Clinic Calls for Changes to Social Assistance Rates and WSIB Policies
January 10, 2019 Poverty Reduction
Hugh Tye, the Clinic's Executive Director presented our thoughts on the budget to Doug Downey,Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance, yesterday (January 9th) in Waterdown.. Here is what Hugh Tye said.
My name is Hugh Tye. I am the Executive Director/ Directeur general of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.
Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (HCLC) is a community based not for profit, charitable organization. Community legal clinics in Hamilton have been working with low income individuals and families for more than forty years. Our clinic provides a variety of services including legal advice & referrals, summary advice, legal representation, public legal education, community development and law reform.
Today, we would like to address one of your government’s core commitments “putting more money in people’s pockets.”Specifically, we would like to see the budget address this matter in relation to two groups - social assistance recipients and injured workers.
Social Assistance Rates
Social assistance rates continue to fall far below subsistence levels of income. The rates remain arbitrary numbers with no relation to the actual cost of rent, food and basic necessities.
The Clinic has long been concerned that social assistance rates are not set through any evidence-based methodology. Since 2006, we have called for the creation of a board to set these rates based on the actual costs of living. Currently, there is private members legislation before the legislature. (Bill 60 Ministry of Community and Social Services Amendment Act - Social Assistance Research Commission is sponsored by Robert Bailey and Paul Miller.)
If Bill 60 is passed such a mechanism would be in place although we remain concerned the existing rates are inadequate.
In a similar manner, we are concerned about injured workers who are unable to get a job and unable to live on their compensation benefits and are, therefore, being forced onto social assistance and into poverty in increasing numbers.
This is a direct result of the practice of deeming. As you know, if an injured worker is unable to return to his former job, the Board determines the injured worker’s residual earning capacity by a “deeming of wages.”
Consider some recent research that looks at injured workers with a permanent injury.
Looking at those who are recognized and rated by the WSIB at 10 to 20% impairment (that is the largest group of injured workers), we see that 41% of these workers recover less than 25% of their earnings compared to their uninjured peers.
What can be done? We believe that the practice of deeming should be ended.
Ending deeming could be as simple as changing the deeming provision of the act.
It could be changed to say that, absent evidence of non-co-operation in return to work attempts and/or refusals to do work that is suitable to the injured workers medical condition, that an injured worker with a permanent impairment should receive a loss of earnings based on actual wages.
Thank you for your time today. It is our intention to amplify on the points we have made to you today in a written presentation ahead of your February 8th deadline.