A quick way to ease poverty

Posted on August 17, 2010 in Social Security Debates

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TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorial
Published On Tue Aug 17 2010

Urging people to get jobs and then stripping them of the financial benefits that come with work makes little sense. But that is just what Ontario’s welfare system does.

John Corso, who receives provincial disability support, had a job lined up until he discovered that his subsidized housing costs would rise so dramatically he couldn’t afford to take it.

It’s no less cruel and senseless to force people into destitution before they can apply for benefits; to restrict their access to education opportunities once they are receiving assistance; and to penalize them for emergency loans.

Ontario’s punitive rule-bound social assistance system not only humiliates and demoralizes recipients, it impedes their transition to the workforce — ultimately costing taxpayers more, not less.

It’s a problem that Premier Dalton McGuinty acknowledged almost a year an half ago. He said the rules “stomp” people into the ground, adding: “I’m not sure that serves anybody’s interest.”

Yet the province has taken so little action that a government-appointed panel of poverty experts went public yesterday with a previously-confidential report — as a way of pressuring the Liberals to speed up rule changes. Most would not cost much money — but could make a dramatic difference to the people mired in red tape.

Social Services Minister Madeline Meilleur had the panel’s 13 recommendations before the March provincial budget but implemented only four. She has promised to look at the others as part of a broad review of Ontario’s welfare system this fall.

But an expert panel has already assessed the counterproductive effect these rules have. Further study is unnecessary. By adopting the remaining nine rule changes now, the government would be sending an important signal that it remains committed to poverty reduction.

The Liberals have made significant strides towards their goal of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent in 5 years. Recently, though, they backtracked by cancelling a program that provided eligible social assistance recipients with extra funds to buy healthy food.

With more than 837,000 people surviving on welfare and disability payments, Ontario cannot afford a system that undermines the very people it is supposed to help. We need a welfare system that harnesses peoples’ strengths and reintegrates them into society.

Changing counterproductive welfare rules would be a good start.

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/848644–a-quick-way-to-ease-poverty >

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