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Small fixes to Ontario’s welfare system not enough, says progress report

TORONTO – 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 by commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh.

“While many identified specific policies or rules that are not working under the current system, they also called for more fundamental change to the system as a whole,” it adds.

But mindful of the province’s fiscal tight-jacket, the commissioners acknowledge that “some changes will take longer to implement than others.”

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.

“As our work unfolded, we strongly desired to engage in further dialogue and obtain feedback on specific areas of reform to help refine our thinking,” Lankin and Munir write. They are requesting input by March 16.

In the area of employment support, the commission notes that the current approach separates social assistance recipients from other job-seekers, such as those receiving Employment Insurance.

“This reinforces the stigma of receiving assistance and makes it more difficult for people, especially people with disabilities, to access a wider range of services,” the report says. “The separation also results in service duplication and gaps, confusion for job-seekers and employers, and administrative inefficiencies.”

Instead, the report suggests those on welfare, including people with disabilities get access to the full range of employment supports.

Laurie Monsebraaten
Social Justice Reporter



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