For Immediate Release

TORONTO – The McGuinty government’s budget has taken important steps to reduce poverty in Ontario. However, fundamental reform of social assistance remains a necessity, particularly as growing numbers of Ontarians lose their jobs.

“The McGuinty government is moving in the right direction on poverty reduction in Ontario,” said Sarah Blackstock, Research & Policy Analyst at the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC). “This budget shows that government is beginning to take the needs of people on social assistance seriously – which is vital, since the welfare rolls in this province are only going to grow.”

Allowing the increases to the sales tax credit to flow through to Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, and accelerating the Ontario Child Benefit will put urgently-needed money into the pockets of people on assistance.

“The next step for the McGuinty government is to begin the Social Assistance Review that was promised in the Poverty Reduction Strategy,” said Blackstock. “They have acknowledged that the social assistance system is broken. It doesn’t provide enough money to let people eat and pay the rent, it doesn’t provide meaningful assistance to find and keep a job, nor does it address the many other barriers that people face.”

“Now the government needs to do the work to make social assistance consistent with their goals of poverty reduction and the provision of opportunity.”

Current social assistance rules require applicants to impoverish themselves. Applicants must cash out RRSP’s and spend their savings. “When people become eligible for welfare in this province, they are very near destitute. But what they find is a welfare system that only deepens and prolongs their poverty,” said Blackstock. “This is unjust, immoral and unwise.”

The Budget announced a 2% increase to social assistance rates. In addition, people on social assistance will benefit from the permanent increase to the Ontario Sales Tax Credit, and the temporary Ontario Sales Tax Transition Benefit. People on assistance who have children will benefit from the accelerated Ontario Child Benefit.

However, social assistance rates for people with children will continue to be restructured as benefits for children are moved into the Ontario Child Benefit. “We expect government to meet its commitment that each child on social assistance will be better off by at least $50 a month at full OCB implementation.”