you're reading...

Social Assistance Review

Social Assistance Review: Commissioners Asked to Take “Bold Action” in Niagara (July 5, 2011)

Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh were in Niagara Region on Tuesday, July 5 and met with representatives of community agencies, social assistance advocacy groups, a Regional Niagara Councilor and Regional Community Services Staff in the morning. They then had lunch with a small group of social assistance recipients for their input into the issue. In the afternoon they met with Regional OW caseworkers.

In the morning, the Commissioners were urged to take “bold action” in their reform proposals and to release an interim report before the provincial election to help bring poverty into a stronger public and political consciousness. The Commissioners resisted the notion indicating that they would “engage politicians but not make pronouncements.” The Commissioners expressed an interest in finding some kind of “broad consensus” around which they could “coalesce” to pass on to the government.

Community participants told of the economic hardships that people are experiencing in Niagara leaving many who had always worked now in desperate living conditions. They reported on the “cycle” of moving back and forth between the labour market and social assistance because of the low paying and precarious nature of the jobs that are available. Regional social services staff reported the heavy pressures under which they work with caseloads higher than the provincial average.

The need for more adequate benefit levels for people on social assistance was clearly stated, although the Commissioners expressed some concern about fairness to working poor people if social assistance recipients were seen to get benefits not available to them.  All of which only once again points to the importance of linking a more adequate and improved social assistance system to labour market policies and programs that ensure decent-paying jobs and good employment standards.

Although the Commissioners’ meeting with social assistance recipients was private, it was reported to be a very intense and emotional conversation, which the Commissioners indicated was very valuable to their purpose.

Thanks to Gracia Janes, Chair  of the Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara for providing preliminary and very brief  notes for this report.  More detailed notes of the morning meeting were taken by Regional Niagara staff and will be available shortly.


2 Responses to “Social Assistance Review: Commissioners Asked to Take “Bold Action” in Niagara (July 5, 2011)”

  1. This was a private, invite only meeting, which typically represents these things in Niagara, including its health care system. I was not invited, nor was anybody I know.

    When I mentioned the SAR Commissioners were in the region, people were surprised and said they never heard of this. Why was this private invite only meeting even allowed? Why were the voices of those with lived experience, or next to lived experience, not heard or brought in, especially when the Commissioners specifically want to hear recommendations?

    I have a keen awareness of many of the rules, for example, that are keeping people on assistance. Service providers don’t have the same knowledge, nor are they affected in the same way. For example, when 50% of the salary of service providers starts being taken off of the income of their spouses, and they still have to pay taxes, expenses, and so on, ONLY THEN will we hear anything about this … like WHEN is this going to stop? Or is poverty a way of keeping people in business … what if you don’t want to be a pawn to keep somebody else in a job?

    About the issue of pitting minimum wage workers against those on ODSP, for example. Some people say it should always be better to work, but is THIS a reason to keep people with obvious barriers to employment in abject poverty, and with rules keeping them from fully using their skills and engaging in the labour force?

    I bet you that was not even raised at the Niagara meeting, but it could have been if I would have been there, and brought about 7 – 10 individuals I know that can tell it like it is.

    Posted by Angela Browne | July 14, 2011, 11:39 am


  1. […] poor people if social assistance recipients were seen to get benefits not available to them." According to the Commissioners Asked to Take “Bold Action” in Niagara (July 5, 2011) BY … Hm. I think to myself. I think working poor people are in just as much need as the unemployed […]

Post a Comment

Follow PFO