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Transformation of Ontario Social Assistance System Needed but those with Disabilities Should not be Forgotten

January 20, 2016 Poverty Reduction

During the holiday break the Hamilton Spectator published an editorial* calling for completion of the reform of “a broken social assistance system.”

We want the system reformed too. We wrote the Spectator who published our letter. Here is that letter.  

 

We at Hamilton Community Legal Clinic completely agree that the Ontario government should set 2016 as the year in which positive transformation is made to the province's social assistance programs and we sincerely thank the Hamilton Spectator for raising this crucial issue.

As you've noted, one of the biggest problems is that benefit rates are not adequate to cover basic needs and ongoing expenses. Government should make 2016 the year it makes a commitment to move toward income adequacy and releases an investment plan for getting there. But that's not the only problem in the system. Many other issues need to be addressed.

We're concerned, however, that the 2012 recommendations of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance won't get us where Ontario needs to be. Many recommendations could be harmful to people with disabilities who rely on ODSP, particularly those recommendations that would result in a cut to benefits and/or moves to reduce the number of people receiving disability supports.

Over the years, other reports and recommendations have been made that government could work from, including Deb Matthews' 2004 report and the 2010 report of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Committee.

Government needs to make change. But it must be thoughtful change, that doesn't create "winners" and "losers" and is based on additional investments that will better support vulnerable Ontarians.

Craig Foye, staff lawyer, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic

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*Here is the Spectator’s editorial from December 29, 2015 http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/6210815-the-spectator-s-view-it-s-a-perfect-time-to-fix-social-assistance/

**Sandy Leyland wrote an excellent opinion piece in response to the Spec’s editorial which you can find at. http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/6232814-to-fix-social-assistance-talk-to-recipients/#

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