Review of Social Assistance
In November 2010, the Ontario government appointed two Commissioners, Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh to lead its Review of Social Assistance. The Commissioners released their initial Discussion Paper on June 9. This paper responds to that Discussion Paper and will form the basis of ISAC’s submission. We continue to work with our partners to develop the ideas set out here, and our final submission, which will be submitted by August 31, will be informed by our ongoing discussions.

Source:
Social Assistance Review
This is the Income Security Advocacy Centre's sub-site on the Ontario social assistance review

Income Security Advocacy Centre

Facilitator’s Guide for a Workshop on the Social Assistance Review
July 12, 2011
Interested in organizing in your community around Ontario's Social Assistance Review this summer? Not sure where to begin or want some support? You're not alone! That's why the ODSP Action Coalition, with support from the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, have developed a Facilitator's Guide for a workshop on the Social Assistance Review.

[ ODSP = Ontario Disability Support Program = welfare for people with disabilities]

SAR Workshop Facilitator’s Guide (Word file - 417K, 29 pages)
[Le Guide d’animation sera disponible en français a compter du 18 juillet.]
If you’re a community leader or working at a community-based organization – and you’re planning to organize a discussion about the Review – you may find our facilitator’s guide a very valuable tool.

Other documents - the facilitator's guide main page includes links to Powerpoint presentations, discussion questions, activity sheets, handouts, info sheets and more

Source:
ODSP Action Coalition
With the support of
* Income Security Advocacy Centre
* Schizophrenia Society of Ontario

Inadequate social assistance costs us plenty
July 8, 2011
The term “social assistance” is quickly becoming misleading. While it is encouraging to know that Ontario has programs in place designed to assist people living in poverty, there is an undeniable shortfall in the amounts disbursed by the province’s two major social assistance programs, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program. An overhaul is needed within these programs, since the lack of funding for low-income Ontarians is getting very, very expensive.

As of December 2010, the average single individual supported by Ontario Works was receiving $592 per month, the equivalent of working full-time for $3.70 per hour — and a full $6.55 less than minimum wage. Yet this amount is expected to cover food, housing, transportation and all incidental expenses while the recipient seeks employment.

In April 2011, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimated the average rent for a bachelor apartment in Waterloo Region at $603 per month—that’s $11 more than the average recipient of Ontario Works is allocated for all of their monthly expenses. This tells us that, even without eating, the average person on social assistance cannot afford the average cost of the smallest dwelling on the housing market.
Source:
The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)

Recent releases from the
Ontario Social Assistance Review
website
of the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC):

City, province eye social assistance issues in Hamilton
July 5, 2011
By Danielle Wong
City council has approved a local push to reform Ontario’s social assistance system by setting rates that would meet basic needs. Economist Dr. Atif Kubursi and Hamilton Community Legal Clinic staff lawyer Craig Foye presented a report [the next link below] to council Monday about the economic impact of spending by Hamiltonians living on social assistance. They requested councillors endorse the report and write to the province, emphasizing the need for an “evidence-based” model for setting social assistance rates.

The report:

The Economic Impact of
Social Assistance in Hamilton
(PDF - 444K, 63 pages)
By Atif Kubursi and Craig Foye
April 2011
There is a general presumption that Social Assistance in Ontario or elsewhere, whether through Ontario Works (OW) or ODSP benefits, is a general burden on the taxpayers in the province with no or little benefits for the people of Ontario beyond the small cohort receiving it. The results of the economic impact analysis we undertook show that this is not true. Rather, the expenditures the beneficiaries make (incidentally, it is typically the case that the recipients of these benefits spend all what they receive) in the local economy tend to generate significant impacts in both the local and provincial economies
Source:

Econometric Research Limited

Broken system needs fixing
July 6, 2011
By Lee Prokaska

“It is not a matter of small fixes.”— Dr. Munir Sheikh, commissioner, provincial social assistance review commission.
As understatements go, Sheikh’s is a dramatic one.
The 18-month review of social assistance in Ontario that he is undertaking with commissioner Frances Lankin will be the largest — and we hope most thorough — examination of social assistance programs since the late 1980s. In the interim, those programs have taken a beating, most significantly during the Mike Harris years of ideologically based cuts.
Source:
The Hamilton Spectator

More info:

Ontario Social Assistance Review - from the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

Frances Lankin on CBC’s Metro Morning
July 5, 2011
Frances Lankin, co-Commissioner of the Social Assistance Review Commission, was interviewed on July 5 by Matt Galloway on Toronto’s Metro Morning radio program.

