An Important New Report
January 11, 2018 Poverty Reduction
January is a good month for reading. So, staff at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic are busy digging into a recently released report. The report is called “Income Security: A Roadmap for Change”.
It is an important document. That is because it is the first report in 30 years to recommend major investment and improvements to programs that affect the lives of low-income people.
About a year ago, the Minister of Community and Social Services asked three different working groups to give recommendations on how to improve the income security system in Ontario.
The Income Security Reform Working Group, First Nations Income Security Reform Working Group and the Urban Indigenous Table on Income Security came back with a comprehensive 186 page document.
The report presents a fundamentally different approach than what we have become used to. It puts people and their needs and rights at the centre of the system. It recognizes that social and economic inclusion, and not just getting a job, should be the goal of an income security system.
There is recognition that poverty impacts people in different ways. Disadvantaged groups, Indigenous peoples, racialized people, people with disabilities and other marginalized communities may be affected more significantly.
The Roadmap makes twenty recommendations. Within those recommendations are many action steps.
For example, the report suggests what an adequate standard of living should be for people who get income supports from benefit programs. It recommends how to change the social assistance system to one that is supportive and responds appropriately to the needs and goals of recipients.
The roadmap tackles the complex issue of making social assistance programs work better for Indigenous people. It looks at how to improve benefits and supports that go to all low-income people not just those on social assistance.
What will the government do with this report? First of all, they’ll release their own “Income Security Strategy” in early 2018.
We believe that it is important that the government immediately makes investments to help those in deepest poverty. Advocates and activists need to engage with the report and to push the government to “get it right.” Getting it right means appropriate investments are made in the 2018-2019 Budget. It is the last budget before the June election.
The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC), a legal clinic that specializes in income security issues, has put together some ideas. These ideas come in the form of a background paper and tools for those who want to give feedback.
You can find the backgrounder and feedback kit at http://incomesecurity.org/policy-advocacy/a-roadmap-for-change-tools-you-can-use-to-have-your-voice-heard/