Agencies await social services program changes

Lisa Macleod

Provincial Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said on Tuesday that the Progressive Conservative (PC) government wanted to focus resources on "more proven approaches".

In the interim, the province will provide current Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program recipients with an across-the-board 1.5 per cent increase in support rates to help them with a higher cost of living.

After the Progressive Conservatives elected Doug Ford as their leader, a senior campaign spokesperson confirmed in writing to the Star that Ford would allow the three-year experiment to proceed if he became premier.

Ontario is working on a plan to reform Social Assistance so that it helps more people break the cycle of poverty, re-enter the workforce and get back on track.

"My commitment to the people of Ontario, particularly the people who are most vulnerable, is that we will get it right", MacLeod said, "I, in good conscience, could not proceed on the patchwork of systems that the Liberals had in place".

That system will be developed over the next 100 days and implementation will occur sometime after that, she said. "The price of gas going down is not going to make a difference to them", Garvey said. Money he says was helping him and his 15 year old daughter get on their feet.

The basic income pilot project was introduced in April 2017 and was tested in Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County, Lindsay and Thunder Bay and the surrounding area.

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The system needs "a pause", she said.

That increase is down from the former government's scheduled increase of 3 per cent which was set for October. Suggesting the program discouraged participants from finding work.

"My announcement today is about the restoration of the dignity of Ontarians, she said".

Mendowegan said the basic income program allowed her family to see a future where they would no longer need social assistance.

Single participants receive up to $16,989 a year while couples receive up to $24,027, less 50% of any earned income. The Ottawa Food Bank points out, social assistance rates have not kept pace with inflation and argues that the reduced increase will continue to cause reliance on emergency food banks. "And cancelling the unfinished and promising basic income pilot project is a waste and a shame".

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which had been critical of the project, said cancelling it only a year in "demonstrates a reckless disregard for the lives of almost 4,000 people.who planned their lives on the assurance of having a set income for three years".

If the effect on private consumption isn't convincing enough, PROOF research by Tarasuk and others has examined how poverty and food insecurity are associated with many other adverse health consequences that increase government expenditures for health care, a serious economic concern in Ontario and elsewhere.

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