Region of Peel’s Position Paper for the Ontario Social Assistance Review
Ontario's social assistance system has experienced a number of changes since its last major review in the 1980s, resulting in a complex system with as many as 800 rules. In its 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Ontario government committed to reviewing social assistance with a focus on removing barriers and increasing opportunities for people to work.
The Commission's report of recommendations will be released in June 2012.
In July 2011 the Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee held a community forum to engage community members, including people with lived experience, community agency representatives, and front line staff from the Region’s Human Services Department in a consultation regarding changes to Ontario’s Social Assistance review. More than 100 people participated, providing insights into the challenges associated with the social assistance system and possible approaches to address them.
Peel is the service system manager, responsible for delivering social assistance to residents.
The key themes emerging from the consultations were:
- System based on trust
A partnership between individuals receiving social assistance and the service system managers must start from a position of trust that individuals have a genuine interest in their personal development and advancement.
Current rules and processes are too numerous, complex and difficult to administer. There needs to be fewer rules that are easy to understand and apply.
- Greater integration among provincial ministries
There needs to be greater integration among Ontario ministries providing services to the most vulnerable in our society. Collaborative programs should be developed to derive a single understanding of the labour market and the social and ethno-cultural patterns of communities, to inform the development and implementation of complementary programs.
- Empowered Consolidated Service System Managers (CMSMs) and District Social Services Administration Boards (DSSABs).
The solution to social assistance lies in the ability of service managers to quickly identify needs and provide timely solutions. More planning autonomy and decision-making ability for service system managers will strengthen their ability to manage local service delivery.
Basic needs of housing, food, clothing and health services must be provided at adequate levels to ensure people can maintain a good quality of life while they transition into the workforce. Universal access to stable and affordable housing is a key platform to promote the transition towards self-sufficiency.
- Human services integration
Canada’s many income security assistance programs operate in silos that produce unsatisfactory outcomes. Service integration is a necessary strategy for the future social assistance system. However, service is only one component of integration. Integrated planning and policy direction from senior orders of government is essential to facilitate true service integration.
- Client-centred services
We need a system that is less prescriptive and nimble enough to respond to individual needs. A redesigned system must be grounded in the philosophy of true partnership between recipients and service delivery agents. Services must adequately address their unique and changing needs.
- Leveraging modern technology
A redesigned system needs to incorporate increased opportunity for self-service including using new technologies such as social media. The redesigned social assistance system must provide individuals with more autonomy to manage the delivery of services.
The Region’s position paper also includes responses to 18 questions related to the delivery and sustainability of social assistance.
A sustainable, proactive, cost effective and efficient social assistance system is fundamental to Ontario and Canada’s prosperity. The current social assistance system is fragmented, rules based, difficult to administer and does not sufficiently address issues relevant to improving the quality of life and empowerment of individuals receiving social assistance.
There has to be a comprehensive understanding of the needs of communities and properly informed policies need to be supported by the required resources. There is no short cut approach to achieving an effective social assistance program in the context of a broader income support system.
Changes must be transformational, far reaching and must be based on the principles articulated by the Region in its response to the Social Assistance Review.
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