Social Assistance Reform
July 13, 2011 Poverty Reduction
Earlier this month Clinic staff were involved in two events in Hamilton that shone a light on the situations of people receiving social assistance.
Early in the day staff lawyer Craig Foye and McMaster University’s Atif Kubursi of talked to City Council and about helpful analytic tools. Foye wants one; Kubursi has one.
Foye is continuing his campaign for the development of an "evidence-based" system for determining social assistance rates. This would mean that real research would determine what it actually costs to find and keep a place to live and buy basic necessities in Ontario communities. Legislation to put such a system in place was introduced in the provincial legislature in 2007 but died when the Legislature adjourned for the election.
We need an evidence system as the rates, established 30 years ago and pegged to the real cost of living, were severely cut in 1995 by Mike Harris and his Common Sense Revolution. They have eroded significantly relative to inflation since.
Dr. Kubursi presented a report called The Economic Impact of Social Assistance in Hamilton. A modelling tool called the Regional Impact Model (RIM) takes actual data from Hamilton and demonstrates that social assistance beneficiaries generate significant impacts in both the local and provincial economies debunking the common assumption that social assistance is a burden to the economy.
Specifically, significant impacts include:
- Generating $439.3 million in value added in the provincial economy (in part as a result of the multiplier effect); generating $296.2 million locally.
- Maintaining 5,441 jobs in Ontario and 3,383 locally.
- Generating $144.6 million in provincial and federal taxes and $6 million in local taxes.
- Increasing salaries and wages by $ 260 million provincially and $162.7 million locally. (Contact email@example.com if you are interested in a copy of the report.)
Council supported forwarding the report to the provincial government.
There is a real opportunity to give some serious thought to the ideas being put forward by Kubursi and Foye as the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario recommends ways to reform Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
Francis Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh, co-chairs of the Commission, participated in a well attended session at the Convention Centre and met with community groups including clinic staff last week.
They will be looking for input up until September 1st and then will bring a report back that will contain options for the public to consider.
The Commissioners emphasized the need to for communities to develop some sort of consensus around their recommendations.