Social Assistance: People are resourceful, and they develop solutions

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Work is the best solution to poverty.

Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services announcement on Ontario PC government changes to social assistance is both positive, and a disappointment. Overall, given the task the government has at hand is getting Ontario back in the black the changes will supply a reformatory framework to positively redefine people’s lives.

With changes rolling out over the next two years, OSDP (Ontario Disability Support Program) and OW (Ontario Works) recipients will be able to earn more through an increase in earnings ceilings before benefits clawed back. OW ceilings will bump up to $300 from the current exemption.

Yes. A $100 difference will not make a substantial difference in take home pay of those on Ontario Works, yet it is (should be) a temporary measure. Social assistance should not be an employer, yet a stepping stone to independence.

There will be a more restrictive definition applied to new ODSP eligibility, with those on benefits grandfathered will support the integrity of current OSDP recipients yet curtail misuse of the system. This is positive. What it will carry out is people who need services yet able to work will get proactive support in job matching, job placement and both rehabilitative and mental health services.

What is concerning is the possibility of limiting what is now a two-tiered disability definition if Ontario moves towards adopting the Federal definition of disability. A two-tier definition of disability is more supportive for those unable to work, rather than a singular and the more restrictive Federal one. Change needs to be done to define what a disability is under Ontario benefits, yet the definition should remain distinct from Federal guidelines.

It will be interesting to see if the Ontario government keeps a differential in qualification for benefits, rather than adopting the Federal definition. There are ranges of disability, there should be a sliding scale in determining eligibility criteria, along with introduced higher level accountability. This could mean more people end up on Ontario Works if in need, if they do not qualify under the new definition. The Ford government has put supports in place for job seekers to make the transition off government aid thus lessening the personal impact of being on Ontario Works indefinitely.

The cycle of poverty needs to break. The current system is codependent fostered by bureaucracy overuse, and non-accountability. It is keeping people in poverty. A drastic overhaul is necessary. The solution to poverty is working.

Aiding those in need stops short if it just supplying financial aid. A compulsory mandate to seek rehabilitation for those on disability due to addiction or addiction related mental illness is paramount.  Perhaps changes to the definition will address these issues. Helping individuals become independent through restoring work requirements, re-training and job seeking help does more to lift others out of poverty then a government paycheck.

Recipients are going in and out of the system, proving that dependency does not aid people to get back to independence and more importantly creates a generational cycle with principles that support behaviors that continue the poverty cycle. Children raised in poverty are at risk to emulate their environment.

The Ford government is making proactive changes to our system that should empower people back to work. By taking focus off the problem and creating ways that work within the current system, people will change their habits and behaviors thus improving their chances of overcoming obstacles.

One hundred percent, Ontario Works is not enough to live on nor to bring yourself out of poverty. The recent bump does little. Changes made by the Ford government will motivate people to seek change, redevelop skills and get back to work. OW was never nor is now a means to live permanently. It was a bridge, not adoption of a lifestyle nor a highway to independence.

The program has increased accountability. Adjudication must be strong, whether looking at ODSP or OW benefits. ODSP should help the most vulnerable, not able bodied and mentally fit citizens. Current ODSP recipients grandfathered, with proposed changes regarding to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and who can claim its benefits in the future. Social assistance must be restrictive, so that there are enough financial resources to properly fund programs.

Program eligibility reviews are now annually instead of monthly. The earnings exemption for recipients of the program will be up to $6,000 annually up from the current rate of $200 per month. This change increases efficiencies and reporting, and accurately reflects current society. The increase to social aid will be at 1.5 percent.  It is respectful way to lessen the burden of paperwork on both bureaucracy and recipients.

The changes are in line with the PC government plan to get people back to viability by increasing opportunities through positive business policies, cutting provincial income tax for those earning less than $30,000 annually and given a tax cut to those earning up to $38,000. There will be child care, skills training, and mental health/addiction programs to support and help social assistant recipients to obtain employment.

Ontario Works recipients will have the opportunity to develop individual action plans with the help of government and service providers, who will then support them by matching skills to job opportunities. Changes will take place over a period of 18 month, to allow recipients and providers to adapt.

By potentially reducing numbers of OW recipients, there will be opportunity to raise the income in the future for people currently on and future Ontario Disability supports, who are the most vulnerable, yet it is impossible to do this today given the current state of Ontario government finances.

Reducing red tape, reducing costs, increasing accountability and adjudication are all positive moves. These changes will give OW recipients to tools needed to break the cycle and get off government support. Empowering people is more productive than continuing dependent structures that keep them in the cycle.

These changes will encourage initiative, will hold recipients accountable to act and gets them back to independence, back to work and out of poverty. Changes to ODSP raise the dignity of the program, and its recipients. Annual eligibility reviews, and access to a health spending account to choose the benefits to their individual situation is empowering.

The human factor of recreating a work ethic happens when attitude changes. People are resourceful, and they develop solutions. Life needs a sense of ownership, and commitment. People with good solid work ethics get jobs and remain employed.

It is challenging to rise out of poverty. It is human nature to externalize blame and put the fault on earlier or the current Ford government. When people blame government policy for their situation, they are disempowering themselves.

The changes are a step in the right direction.

 

 

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