Media Statement: Thursday October 24, 2012
Provincial Cabinet must move immediately to implement $100 ‘healthy food’ benefit: 75% of those using food banks in Hamilton on social assistance and need immediate relief
The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario released its final report Wednesday outlining proposals to reform social assistance in Ontario. “We’re pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the report. It doesn’t go far enough in some cases, but is bold in many areas, and moves toward a more equitable and dignified approach to social assistance. We look forward to the government acting on the proposed reforms and helping Ontario become a more prosperous province.” Said Howard Elliott, Chair of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.
Included in the Commission’s recommendations
An increase of $100/month for single individuals on Ontario Works
Enabling recipients of social assistance to earn up to $200/month before benefits are clawed back
Increasing ‘asset’ levels so individuals going on social assistance do not have to divest themselves of all life-savings (currently Ontario Works recipients can only keep $500)
Establishing a an ‘Advisory Group’ to make recommendations on future rate increases
The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction (www.hamiltonpoverty.ca) and Hamilton Organizing for Poverty Elimination along with community partners had urged the Commission to recommend an increase in social assistance rates and an evidence-based system that covers the costs of basic necessities such as shelter, food, clothing, hygiene products and transportation. “The proposal to increase assistance for those living in the deepest poverty is an important first step and should be implemented by Cabinet immediately” says Deirdre Pike of HOPE.
In 2007, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic lawyer Craig Foye developed legislation that recommended a ‘social assistance rates board’ that could review the costs of basic necessities across the province and recommend to government social assistance rates based on those costs - very similar to the ‘Advisory Group’ proposed in today’s report. Bill 305 was introduced by Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale MPP Ted McMeekin (now Minister of Agriculture) but died on the order paper when the Legislature prorogued prior to that year’s provincial election. The Commission’s strong endorsement of the Hamilton approach will provide new momentum for the development of an evidence-based social assistance system.
Changes to asset levels and earnings will also have an immediate and profound impact in communities: “to improve the health and opportunities of individuals living on social assistance” says Roundtable member and ODSP recipient, Laura Cattari.
The Roundtable, HOPE and community partners will review the 183 page report and provide further comment in the days to come. For more information, please contact Tom Cooper, Director HRPR at 905-523-5600 (cell 905-512-7863)
Media Statement: Monday October 22, 2012
Government Must Act on Inadequate Rates: Review of provincial social assistance to be released Wednesday
The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario is expected to release a final report Wednesday outlining recommendations on changing social assistance in Ontario. Commissioners Francis Lankin and Dr. Munir Sheikh have been consulting and developing the report for more than two years. They attended a Hamilton forum in July, 2011 and heard from 200 residents – many of whom receive social assistance.
The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction (www.hamiltonpoverty.ca) and Hamilton Organizing for Poverty Reduction (@hopehamont) along with community partners have urged the Commission to recommend an increase in social assistance rates and an evidence-based system that covers the costs of
basic necessities such as shelter, food, clothing, hygiene products and transportation.
“Inadequate rates combined with 800 complex and sometimes contradictory rules means tens of thousands of Hamiltonians do not have the supports needed to move out of poverty” said Peter Hutton of the Roundtable’s working group on social assistance reform.
In recent months, the Government of Ontario has capped or cut key programs that provide assistance to individuals and families in receipt of social assistance. “Cuts to discretionary health benefits and community start-up and maintenance benefits will leave the City of Hamilton with a $7 million funding gap to provide essential programs that help social assistance recipients keep housing and stay healthy” said Tom Cooper Director of HRPR.
Recently, Hamilton City Councillors have stepped up to assist through a pilot project that will provide boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to 500 Ontario Works recipients. But the program is limited, and needs in the community are dire. “The Ontario government committed to a poverty reduction strategy in 2008, but has abandoned individuals and families on social assistance to rates that leave them hungry, in unsafe housing and unable to escape the poverty trap. The Commission must address these disparities by strongly recommending increasing rates” said Deirdre Pike of HOPE.
The Commission’s report is expected to be released at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
For more information, please contact Tom Cooper, Director HRPR at 905-523-5600 (cell 905-512-7863)
Quick Facts on Social Assistance in Hamilton:
· In September 2012, nearly 60,000 children, women and men in Hamilton (12% of the City’s population) lived in households in receipt of either Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program.
· According to Hamilton Food Share, 75% of all food bank users receive their main source of income from Ontario social assistance benefits
· A single individual on Ontario Works receives approximately $599 a month in social assistance benefits. Average Rent for a Bachelor Apartment in Hamilton is $510 / A nutritious food basket for a single person according to the City’s Public Health Department is $240.78 putting recipients $151.78 in the hole and unable to purchase other necessities such as household or personal supplies, clothing or a telephone services to conduct a ‘job search’.
· The Poverty Roundtable and HOPE have endorsed the work of lawyer Craig Foye of Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (www.hamiltonjustice.ca) to develop an evidence-based system for setting social assistance rates that reflects the real costs of living in Ontario communities.
About the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction
The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction focuses on the need to invest in poverty reduction to create a healthier, inclusive, more prosperous Hamilton. Roundtable members work to influence change at all levels of government through a community aspiration: to Make Hamilton the Best Place to Raise a Child. The Roundtable is financially supported by the Hamilton Community Foundation, the City of Hamilton, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and individual donors. HRPR participates in a network with other communities across Canada through ‘Vibrant Communities Canada’
In recent years, the HRPR has influenced the adoption of the Ontario Poverty Strategy and has helped leverage millions in funding for poverty reduction priorities in Hamilton. The Roundtable was awarded the ‘David Crombie Urban Leadership Award’ by the Canadian Urban Institute for its innovative approaches to tackling poverty.
The Roundtable’s Action Plan is available at www.hamiltonpoverty.ca
About Hamilton Organizing for Poverty Reduction (Hope)
HOPE is a diverse group or anti-poverty activists working together to eliminate poverty and promote equity and social inclusion