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Social Assistance Review Commission releases options paper

February 9, 2012

The Social Assistance Review Commission, appointed by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, has released the second of three reports on possibilities for a transformed social assistance system. This second paper presents a variety of options in five key areas, reflecting community consultations held in summer and fall 2011. A companion document, summarizing Ontarians’ responses to the first paper, is also included in this release.

This options paper is divided into five outcomes which reflect the stated objectives in the Commission’s Terms of Reference, and include chapters on employment supports, benefit structures, making the system easier to understand, viability over the long term, and alignment with other social programs. There is also a separate chapter on the unique concerns of First Nations. Each chapter concludes with a list of discussion questions to guide submissions to this second paper.

The employment support section addresses the need for assessment tools to identify recipients’ capacity and readiness for work, the need to overcome stigma and discrimination so they have jobs to move into, and the need for both pre- and post-employment services. The Commission is also seeking assistance on when and how to implement proposed changes to the employment programs.

Better integration of services was also recognized as an area of work in order to simplify a complex system and ensure sustainability. There is also a need to balance adequacy of benefits, fairness, and work incentives between recipients of OW and ODSP, as well as between social assistance recipients and low-income workers that may not have access to extended benefits. A variety of options were presented for new benefits that could help all low-income persons. In addition, possibilities for moving some programs and benefits out of the system to other Ministries and/or levels of government were discussed.

The need to maintain recipients’ dignity and respect was also a central concern, and the Commission suggested that the accountability system be changed along with alternative methods of income verification.

The deadline for feedback to this report is March 16, 2012. Submission details are included in the report.

See, “Discussion Paper: Approaches for Reform” at www.socialassistancereview.ca.

You can read the joint submission to the Commission’s first report by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario at www.ontario.cmha.ca.

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