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Social Assistance Review

Social Assistance Review: Report from the Field on Windsor-Essex Consultation (June 28, 2011)

Social Assistance Review Commissioners Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh held sessions with community agency stakeholders and people living on social assistance in Windsor-Essex on Tuesday, June 28, 2011.

A wide-ranging discussion in the multi-stakeholders sessions attempted to cover the major areas of interest covered in the Review’s Discussion Paper.

A less structured conversation was held with people with the lived experience of poverty, which touched on major concerns about what the system currently provides and how it is administered.

Discussion in the Multi-Stakeholders Sessions covered the following areas:

Issue 1-Reasonable Expectations and Necessary Supports to Employment

  • Easier access to services
    • Plans should be focused on the individual and be focused on their skill-sets
      • Individual focus would allow for increased support to the most vulnerable
      • Will ensure that an individual’s needs are related to the services they receive
  • Guidelines and expectations need to be more clear and concise
  • People need to be made more aware of what is available
  • The whole act needs to be re-written
  • The staff needs to be more engaged
  • There needs to be increased communication between employers regarding positive experiences they have had with workers
  • Add an English as a Second Language component
  • Transportation is a barrier to people finding and maintaining employment

Issue 2-Appropriate Benefit Structure

  • There needs to be more flexibility in rates
  • OW and ODSP rates should be equalized
  • Affordable benefits would be beneficial for the working poor
  • ODSP should be continued, without the need for renewal, if you have been declared medically unable to work (similar to WSIB)
  • More clarity is needed around the criteria that need to be met in order to be declared disabled.

Issue 3-Easier to Understand

  • It is difficult to understand the rules; teams should be created that are specialized in particular rules
  • More communication is needed around what people are eligible for
    • The system is difficult to navigate and people are unaware of where they need to go for the proper information
    • Individualized assessments would ensure that clients are receiving the proper supports
    • People need to be more aware of what benefits exist

Issue 4 Viable over the Long Term

  • Adequate income is needed and the system needs to allow people to reach their full potential
  • Ethno cultural data should be collected provided the purpose for its collection is made clear
  • Data should be clearly linked to poverty reduction
    • Does the data reflect the information needed to provide services?
    • Data on client barriers should be collected
    • If people had more adequate case management, the system was improved and OW rates were increased, it is possible that ODSP caseloads would decrease
    • Needs to be more client based
      • Services received should reflect client needs
      • The data that is collected should help the worker to tailor the services received to the client
      • Communication is needed around who clients are supposed to approach for help
      • Employers need to be more involved and educated
      • Process should be simplified for employers

Issue 5-An Integrated Ontario Position on Income Security

  • Dissemination of information needs to be improved
    • Information packages would help to distribute information more effectively
    • Information should also be updated regularly
    • There should be an integration of income supports that is monitored through the tax filing system in order to ensure that people are getting the supports they are eligible for
    • There should be greater interaction between all levels of government in order to create thriving communities through funding
    • Mobile supports are needed so case managers are able to see their clients as many cannot make it to appointments because of transportation barriers
    • Explanations of how support is calculated should be more clear
      • Individual case workers would be able to help with this

Additional Comments

  • The homeless population and the youth population need to be included in the consultation
  • Youth are included in the adult system but they need more specified supports

Discussion in the Session for People with Lived Experience of Poverty covered the following areas:

  • Social assistance rates are inadequate (remain well below the LICO)
  • More consistency is needed regarding services
  • More accountability is needed to ensure people are receiving services
  • There should be mediation between the people who make the decisions and the people receiving services
  • Rules need to be simplified and benefits need to be standardized
  • Supports should allow individuals to have a sense of dignity
  • The relationship needs to be changed between worker and client
  • Increased training is needed for workers
  • Doctors should be provided with a list of drugs that are covered
  • The category approach should be eliminated
  • Approach to services should be more personalized
  • More flexibility is needed in the rules
  • More promotion of benefits should be done
  • Things such as clothing purchases should be supplemented so that people in low-income would have increased choice in where they shop, this would raise self-esteem
  • Micro loans would help to get people working
  • The system needs to be streamlined
  • The referral process needs to be strengthened
  • Ensure that people get the support they need whether it is group support or one-on-one
  • Provide incentives to go back to school
  • Employers should be given incentives to provide training for their employees
  • People with practical experience should deliver services
  • Wage subsidy programs should be given to reputable companies
  • Benefits should be discretionary

Thanks to Adam Vasey of Pathways to Potential (Windsor Essex County Poverty Reduction Strategy) for this report on the Windsor-Essex consultation.

Discussion

One Response to “Social Assistance Review: Report from the Field on Windsor-Essex Consultation (June 28, 2011)”

  1. Don’t forget to add that for ODSP, that the benefit unit should be the individual (as well as children), not the family. They are long-term recipients, and with the benefit unit being the family, this keeps 85% of the ODSP caseload as individuals without kids, and for those with partners, their relationships are very fragile. One person cannot support an entire family unless ODSP wants to get the partners all $70,000 a year jobs.

    Posted by Angela Browne | July 6, 2011, 4:34 pm

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