MPP Bill Walker says the Government is helping Ontario’s most vulnerable as well as job seekers in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and across the province through reforms to social assistance.
“Today marks the first step in restoring dignity, encouraging employment, and empowering the province’s most vulnerable to break free from a cycle of poverty,” Walker says. “Our plan presents a more effective, sustainable approach to helping people prepare to return to work and achieve better outcomes.”
Currently, there are over 240 income support rates and combinations and a web of over 800 rules, making navigating the system confusing and time-consuming for recipients and caseworkers.
Provincial employment services will also see improvements through better, more streamlined supports, placing a greater focus on outcomes and exploring options for more locally responsive outcome driven employment service delivery models. The province will better coordinate Employment Ontario and Social Assistance to make it simpler and easier for all job seekers to reach their potential.
“Many Ontarians have severe disabilities that make it very difficult to support themselves fully through work alone. In our system, they will be treated with compassion and dignity,” Walker says. “Those receiving assistance who can work, will be met with the same dignity, including targeted support to fill Ontario’s available jobs.”
The government will undertake a coordinated multi-ministry approach to reduce red tape, eliminate unnecessary rules, and support individual action plans to establish self-reliance and ease off the system.
“We will implement these changes in a measured and careful way that minimizes disruption,” Walker says. “We are embracing an all-of-government approach to provide wraparound support that is customized to the specific needs of individual people.”
Ontario’s plan for social assistance reform is guided by the following priorities:
Moving People to Employment
Reduce administration and paperwork so people receiving Ontario Works and front-line staff can focus on individual action plans that set out a path to health, wellness and preparations to return to work.
Locally Focused Social Services
Streamline social assistance and employment programs and increase local responsiveness and flexibility to help all job seekers reach their potential.
Supporting People with Disabilities with Dignity
Redesign the Ontario Disability Support Program to provide annualized income support with far fewer reporting requirements for Ontarians with severe disabilities.
Cutting Red Tape and Restoring Accountability
Eliminate barriers for people receiving social assistance and for those delivering support by simplifying rates, reducing administration, cutting unnecessary rules, and restoring service accountability through a simplified system to better focus on improving outcomes.
Ontario’s social assistance system has not seen significant changes in over ten years. Changes will be implemented gradually to update the system so it can better meet the needs of those who need it the most. As a first step, the government will work closely with municipalities to develop a plan to phase in changes, giving them flexibility to meet local needs in the context of their local economies, and undertake consultation with First Nations to develop a specific approach for social assistance and employment services on reserve.
The province has also launched a website, Ontario.ca/openforbusiness, to make matching job seekers with businesses easier. Employers can also post job opportunities at employer.jobbank.gc.ca
Almost 1 million Ontarians are on some form of social assistance and, over the past 15 years, the number of Ontarians forced to go on social assistance has skyrocketed by 55 per cent.
Ontario has introduced the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit (LIFT) to help more low income workers keep more of what they earn. If passed, the LIFT credit will help an individual earning $30,000 save $850 on their taxes, and help a family earning $60,000 save $1,250 on their taxes.
Under the status quo only one per cent of people on social assistance re-enter the work force in a given month and half of the people who get off Ontario Works return; four out of five are back on it within a year.