TORONTO, June 14 /CNW/ – The province urgently requires a more effective system of income security programs that meet the needs of Ontarians in a rapidly shifting economy, says a new report by the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC).

Appointed by the government of Ontario, the Council was mandated to recommend a scope and terms of reference for a review of Ontario’s social assistance system. In a report released today, it outlines a consultation process focusing on six key strategies that would transform the delivery of income security programs, employment supports and related services for low-income working age adults.

‘We are currently investing billions into federal and provincial programs that too often trap people in poverty and fail to offer alternatives to social assistance,’ said Gail Nyberg, chair of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council. ‘Tinkering with a broken system will not lead to different outcomes. It’s time to unleash a bold review.’

The Council recommends the review focus on the following six strategies for reform:

  • Building on the approach of the Ontario Child Benefit, develop an expanded range of income and services to be available to all low-income Ontarians.
  • Strengthen initiatives such as minimum wage increases, enhanced employment standards, fair employment initiatives and the federal Working Income Tax Benefit to ensure the labour market offers effective pathways out of poverty.
  • Replace short term coverage in Ontario Works with more appropriate financial support outside of the social assistance system for those who are temporarily unemployed.
  • Re-engineer long-term coverage in Ontario Works as an opportunity planning program to support achieving full labour market potential through skills building, education, training, employment and related support.
  • Develop standards for a liveable income and a process to use those standards to assess the adequacy of Ontarians’ incomes.
  • Improve income and social supports for those whose reasonable prospects of earning liveable incomes from employment are limited by disability or other circumstances, including a possible new vision for the Ontario Disability Support Program and exploring options for alternative models of financial assistance.

‘The next step is for the Ontario government to appoint Income Security Commissioners and to start a comprehensive review,’ said Nyberg. ‘Now is the time to engage Ontarians from all walks of life to ensure income security programs meet the needs of Ontarians and our economy.’ Â

The Council is also calling for immediate action to address the incomes of social assistance recipients without children. Their incomes fall far below any reasonable liveable standard.

 The Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC) was appointed by the government of Ontario to submit recommendations to the Minister of Community and Social Services regarding the scope and terms of reference for a review of Ontario’s social assistance system. The report is available on the Ministry of Community and Social Services website at http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/sacouncil/index.aspx.