Hot! Welfare Must Change! – e-newsletter/Summer 2010
July 5, 2010.   Editorial

“People on social assistance are poorer today than they were after the provincial election in 2003.” This statement was made by the editor and author of LIVES STILL IN THE BALANCE in 2007.  Unfortunately the statement is still true for adults without children on Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).  The 2010 social audit of Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) has many testimonies of how adults and children are harmed by the provincial social assistance system and the lack of new affordable housing. They are also injured by the stigma of being on welfare. They lose dignity as they apply for welfare, request a food hamper, and do not have enough money for both food and rent.

The Ontario Social Assistance Review Advisory Committee (SARAC) has now called for a thorough transformation of social assistance in Ontario and has included necessary changes to other provincial and federal income security programs, so that individuals and families can provide the essentials for life and have the energy and strength to “break the cycle of poverty.” They recommend that Ontario move forward during a time of recession because money expended to assist those with lowest incomes contributes to local economies, helps break the recession, adds to the tax base, and makes all our communities healthier.

ISARC supports an immediate increase in social assistance payments to all OW and ODSP recipients. One hundred dollars per month per adult is an appropriate down payment toward reducing poverty. This $100 increase puts food in the budget. Currently recipients do not have money for rent and nutritious food. This is especially true of adults without children. Since Ontario is making welfare an adult program, the $100/ month should go to all adults on social assistance. ISARC supports money going to adults monthly, rather than a tax benefit once a year since people on low incomes need money for current expenses.

This increase should not eliminate the Special Diet allowance, which is very necessary for many OW and ODSP recipients. Extra monies for nutritious food are needed when a person has a physical or mental health condition. Nutritious food for many means fewer visits to doctors or trips to the emergency ward or hospital. Dollars saved by less use of the medical system will far exceed the costs of the Special Diet allowance.

As ISARC volunteers listened to people during the social audit, many said, “I never expected to ask for a food hamper. I gave food for hampers.”  Others said, “I’ve never been here and I don’t know how to manage on such a low income.” Because there was no transition between Employment Insurance (EI) and welfare, some talked of losing all their assets. If they were over 45 years old, they will probably be poor for the rest of their lives since there will not be time to build up pension or significant RRSPs.

While ISARC supports the federal and provincial governments creating an income security system  for people caught in unemployment or recession, ISARC asks the Ontario government to work as quickly as possible to eliminate the “stupid rules” in the welfare system, increase income of recipients, and appoint the commissioners and the social assistance advisory committee to conduct the Social Assistance Review. To do a thorough job, 18 months might be necessary, but people with low income should not suffer further because transformation takes a long time.
To support the SARAC report and call for immediate increases to social assistance contact:

1 Comment

  1. It infuriates me that “affordable housing” is restricted to welfare. It disgusts me that we worry so much about people on welfare being unable to pay food and rent. Well guess what? I work full-time, and I have a hard time paying for food and rent. Yet i don’t qualify for this “affordable housing” your pushing for. Why? I don’t have a kid. I make too much money (so they say, come see my cupboards, you might think different, I could sure use that $100/mth). I’m not discussing ODSP or Unemployment. I’m talking WELFARE. You wanna “break the cycle of poverty”? Put the money into helping students, who are TRYING TO HELP THEMSELVES instead of relying on others. Students come out of school with CRIPPLING debt loads. We can’t even declare bankruptcy on them should we ever find ourselves in a position where that’s the only choice left. I’m all for helping people, but Welfare should be short term, and not something people are able to live on long term. I am tired of watching mothers on welfare have more kids. This system is unfair and unbalanced. The working class are now almost as poor as people on Welfare, and yet we’re not entitled to any additional help. Instead, we must pay to support people when we can barely support ourselves. Believe me, when I fall behind on rent, or something comes up that puts me back, I can’t help but think, “Geez, if I was on welfare, my rent would be paid everymonth, GUARANTEED.” If I need medication, there’s no one there to cover it for me, since I don’t have health benefits at work. I think it’s slightly humourous that you think the “stupid” rules of welfare should change, but if you ask any “middle class” or “working poor” family, they’ll flat out tell you the rules need to get stricter. Big time.

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