REPORT OF THE ONTARIO SOCIAL ASSISTANCE REVIEW ADVISORY COUNCIL
There is deep and continuing dissatisfaction with the existing approach to social assistance from all quarters: community groups, business, labour, policy makers, the people who run the system and those who receive its benefits.
Ontario’s core social assistance programs â€“ Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program – together with the other programs that make up Ontario’s income security system, continue to fall short in providing an economic safety net for individuals and families as well as promoting opportunity to ensure everyone can contribute to the long-term prosperity of the province.
The current social assistance system is based on the budget deficit model. By its nature, the budget deficit model is intricate, rule-bound, complicated, hard to understand and difficult to administer fairly. The consequences are stigma, a high degree of invasiveness into the personal lives of recipients and the enforcement of rules placed above real support. The system requires applicants to deplete most financial assets, making it harder to recover from an economic setback. Once in the system, recipients live on substandard incomes, and often become trapped in a cycle of poverty.
The income security system as a whole fails to provide effective alternatives to social assistance. Lack of Employment Insurance coverage, inadequate workforce development and lack of income benefits to ease recipients’ transition to independence all make social assistance the first program many people turn to in times of financial hardship.
While a need for reform is widely acknowledged, a consensus about how to fix the system does not yet exist.