* Read the unofficial transcript of the conversation

We invest in roads; why not people?
July 5, 2011
By Peter Graefe
Social-service spending is an investment with demonstrable returns
Source:
The Hamilton Spectator

More info:

Ontario Social Assistance Review --- Income Security Advocacy Centre

800-rule welfare system assailed
June 29, 2011
By Don Lajoie
As she begins consultations in the city with Canada's highest unemployment rate, the woman charged with reviewing the province's welfare system says a fundamental overhaul is needed to help lift families from poverty. Frances Lankin, recently appointed commissioner of the province's new Social Assistance Review Commission, told the general meeting of the United Way for Windsor and Essex County Tuesday that the system may be too complicated and irrational. "We've been asked to simplify the rules," said the former NDP provincial cabinet minister. "There are now 800 rules. How does anyone navigate through? It's not humanly possible for a caseworker to know all the (eligibility) rules without bogging down in administration .... There's no time left to help families."
In addition, she said, the benefit rates, which are supposed to guarantee a basic living for recipients, seem to be based on random numbers.
Source:
The Windsor Star

From the
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC):

The Social Assistance Review: Resources on What You Need to Know
June 3, 2011
ISAC and the Toronto clinic system's Social Assistance Action Committee (SAAC) recently partnered to host two information sessions on critical issues that will arise in the course of the Social Assistance Review. The first session, "Transforming Ontario Works", was held in March 2011 to explore issues around the transition "from welfare to work". The link to that session also appears below.

First information session:

Income Delivery Architecture: Where Does Your Cheque Come From?
And Why Does It Matter
?

June 2, 2011
Several proposals have been made in the last few years about how to change the way income supports are delivered to people in Ontario.
Why are people proposing a different “delivery architecture”?
What problems would a different system help to resolve?
What are some of the options for different kinds of systems?
What do they look like, and how would they work?

ISAC and the Ontario community legal clinic system’s Social Assistance Action Committee (SAAC) held a roundtable discussion on May 30, 2011, to try explore these questions – in order to help prepare advocates and caseworkers for the Social Assistance Review consultations.

Three important speakers made presentations at the roundtable. Please click on the links below to view their PowerPoint presentations.

Michael Mendelson is Senior Scholar at the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, and has held senior public service positions in both Ontario and Manitoba.

John Stapleton operates his own public policy consultancy, Open Policy Ontario, after a 28-year career in social assistance policy in the Ontario government.

Lisa Philipps is a Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, where she teaches and does research in the fields of taxation law and fiscal policy.

This was the second in a series of information events held by ISAC and SAAC to help community legal clinic caseworkers – and others – prepare for Ontario’s Social Assistance Review. Links to the first event, called “Transforming Ontario Works”, appear below.

Second information session:

Transforming Ontario Works: An Information Symposium
May 29, 2011
A full-day symposium was hosted by ISAC and the Ontario community legal clinic system’s Social Assistance Action Committee (SAAC) in March 2011 to explore various aspects of "opportunity planning", also known as human capital development. Click the link above to access a collection of ten links to video coverage of symposium presentations as well as the question and answer sessions.
Speakers:
* Mary Marrone, Director of Advocacy and Legal Services, ISAC
* Melodie Mayson, Co-Director, Neighbourhood Legal Services
* Tom Zizys, Independent Researcher
* Andrew Mitchell, Social Assistance in the New Economy project
* Allison Bramwell, Munk School of Global Affairs
* Josie Di Zio, COSTI
* Steve Johnston, Dixon Hall
* Douglas Bartholomew-Saunders, OMSSA
* Karen Wilson, Toronto Employment and Social Services
Source:
Social Assistance Review
[ Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) ]

Powerpoint presentations from the symposium:
[Click each person's name below to access their Powerpoint* presentation ]

Michael Mendelson is Senior Scholar at the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, and has held senior public service positions in both Ontario and Manitoba.

John Stapleton operates his own public policy consultancy, Open Policy Ontario, after a 28-year career in social assistance policy in the Ontario government.

