Province fails low-income children with cuts to back-to-school allowances; City of London steps in

    LONDON, ON, July 16 /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, poverty
advocates and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario say that
while some municipalities like London 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.
    "It is inconceivable that the provincial Minister of Children and Youth
Services could allow this inequity and leave some 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 London, Toronto, Ottawa and Sudbury 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 Maureen, a low-income mother who is
struggling to provide for her children. "My social assistance rates are so low
that I can barely cover rent and food for my children. I really counted on
these allowances."
    Mike Laliberte of the London Community Advocates Network 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 London for providing the back-to-school
allowance, Ryan 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. 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: Mike Laliberte, London Community Advocates
Network, (519) 438-2890; Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario President, (416) 209-0066;
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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