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Brighter prospects for social assistance recipients

November 1, 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 for a more simplified, integrated system of income and employment supports. It was guided by six key principles and has three objectives:

  1. Fairness (in so far as a low-income person who is working and not on social assistance is not disadvantaged),
  2. Adequacy of rates to support the basic necessities of life, and
  3. Financial incentive to work.

The report is organized into two parts. Part one provides a brief overview of the system changes, and part two provides in-depth details, giving the rationale made for recommendations. The recommendations include those that can be made inside the system, as well as those that need cooperation with other levels of government.

Some of the key reform changes proposed from within the system include:

  1. A new integrated system: Merge OW and ODSP benefits into a new program that will be administered by municipalities/First Nations. This new system will standardize income rates for all recipients as the Commissioners could find no rationale for the vast difference in rates. Therefore, they proposed a standardized rate that would be based on the current OW rate, with a $100 dollar increase. Disability supplements should be provided for recipients with disabilities, and are expected to cover the extra cost of living with a disability.
  2. Pathways to Employment Plans for all recipients: Participation requirements should be eliminated in favour of individualized employment supports provided through a detailed employment plan for everyone capable of working. These plans would not be required for recipients unable to work.
  3. Elimination of all special benefits: Some should be rolled into the new standardized rates and some should be part of block funding to be used at the municipalities’ discretion.
  4. Employer councils should be established, to assist in the design of employment services and piloted work models.
  5. New accountability measures, such as a new Provincial Commissioner of Social Assistance (at the Assistant Deputy Minister level), and mandatory annual reports should be implemented.
  6. A Stakeholder Advisory Group should be created to advise the Commission and monitor progress.
  7. A new Ontario research institution for employment, should be established, modeled on and even linked with, the BC Centre for Employment Excellence.
  8. The adult phase of the Mental Health and Addiction Strategy should be accelerated: Employment should be a key outcome, and integration of treatment and employment supports should be developed.
  9. Changes to eligibility reviews: Complexity should be reduced, and the focus shifted to cases where there is the most risk for misuse of the system.
  10. The province should develop return on investment indices to measure the effectiveness of social assistance changes.

For the full report, see
Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, available on the Commission’s website at

In our next issue of Mental Health Notes, we will review the recommendations that impact other levels of government.

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