Welfare Must Change!
ISARC.ca – 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:
- Your local Member of the Provincial Parliament
- Premier Dalton McGuinty at email@example.com
- Hon. Madeline Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hon. Laurel Broten, Cabinet Chairperson of the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy and Minister of Children and Youth, at Lbroten.email@example.com