CALGARY, March 31, 2015 /CNW/ - The social assistance program is an important element of social policy and achieving the goal of poverty reduction in Ontario. In 2014–15, the program is expected to cost about $8.5 billion. In early 2011, the Government of Ontario struck the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance to review the social assistance programs and make recommendations for improving them. The programs were characterized by unsustainable growth in caseloads, program expenditures and poor outcomes for program participants. In its final report, the Commission recommended steps to improve system sustainability, reduce complexity and improve work-related outcomes, while providing appropriate income supports during periods of need. Essentially that the program be "transformed".
The government response acknowledged the importance of the analysis in the report, the need to transform the program and has taken steps to raise the level of assistance for single adults relying on Ontario Works - make some income exempt and to make employment supports more effective. It has suggested more consultations and discussions with relevant stakeholders to chart a future course.
A report released today by The School of Public Policy reveals that the factors which led to the establishment of the Commission, continue unabated and indeed have become more serious. According to the author Munir Sheikh, "program costs are projected to grow 16.1% over three years to 2014-15, outpacing both revenue growth of 8.3% and cumulative inflation of 4 %; caseloads of those with disabilities over the last three years have risen another 7.3%; and the program is as complex today as it was two years ago."
In light of this, it has become even more urgent for the Ontario government to transform the program, including changes in its basic structure, consistent with the Commission's recommendations. The need for reform and the Commission's recommendations are both clear for improving economic and social outcomes in Ontario.
The paper can be downloaded at http://www.policyschool.ucalgary.ca/?q=research
SOURCE The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary
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