Social assistance. The word seems to encourage a gamut of gut reactions and emotional responses - from anger to pity to depression and now perhaps (?) hope. In November 2010 the government of Ontario appointed Frances Lankin (former President and CEO of the United Way in Toronto) and Dr. Munir Sheikh, a university professor, to lead a review of social assistance. The five proposed outcomes of the review are noted here and taken directly from the Social Assistance Review site:
Establish an appropriate benefit structure that reduces barriers and supports people’s transition into, and attachment within, the labour market
Place reasonable expectations on, and provide supports for, people who rely on social assistance with respect to active engagement in the labour market and participation in treatment and rehabilitation
Simplify income and asset rules to improve equity and make it easier to understand and administer social assistance
Ensure the long-term viability of the social assistance system
Define Ontario’s position vis-à-vis the federal and municipal governments as it relates to income security for Ontarians.”
Last year Ontarians had the opportunity to submit recommendations on change to the commissioners. The commissioners also travelled around to different stakeholders and parts of the province soliciting input. Two months ago in February the commission released Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform.
Opportunities Waterloo Region invited Dana Milne from the Income Security Advocacy Centre to the region in March – before the recent budget announcements - to provide some feedback on I.S.A.C.’s views on the report. One of the concerns expressed was it felt like the reforms had no vision. Dana said a vision was needed to decrease poverty, increase inclusion and treat people with dignity and respect. I won’t get into the details of the presentation and feedback here. Instead I’ll encourage you to read the paper yourself. The commission is accepting submissions until the end of April. This could be your last chance to provide input to the province on making some positive changes to social assistance reform.