Ontario launches social assistance reform process
The social assistance review originally introduced in the Ontario government’s poverty reduction strategy will get underway early in 2011. The government has also announced significant changes to the special diet allowance, a benefit provided to social assistance recipients who have medically related nutritional concerns.
The review will be led by a two-person review commission, including Frances Lankin, M.P.P. and past-president and CEO of United Way Toronto, and Dr. Munir Sheikh, Canada’s former chief statistician, and will be advised by a committee of community stakeholders. Described as the largest social assistance review in 20 years, it will examine social assistance in the context of other income security programs at the federal level. It is intended to make employment easier to access, less complex and more financially sustainable for recipients. The review will begin January 2011 and finish in June 2012.
In related news, the government of Ontario has announced the continuation of the Special Diet Allowance within the Ministry of Community and Social Services, due to the outcome of a human rights case. The elimination of the Special Diet Allowance was announced in the 2010 provincial budget, and the supplement was to be replaced by a new nutritional supplement program for persons with severe medical conditions to be administered by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Now with the decision to continue the original program, changes to the existing allowance have been made to comply with the human rights decision. However, other changes to the program include a shortened list of medical conditions that will be accepted as eligible for the supplement. The revised special diet schedule will take effect April 1, 2011. A more comprehensive review of the special diet allowance will be part of the larger social assistance review.
See the Ministry of Community and Social Services press releases, “Ontario Launches Comprehensive Social Assistance Review,” November 30, 2010, available at news.ontario.ca, and “Changes to the Special Diet Allowance,” November 30, 2010, available at www.news.ontario.ca.