Peel Supports 'Extreme Makeover' of Ontario Social Assistance
Simplicity, adequacy, and empowered municipalities among Peel’s priorities
BRAMPTON, ON. (Sept. 27, 2011) – The Region of Peel has told the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario that changes to the provincial program must be transformational, far reaching, integrated and client-centred.
Peel’s response to a position paper published by the Commission last June was largely formed at a community forum hosted by the Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee in July 2011. Commissioner Frances Lankin, past president and CEO of United Way Toronto, attended the forum, which saw representation from engaged community members, including people with lived experience, community agency representatives, and front line staff from the Region’s Human Services Department.
The key themes emerging from the consultations were:
- A system based on trust
- Greater level of integration among provincial ministries
- Empowered service system managers
- Human services integration
- Client-centred services
- Leverage modern technology
Peel Human Services Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee, Janet Menard, said that among its requests, the Region is asking the province to give municipalities that administer the program greater flexibility to apply their knowledge of local conditions, needs and opportunities in supporting social assistance recipients.
“Municipalities are where people go for help first and municipal governments are strategically placed to better understand their citizens. The success of social assistance lies in our ability to quickly identify individual needs and provide the required solutions in a timely manner. More local planning autonomy and decision-making will strengthen our ability to help recipients achieve independence,” Commissioner Menard said.
“We need a system that is less prescriptive. It must be nimble enough to respond to individual needs. The redesigned system must be grounded in the philosophy of true partnership between persons receiving social assistance and service delivery agents. Services must adequately address the unique and changing needs of individuals.”
Shelley White, CEO, United Way of Peel Region and Co-Chair of the Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee noted that the Peel community calls for a social assistance system that will alleviate the rising poverty rates, treat people with respect and dignity, and provide them with hope and opportunity.
“The system must recognize that some people with disabilities and chronic illnesses may not reach self-sufficiency and need adequate resources to provide for their basic needs: food, shelter, transportation and clothing,” said CEO White.
“Poverty is a complex social issue. United Way of Peel Region encourages all sectors to work together in partnership to tackle this critical social issue for the province, to ensure that people are cared for, connected and included,” added White. “The system must be sustainable, effective, cost effective and efficient; it is important that the policies and procedures are simplified and barriers that prevent people from moving out of poverty to employment and self-sufficiency are removed.”
The Peel Poverty Action Group (PPAG), a strong supporter of the Social Assistance Review, also made recommendations to the province: “PPAG urges a guaranteed liveable income,” said PPAG Chair Edna Toth. “Trust between social workers and clients is difficult to establish without it.”
“With adequate social assistance, many people could control their own problems and their own lives,” added Toth. “The damage done in the late 1990s when social assistance was cut by 20 per cent has not been repaired.”
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.
The Regional Municipality of Peel was incorporated in 1974 on the principle that certain community and infrastructure services are most cost-effectively administered over a larger geographic area. The Region of Peel serves more than one million residents in the Cities of Mississauga and Brampton and the Town of Caledon. For more information on the Region of Peel, please call 905-791-7800, or visit peelregion.ca.