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Brighter prospects for social assistance recipients – part two

November 19, 2012

The final report by the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario was recently released. Entitled, “Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario,” the report contains 108 recommendations.

Click here for part one, where we reviewed the recommendations put forward by the Commission for changes within Ontario’s Social Assistance system.

In this issue, we review the recommendations that involve other levels of government and ministries outside the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS).

The following recommendations require cooperation among various levels of government if they are to be implemented:

  1. The province should develop a strategy for supporting and enhancing alternative forms of employment for social assistant recipients, such as self-employment, social purpose enterprises, and peer-led employment and training programs.
  2. The province, municipalities, and not-for-profit organizations should lead by example and hire more social assistant recipients, as well as people with disabilities.
  3. Municipalities (and First Nations) should hire peer navigators to help other recipients through the system.
  4. The province should develop a basic measure of adequacy to set social assistance rates similar to the Market Basket Measure but more economically sustainable.
  5. All health-related special benefits should be transferred to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (including a special diet allowance for some conditions).
  6. Rent Geared to Income (rent scales) should no longer apply and all recipients should pay 30 per cent of household income.
  7. The federal government should be engaged in a broader review of the benefit and tax-transfer system.
  8. The federal government should be engaged in introducing a disability benefit outside social assistance.

In addition, the Commissioners identified some early priority areas that could be implemented before structural reforms are undertaken. These include:

  1. Moving forward on employment (for all recipients according to their abilities)
  2. Moving forward on better services and supports (defining needs of different populations, piloting peer navigator projects and engaging employers
  3. Simplifying benefits (such as revising the treatment of earnings by introducing the $200 exemption)
  4. Moving forward on changing asset rules
  5. Moving forward on a rate methodology (such as beginning to collect data to construct a basic measure of adequacy)

To read the full report, see “Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario,” available at www.socialassistancereview.ca.

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