Lisa Philipps is a Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, where she teaches and does research in the fields of taxation law and fiscal policy

* [ Free Powerpoint Viewer from Microsoft ]

The long view: Frances Lankin co-chairs
a massive review of Ontario's social support structure

By Paula Carlucci
June 1, 2011

"Public policy," says Frances Lankin, "is not an exercise in sheer logic."
So call it an exercise in endurance, or an experiment in stamina. Lankin brings both qualities to her new role as co-commissioner of Ontario's Social Assistance Review Committee, a massive policy meditation spelled out in the province's 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy. Lankin -- erstwhile provincial NDP cabinet minister and the former head of United Way Toronto who oversaw publication of the organization's seminal Poverty by Postal Code -- is joined by Dr. Munir Sheik, an economist and the former head of Statistics Canada.
Source:
YongeStreet Magazine

Human Dignity for All: Working for a Poverty Free Ontario (PDF - 726K, 23 Powerpoint slides)
Spring 2011
This presentation was made by Poverty Free Ontario in 20 communities across the province from March to June 2011.

From the Ontario
Ministry of Community and Social Services

Ontario's Social Assistance Review
In the 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy, Ontario committed to reviewing social assistance with a focus on removing barriers and increasing opportunities for people to work. In January 2010, Ontario appointed the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council to provide advice on a proposed scope for the review. The council's June 2010 report recommended a review of the whole income security system, including, but not limited to, social assistance. This includes a comprehensive review of income security, employment supports and related services for working-age adults. (...)Detailed information on opportunities for public input during the review will be available in the new year.

Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC)
SARAC was created by the government of Ontario to recommend a scope and terms of reference for a review of Ontario's social assistance system. The Ontario government committed to conducting a social assistance review as part of its Poverty Reduction Strategy.
[*NOTE: The SARAC link above is broken, because the mandate of SARAC has expired, and the Government of Ontario has deleted some of the content on the MCSS website pertaining to SARAC.
ARGH! I hate it when they do that. To retrieve the missing page, copy its URL and paste it into the Wayback Machine at Archive.org ]

Report of the Ontario Social Assistance Review Advisory Council:
Recommendations for an Ontario Income Security Review
HTML version
PDF version - 300K, 33 pages
May 2010

Appendix B: Letter on Special Diet Allowance
This Appendix to the May 2010 SARAC recommendations report is a letter dated April 30 (2010) from the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council to Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community & Social Services. It contains the following advice regarding the design and principles of the new nutritional supplement program:
* An overarching policy objective of the new program should be to ensure that low-income Ontarians, including those on social assistance, who have medical conditions that require special dietary needs over and above the cost of a healthy diet can afford their dietary needs.
* Current recipients of the special diet allowance should be grand parented into the new program, so long as they were in receipt of the special diet allowance through a proper application of the existing rules and regulations.
* more...

[ Social Assistance Advisory Council Members - biographical notes ]
Source:
Ministry of Community and Social Services

From the
Income Security Advocacy Centre :

Reviewing Ontario's social assistance
The review will begin in January 2011 and finish in June 2012, and it will be led by two commissioners:
* The Honourable Frances Lankin, P.C., Past President and CEO of United Way Toronto, and
* Dr. Munir Sheikh, former Chief Statistician for the Government of Canada.
- includes links to background information about the review (vision, scope, Social Assistance Review Advisory Council member bios, and more...) as well as links (in the left margin of the page) to more information on Ontario's two social assistance programs.

Ontario Social Assistance Rates Effective Nov / Dec 2010
Word version (52K, 1 page)
PDF version (39K, 1 page)
The 2010 provincial budget included a 1% increase to rates, and this fact sheet reflects that change.
The table includes any Ontario Child Benefit received by a household with at least one child.

