The Ontario Progressive Conservative Caucus releases “Paths to Prosperity: Welfare to Work” on social assistance transformation.

The recently released “Welfare to Work” white paper makes a number of recommendations to contribute to the important dialogue about social assistance transformation in Ontario. Of most significant impact to municipalities is a recommendation to combine the provincially run Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) with the Ontario Works program, which is delivered by municipalities and cost-shared with the Province.  This idea was recommended in both the Drummond report and the October 2012 report of the Social Assistance Review Commission.

Underlying the support for this recommendation is the premise that municipalities have both the expertise and the administration in place to deliver a single, combined social assistance program. The “Welfare to Work” paper acknowledges that any “change needs to be done in a way that does not negatively impact the municipal sector which is grappling with its own fiscal challenges.”

The “Welfare to Work” paper contains a number of other proposals including:

  • Focusing the new program on ability, not disability, while respecting the distinct needs of people with disabilities;
  • Requiring social assistance recipients to participate in activities outlined in an individual “Pathway to Employment Plan”;
  • Increasing incentives for recipients to work and reducing incentives to stay on welfare;
  • Reducing the rules governing social assistance;
  • Focusing programs on outcomes and contracting out services to non-profits, charities and the private sector where outcomes can be improved;
  • Implementing client-centred funding, not “one-size-fits-all” approaches;
  • Monitoring programs and supports to ensure effectiveness;
  • Addressing the backlog of ODSP medical reviews to improve accountability;
  • Prioritizing college funding towards appropriate programs to allow students with disabilities to enter college in a supported environment;
  • Working with business and employers to encourage the hiring of people with disabilities by providing incentives;
  • Using a Social Impact Bond or “pay-for-success” model; and
  • Implementing a benefits-directed smart card system for social assistance recipients.
Improving outcomes for low income Ontarians and persons with disabilities in our communities is a shared interest among governments, political parties and advocates. Municipalities bring a wealth of practical experience in program delivery and will play an important role in any social assistance transformation. 

Municipal governments can support approaches for reform as long as there is no downloading of costs or reversal of uploads.  In 2008, the Province committed to upload provincial social assistance benefits and court security costs from the municipal property tax base. The upload agreement with municipalities for Ontario Works benefits is now in its fourth year and valued at $145 million.

AMO is a non-profit organization representing almost all of Ontario’s 444 municipal governments. AMO supports strong and effective municipal government in Ontario and promotes the value of municipal government as a vital and essential component of Ontario and Canada’s political system.
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