The province has announced their intention to reform social assistance. The minister responsible, Lisa MacLeod, says only one per cent a month leave Ontario Works, but one in five stay on the program for five years or more. MacLeod also noted the revolving door, saying 80 per cent of those who are able to leave Ontario Works (OW) return within a year.
The other mainstay of social assistance is the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). The minister would like to help the disabled by:
- redesigning ODSP to consolidate complex supplements and benefits into simplified financial support for people with severe disabilities.
- reviewing financial eligibility for ODSP yearly, instead of monthly.
- helping front-line staff work with people to help them connect to other supports.
- providing clarity to the system around who qualifies for ODSP in the future and looking at aligning Ontario’s new definition of ‘disability’ more closely with federal government guidelines.
- improving earning exemptions for ODSP recipients by introducing a $6,000 flat annual exemption plus a 25 per cent exemption for earnings above $6,000 instead of the current approach which reduces support after monthly earnings exceed $200.
She would also like to improve accountability through:
- the design of a simplified system that focuses on outcomes, helps people instead of trapping them, and uses risk-based approaches to ensure that those who receive assistance are eligible
- municipalities that will be held accountable for helping people achieve their goals and public reporting of outcomes
- people receiving Ontario Works will complete individual action plans and file their taxes so they are maximizing all available benefits.
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