---

Demand Ontario welfare reforms you would want as a recipient
December 8, 2010
By Joseph Jolley (Guelph Mercury Community Editorial Board)
About a week ago, the Ontario Government announced the creation of a panel to make recommendations for what is being described as the largest overhaul to Ontario’s welfare system in 20 years. (...) This effort might have been taken seriously, if it happened even a year ago. Now, it is a meaningless waste of time and effort. Next year is an election year in Ontario. If present polling trends continue to hold, that election will produce a Tory majority government. As some of you may recall, the Tories have their own version of welfare reform. The election will most likely happen even before Mr. Sheikh and Ms. Lankin have finished their work. (...)
It should be pointed out to the cheerleaders for the war against the poor that a good social assistance system is in their own best interest. These people don’t seem to realize that all it takes is a few twists of fate to put them into this little version of hell. Yes, it can happen to you. So, how would you want to be treated?
Source:
Social Assistance Review
[ Part of the Income Security Advocacy Centre ]

25 in 5 welcomes Ontario’s Social Assistance review news
November 30, 2010
TORONTO -The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction welcomes the news that Ontario’s long awaited Social Assistance review will start in January and be led by two very able commissioners: Frances Lankin and Dr. Munir Sheikh.
“We’re very pleased with the broad terms of reference for this review. It will provide recommendations not only on how to transform social assistance but on how it should connect to other income security programs that many of us need to rely on at some point in our lives, such as disability support programs and Employment Insurance,” said Jacquie Maund, Coordinator of Ontario Campaign 2000.
Source:
25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction
25-in-5: Network for Poverty Reduction is a multi-sectoral network comprised of more than 100 provincial and Toronto-based organizations and individuals working on eliminating poverty. We have organized ourselves around the call for a Poverty Reduction Plan with a goal to reduce poverty in Ontario by 25% in 5 years and 50% in 10 years.

---

Related article
in the Toronto Star:

Ex-StatsCan chief Sheikh to lead Ontario’s welfare reform
November 30, 2010
By Tanya Talaga
Ontario’s much-anticipated welfare reforms will be led by the former Statistics Canada chief who quit in disgust after Ottawa scrapped the long-form census, the Star has learned. The hiring of Dr. Munir Sheikh is a shot across the bow at the federal government by the provincial Liberals who will make the announcement Tuesday along with future plans for the controversial special diet allowance that helps those living in poverty. Sheikh became a symbol of public service defiance when the statistician quit on principle in July after the Conservative government scrapped the long-form census, which provincial governments use to develop social policy, in favour of a voluntary survey.
Source:
Toronto Star

From Social Assistance Review to Income Security Review:
Why it Matters for Low-Income Ontarians

July 2010
The Social Assistance Review Advisory Council issued a report on June 14, 2010 (see below). In this report, the Council calls on the provincial government to conduct an Ontario Income Security Review. The Council’s report is important, because it gives the government a roadmap for how to review social assistance and other income security programs in Ontario. But it’s also important because it expands the focus of the discussion.
Before, people were talking about how to improve Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Now, we can talk about a bigger vision for how to improve all income and support programs, so that people on OW and ODSP – and all low-income people in Ontario – can have better, more productive, more respectful programs to help them when they need it.
Source:
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

Related links:

Recommendations for an Ontario Income Security Review:
Report of the Ontario Social Assistance Review Advisory Council

May 2010
HTML version - table of contents + links to individual sections of the report
PDF version (300K, 33 pages)

Executive summary

Source:
Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC)
SARAC was created by the government of Ontario to recommend a scope and terms of reference for a review of Ontario's social assistance system. The Ontario government committed to conducting a social assistance review as part of its Poverty Reduction Strategy.
[
Social Assistance Advisory Council Members - biographical notes ]

See also:
Ministry of Community and Social Services

Recommendations for an Ontario Income Security Review:
Report of the Ontario Social Assistance Review Advisory Council

May 2010
HTML version - table of contents + links to individual sections of the report
PDF version (300K, 33 pages)

Executive summary
(...) The Social Assistance Review Advisory Council concludes that Ontario does not need a review solely of social assistance – it needs a comprehensive review of Ontario’s income security system. Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program represent 23 percent of all provincial and federal income security program spending that serves working-age adult Ontarians. Social assistance is but one piece of a patchwork of income security, employment and social supports.

