The Social Assistance Review:

Opportunities and Risks in the Commission’s Discussion Paper

The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario released its first Discussion Paper on June 9, 2011.

This is the first major review of social assistance since the 1980s, which presents the opportunity for the changes and improvements that people have been advocating for years to finally be made. But as with all major reviews, it also carries some risks. Some hard fought improvements in the social assistance system could be put in jeopardy in the course of the review.

The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) has prepared this document to highlight some of the key issues in the Commission’s Discussion Paper, summarize what the Discussion Paper says, identify some of the opportunities it presents, and signal some of the risks. We hope that this document will be of use to people who are making a submission to the Commission or who are responding to the questions that the Commission asks in its Workbook.

The Discussion Paper is structured around five main issue areas, which are all very important for the Commission to address:

  • Issue 1: Reasonable Expectations & Necessary Supports to Employment
  • Issue 2: Appropriate Benefit Structure
  • Issue 3: Making the Rules Easier to Understand
  • Issue 4: Making the System Viable over the Long Term
  • Issue 5: Creating an Integrated Ontario Position on Income Security

Within each of these areas, the Paper asks a number of detailed questions about particular aspects of these issues. In answering these questions, you can discuss how you or the people you work with have been affected by problems related to these areas, and can talk about your ideas for how the Commission should resolve them.

In each of these areas, the Commission also asks the question:

  • Have we identified the key issues related to this area? Are there any issues we have missed or misunderstood?

The way that the Commission has laid out what the problems are in these areas may not be the same as the way that people on OW or ODSP – or their allies and advocates – would describe them. They may not address some of the broader problems that exist in the current social assistance system.

So not only is there an opportunity to respond directly to the questions asked in the Discussion Paper, there is also an opportunity to talk about other issues, to comment on some of the risks, or to encourage the Commission to broaden its view about these issues. This document will outline many of these other issues.


Read the entire Analysis of Commission Discussion Paper here.