The Ontario government has announced its reforms to the province’s social assistance programs. This issue is of critical importance to the individuals CMHA serves, given nearly half of all people receiving Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits live with a diagnosed mental illness.
While news of the government’s social assistance reform over the last several months has been a source of ongoing concern for our clients, there are several positive aspects in the province’s announcement today. For example:
- The change to annualized income support lessens the administrative hassles of tracking and submitting paperwork to support monthly income reports, as is the case now. People receiving ODSP earn incomes that can fluctuate throughout the year given the type of employment they secure. For our clients to report annually will be less stressful then reporting monthly.
- The move to create individualized action plans to help address many of a person’s different social and health needs is a good step. Providing wrap-around supports linked to housing, education, child care and mental health and addictions programs is a wholistic view that considers the social determinants of health that enable a person to live well.
- The overall commitment to make the system easier to navigate is welcome news. We’ve heard from clients that the system requires too much paperwork and is too complex and complicated. Our clients will welcome a more streamlined system.
“We know that there is a causal effect between income and health, that people with lower incomes generally report poorer physical and mental health than those with higher incomes,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO, CMHA Ontario. “It’s commendable that the government is, for example, committed to providing wrap-around supports for Ontarians with mental health and addictions issues, including income and employment supports.”
“We are also pleased that the government will be taking its time and consulting with us and other community partners as they move forward with this important social assistance transformation initiative,” Quenneville said.