See also:

Letters from Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur
to the Chair of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council:
* June 10, 2010 (PDF - 22K, 2 pages)
* March 26, 2010 (PDF - 42K, 1 page)

Media coverage:

Ontario should adopt bold vision for welfare reform
Government panel says radical reform needed to meet Ontario’s changing economic needs
By Laurie Monsebraaten
June 14, 2010
Ontario should adopt a bold vision for welfare reform that includes new income supports and services for all low-income residents, says a government-appointed panel in a report being released Monday. “We are currently investing billions into federal and provincial programs that too often trap people in poverty and fail to offer alternatives to social assistance,” said Gail Nyberg of the Daily Bread Food Bank who chaired the panel of anti-poverty experts. (...) Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur appointed the panel last December to advise the government on the scope and terms of reference for a review of social assistance, promised in 2008 as part of the Liberals’ anti-poverty strategy.
Source:
The Toronto Star

Recommendations for
Short Term Rule Changes For 2010
(PDF - 213K, 11 pages)
Dated February 2010
Released to the public August 16, 2010
NOTE: Although this paper was just released, Laurie Monsebraaten points out in her Toronto Star article below that the Ontario government-appointed Social Assistance Review Advisory Council made these 13 recommendations respecting short-term changes for quick action in a report this past February.
Source:
Social Assistance Review Advisory Council

Media coverage:

Fix welfare rules, panel urges province
by Laurie Monsebraaten
August 16, 2010
(...) Short-term welfare changes recommended by Ontario's Social Assistance Review Advisory Council:

Proposed changes not yet implemented:

* Ensure people on welfare with earnings don’t face unreasonable hikes in subsidized rent.
* Increase asset limits.
* Extend asset exemptions to RRSPs and tax-free savings accounts.
* Treat Employment Insurance benefits as earnings for people receiving Ontario Disability Support Program payments.
* Allow those who have been disqualified from Ontario's student loan program to receive welfare while attending college or university.
* Do not treat loans as income.
* Do not stop welfare payments for dependent children leaving school.
* Allow single parents to keep partial child support.
* Increase medical transportation rates.

Proposed changes accepted in March 2010:

* Let friends and family give casual gifts to people on welfare as is currently allowed for disabled people on benefits.
* Allow those who receive windfalls to remain eligible for welfare.
* Don't reduce welfare for those sharing accommodation
* Change welfare suspension rules for not participating in job search and other requirements
Source:
The Toronto Star

Council Appointed To Shape Review Of Social Assistance
McGuinty Government Seeking Input To Remove Barriers And Increase Opportunity
January 11, 2010
Ontario has selected a group of highly experienced and committed community leaders to help shape a review of the social assistance system and suggest ways to better support vulnerable Ontarians transition to greater independence. The Social Assistance Review Advisory Council, chaired by Gail Nyberg, Executive Director of the Daily Bread Food Bank, will advise the Minister of Community and Social Services on possible short-term changes to social assistance rules and provide the government with a recommended scope for a review of Ontario's social assistance system.

Learn more about progress made
on Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy

- this link takes you to the home page of the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy, where you'll find links to the 2009 annual report, strategy papers, success stories, current programs for families, and much more

Source:
Government of Ontario Newsroom

[ Ministry of Community and Social Services ]

Ontario Auditor General’s Report
Underlines Need for Social Assistance Reform

December 11, 2009
Whether he meant to or not, the auditor general’s December 7th analysis of OW/ODSP let a dysfunctional social assistance system off the hook, instead laying blame with the people who have nowhere else to turn for basic support. The ensuing debate risks losing sight of the simple fact that when it comes to social assistance, it’s not the people who are the problem. Instead it’s the 800+ rules that trap people in poverty and powerlessness, fail to provide social and community supports and education and training tools to enable opportunity, and leave people so short of income that living a healthy, dignified life is impossible. As Premier McGuinty recently stated, social assistance “stomps people into the ground” and something must be done to make the system work the way it should. That something cannot come soon enough, as evidenced by the confusing picture painted by the auditor general’s report.

NOTE: the above link includes a detailed backgrounder covering the following points:
* Overpayments and Program Costs: Comparing Apples to Oranges
* What Is An Overpayment?
* The System Routinely Generates Overpayments
* Overpayments are Generated Monthly – Increasing Misperceptions
* Overpayments and Breaking the Rules
* Program Complexity and 800 Rules
* “Temporary” Assistance?
* Special Diet
* Conclusion
* What Can You Do? TAKE ACTION

Source:
Income Security Advocacy Centre
[ 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction ]

Related link:

2009 Annual Report:
Office of the Auditor General of Ontario

December 7, 2009

Also from ISAC:

FACT SHEET: Social Assistance Rates Effective November / December 2009 (PDF - 26K, 1 page)
- incl. current and new monthly Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefit rate amounts. The changes will appear on ODSP cheques received in November and OW cheques received in December, 2009. Basic Needs and Maximum Shelter rates have been increased by 2%.

