The report of the Ontario Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC), a committee appointed in December 2009 by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, was recently released. SARAC’s task was twofold: to develop a report outlining the scope and nature of a social assistance review and to provide a list of short-term fixes in the interim. The final report, “Recommendations for an Ontario Income Security Review,” applies to more than the Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). SARAC made recommendations for transformation of numerous Ontario and Canadian income security programs, including employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan and Child Benefits.
The report provides a summary of the current system and goes on to offer recommendations and rationales for overhauling it. Six strategic directions for reform are outlined, including replacing short-term assistance in Ontario Works with a financial assistance program outside the current social assistance system, and transforming long-term support with a program based on opportunities planning that would focus on enhanced employment and skills development opportunities. The report also includes a new vision for ODSP to provide security for persons unable to fully engage in work. Significantly, it states that the review procedure should seek the alignment of social assistance and other key programs and better communicate program rules.
Seven outcomes to measure the performance of the system are also outlined (including social and economic inclusion), as well as a plan for fiscal sustainability. In addition, the report advises on how the review process should work, including the need for a small secretariat to provide staff support; a consultation strategy to engage Ontarians with lived experience of social assistance, as well as system stakeholders, policy experts and researchers, in public dialogue; and timelines for completion.
See “Recommendations for an Ontario Income Security Review,” Report of the Ontario Social Assistance Review Advisory Council, May 2010, at www.mcss.gov.on.ca.