Simcoe Muskoka health unit first in Ontario to call for basic-income guarantee

Posted on June 13, 2015 in Social Security Debates – news – Poverty linked to higher rates of diseases, mental illness, infant mortality
Jun 12, 2015.   Jenni Dunning

The organization is pushing a campaign to ask provincial and federal governments to study ways of making a basic-income program a reality.

It would mean people whose wages fall below the poverty line would receive extra money “to meet their basic needs and live with dignity,” said Dr. Lisa Simon, the health unit’s associate medical officer of health.

There are similar programs for seniors and families with at least four children, but there is nothing for “working-age adults,” she said, adding about 56,000 people live in poverty across Simcoe County.

Issues such as poverty and income inequality are “very clearly linked to a whole range of health concerns,” such as increased rates of chronic and infectious diseases, mental illness and infant mortality, Simon said.

“These factors are considered to be major, major challenges in health,” she said. “(A basic-income guarantee) is one of several things that need to happen to solve these problems. This is one important part of the conversation.”

The health unit’s campaign was officially approved June 8 by the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, which represents all the province’s health units.

According to a report on the overall state of Simcoe County, Midland and Collingwood have the highest poverty rates (34.2 per cent) for single-parent families. In terms of seniors, Midland has the highest poverty rate (10.2 per cent) after Bradford-West Gwillimbury (10.7 per cent). Midland also ranked second for child poverty (20 per cent), just after Orillia (21.5 per cent).

Simon said the next step for the health unit is to reach out to other community organizations for help, such as the Child, Youth and Family Services Coalition of Simcoe County and the Poverty Reduction of Muskoka Planning Table.

The timing is good, she added, as Simcoe County is currently working on an affordable-housing strategy and is aiming to create 2,685 units by 2024.

“It’s a very good tie with a lot of work our community partners are already doing.”

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