Welfare Reform Moves at a Snail’s Pace

November 30 | Laurie Monsebraaten The Toronto Star Little provincial action since 2008 pledge to review regulations on clawbacks, savings Bronwen Sims calls it Ontario’s “work disincentive program.” The 35-year-old woman, who suffers from bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia, has been living in poverty on Ontario’s disability support program for the past 10 years while doctors help her battle alcoholism, depression and severe panic attacks related to her mental illness. Sims has been well enough to work part-time for the past…

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Rethinking the role of Social Assistance within a Poverty Reduction Strategy

INTRODUCTION: BRINGING SOCIAL ASSISTANCE IN LINE WITH POVERTY REDUCTION With the announcement of its commitment to a Poverty Reduction Strategy, this government has signalled a marked departure in Ontario’s approach to poverty. This innovative and progressive response challenges the foundations of many existing programs. One such program is social assistance. A successful poverty reduction strategy for Ontario must include a new approach to the province’s social assistance programs, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, which are the products…

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Responding to the Review of Social Assistance

Envisioning a New Approach A Response to the Commissioners for the Review of Social Assistance In November 2010, the Ontario government appointed two Commissioners, Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh to lead its Review of Social Assistance. The Commissioners released their initial Discussion Paper on June 9. This paper responds to that Discussion Paper and will form the basis of ISAC’s submission. We continue to work with our partners to develop the ideas set out here, and our final submission, which…

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Analysis of Commission Discussion Paper

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…

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Key Messages from the ‘Bringing in Women’s Voices’ Project

The ‘Bringing in Women’s Voices’ project, initiated by Ontario Campaign 2000 and the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) has the goal of ensuring that the voices of low-income women (especially lone mothers) are heard in the public discussion of economic security issues that affect their daily lives, including the Social Assistance Review. With the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the project has partnered with 11 community organizations across the province and held workshops in Toronto (central), Region of Peel,…

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Principles Behind Poverty Reduction

This document lists some of the major principles and commitments that have been articulated by government in the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Poverty Reduction Act, and the Terms of Reference for the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. The Social Assistance Review is an opportunity to give meaning to these principles and to hold government accountable for the commitments they have made. Indeed, since all parties in the legislature unanimously supported the Poverty Reduction Act, they should…

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Overview of International Welfare to Work Models

This report summarizes the presentations and discussion from the IPPR’s Welfare to Work symposium held in London, England in March 2011. This conference was an important contribution to ISAC’s ongoing research into policy recommendations for improvements to Ontario Works and ODSP within the context of the provincial government’s Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. Generous financial assistance provided by IPPR made ISAC’s attendance possible. The Institute for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, progressive think tank in the UK that…

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Facilitator’s Guide for a Workshop on the Social Assistance Review

Interested in organizing in your community around Ontario’s Social Assistance Review this summer? Not sure where to begin or want some support? You’re not alone! That’s why the ODSP Action Coalition, with support from the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, has developed a Facilitator’s Guide for a workshop on the Social Assistance Review. And we’re sharing it with YOU! If you’re a community leader or working at a community-based organization – and you’re planning…

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Organizing for the Social Assistance Review

This workshop by the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) and the Steering Committee on Social Assistance (SCSA) provides an early analysis of issues in the Social Assistance Review and discusses organizing strategies with community legal clinic workers attending the annual meeting of OPICCO, the Ontario Project for Inter-Clinic Organizing. Videos from the workshop are below: Welcome and Introduction (2:16): June 14 – 1 Welcome and Intro from Michael Thiessen on Vimeo.   Context (14:22): June 14 – 2 Context from Michael Thiessen on Vimeo.   The Commission’s Discussion…

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Broken system needs fixing

“It is not a matter of small fixes.” — Dr. Munir Sheikh, commissioner, provincial social assistance review commission. As understatements go, Sheikh’s is a dramatic one. The 18-month review of social assistance in Ontario that he is undertaking with commissioner Frances Lankin will be the largest — and we hope most thorough — examination of social assistance programs since the late 1980s. In the interim, those programs have taken a beating, most significantly during the Mike Harris years of ideologically…

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