Five benchmarks for social assistance
Ontario's fiscal woes come as bad news for the
growing number of Ontarians dealing with the fallout from the recent economic storm.
By Pat Capponi (Voices From the Street) and
Jennefer Laidley (Income Security Advocacy Centre)
October 27, 2009
As provincial coffers dry up, thousands of individuals and families also face increasing financial hardship. With unemployment expected to hit 10 per cent by 2010, there could soon be 400,000 of us out of work. And while federal changes to employment insurance will offer some short-term relief, they may be too little, too late. (...) The commitment to review Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program – made in the province's poverty reduction strategy last December – has been agonizingly slow to get off the ground. (...) [T]he newly appointed minister responsible for poverty reduction, Laurel Broten, and the government's poverty reduction results team must make the social assistance review their first order of business to support Ontario's strategy for climbing out of the recession. As Ontario considers its plan for moving forward, the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction offers the following five benchmarks for a social assistance review that will meet the test:
* The review must be grounded in a bold vision: economic security and opportunity for all Ontarians.
* The review must be proactive.
* A timely process to launch deep reforms must be part of the review package.
* Providing decent, adequate income supports must be a stated outcome of the review.
* People who have had to rely on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program must have a leading role in shaping the review's recommendations.
Source:
Toronto Star

Authors Pat Capponi and Jennefer Laidley are members of the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction, a multi-sectoral network comprised of more than 100 provincial and Toronto-based organizations and individuals working on eliminating poverty.

Related links:

Voices From the Street
Voices from the streets was launched in 2005 with funding from the City of Toronto’s Supporting Community Partnership Initiative to develop a speakers bureau comprised of individuals with mental health and addictions history. (...)
Voices From the Street is comprised of individuals who have had direct experience with homelessness, poverty, and/or mental health issues. The organization works to put a human face to homelessness and involves people with direct experience as leaders in a public education process.

Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
The Income Security Advocacy Centre works with and on behalf of low income communities in Ontario to address issues of income security and poverty.

Social Assistance Review - A sub-site of the Income Security Advocacy Centre
Comprehensive source for issues, stories, resources, analysis, and news about the review
- incl. links to : About - Take Action - Tell Your Story - Resources - News

- Go to the Anti-poverty Strategies and Campaigns page:
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/antipoverty.htm


See these related Canadian Social Research Links pages:

--- Guide to welfare in Ontario
--- Provincial government
--- NGO/Municipal govt. [A-C]
--- NGO/Municipal govt. [D-N]
--- NGO/Municipal govt. [O-Z]
--- Review of social assistance in Ontario
--- The Ontario Special Diet Allowance
--- The Drummond Commission report
--- Drug testing people who apply for or receive welfare
--- Spouse-in-the-house (54) (welfare cohabitation rules for single people & single parents) 
--- Government Budget Links page - incl. Ontario budget links
--- Federal, provincial and territorial budgets - incl. Ontario budgets +analysis & critiques
--- Ontario anti-poverty strategies and poverty reduction
--- Early Learning and Child Care (for all Ontario ECD links)
--- Case Law / Court Decisions / Inquests - incl. information on the Kimberly Rogers inquest.
--- Provincial-Territorial Political Parties and Elections in Canada - incl. Ontario election links
--- Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients in Ontario

--- Gouvernement de l'Ontario - page d'accueil (version française)


Weekly Media Scan page (Income Security Advocacy Centre)
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/isac_media_scan.htm

[ Toronto - Ontario - Canada - (some) international ]
- dozens of new links in each issue

UPDATED TO 06 JANUARY, 2017 [NOTE : The page is incorrectly dated July 18)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Current Welfare benefit levels in Ontario and much more:
http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/onbkmrk.htm#rates
Social Assistance, Pension and Tax Credit Rates
This factsheet contains current rate information (benefit levels) for
15 federal and Ontario financial assistance programs.
[NOTE : Clicking the link above will take you partway down the Ontario Government Links page of this website.]
Prepared by the
Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services
[ http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/ ]


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