Province fails low-income children; Sudbury steps in to provide back-to-school allowances

    SUDBURY, ON, July 22 /CNW Telbec/ - Thousands of low-income children and
their families on social assistance will be left with no money to buy
back-to-school supplies this year because the provincial government has cut
back-to-school and winter clothing allowances with the introduction of the new
Ontario Child Benefit (OCB). The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) and
the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario say that, while some
municipalities like Sudbury have stepped up to provide the allowances this
year, many of the province's 200,000 children on social assistance will report
to school without the new shoes, clothes and supplies they need.
    "While the new Child Benefit is a good program, there are serious
problems with its implementation this year because its leaves many parents
without the means to provide for their children," said Sid Ryan, President of
CUPE Ontario. "It has created 'have' and 'have not' communities for children,
which is totally unacceptable for a government that says it's committed to
poverty reduction."
    Under new guidelines, both allowances will be rolled into the OCB monthly
payments starting in July 2008 with parents expected to set aside the amounts
necessary for school and winter clothing needs. That will leave parents
scrambling to find money for next month's back-to-school needs. The situation
is so dire that municipalities like Sudbury, Toronto, Ottawa and London have
stepped up to pay the allowances themselves. The government has said it will
reimburse 80 per cent of these costs.
    "Try telling your six-year-old why you can't buy him a back-pack, some
new crayons or a scribbler," said Bev Patchell, a front line social worker.
"Social assistance rates are so low that these families can barely cover rent
and food for their children. They really counted on these allowances."
    Patchell added that the province is restructuring social assistance at
the same time as the OCB is introduced, resulting in lower monthly welfare
cheques to parents. While no parents will be worse off under the new system,
the majority will not receive the full amount of the OCB. "Removing these
benefits before providing adequate incomes is no way for the province to begin
its Poverty Reduction Strategy."
    While praising the City of Sudbury for providing the back-to-school
allowance, CUPE 4308 President Wyman MacKinnon said that once again the
province is offloading its responsibilities to municipalities. "Reimbursing
only 80 per cent of the costs continues the downloading of services to local
government. Cities already pay at least $3 billion each year to cover
downloaded services. This government must be held to account. These kids are
our future and they deserve better."
    Detailed analysis of the OCB and related issues can be found at the
Income Security Advocacy Centre website at

For further information:

For further information: Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario President, (416)
209-0066; Wyman MacKinnon, President, CUPE 4705, (705) 669-8526; Jennefer
Laidley, Policy Analyst - ISAC, (416) 523-5228; Valerie Dugale, CUPE
Communications, (647) 225-3685

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Canadian Union of Public Employees - Ontario Regional Office

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