August 2019
Backgrounder

The 2019 provincial budget projected that social assistance reforms would save an estimated $1 billion annually at maturity. These savings are to be achieved by simplifying the rate structure, reducing administrative costs and eliminating unnecessary rules.

On July 2, 2019, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities announced three regions where the province will pilot a new integrated, competitively sourced service delivery model. The three regions, which, align with economic areas as defined by the province, are: Peel Region, Muskoka-Kawarthas and Hamilton-Niagara regions. These three regions are expected to transition to the new integrated employment and training services system by fall 2019. A full provincial roll out of the new service delivery model will follow by 2022.

Municipal Implications
AMO is raising questions about the fiscal implications for municipal governments of the province’s plan to reduce social assistance spending by $1 billion. It is not certain how this may affect administrative funding in the future. As well, the planned changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) has the potential to increase caseloads on the Ontario Works program, which may result in increased municipal costs when implemented.

AMO is also actively working with the province and municipal governments to mitigate any municipal impacts resulting from the transition to a new employment services delivery model. These include potential labour relations or fiscal challenges.  AMO has emphasized the need for a seamless transition for employment service clients and staff, regardless of who is chosen as the employment service system manager in a given region. The successful proponents must be able to serve vulnerable residents, particularly those who are far from entering the labour market and in need of additional supports including for mental health and addictions.

AMO is committed to working with the Province towards successful social assistance reform that works for service users as well as property tax payers.

Context
In Ontario, 47 Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs) and District Social Service Administration Boards (DSSABs) are on the front lines, co-funding and delivering the Ontario Works component of social assistance to low-income Ontarians.

In October 2018, AMO’s submission to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, “Municipal Perspective on Social Assistance Reform 2018” advocated for social assistance changes that help people join the labor market and provide broad economic and social benefits across the province. AMO highlighted the crucial role that housing, child care subsidies and employment support programs play in developing the labor market, promoting community health, reducing poverty and improving economic competitiveness across the province.

The new social assistance reform plan was announced in November 2018. In February 2019, the province followed with its plans for transforming the employment services. The provincial government hoped these reforms would deliver the following outcomes:
  • Integrating social assistance employment services into Employment Ontario. The province hopes to create one efficient cost-effective system by integrating employment services for Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
  • Launching a refreshed labor market information website featuring 500 job profiles to help learners and job seekers explore their first or next career, and identify opportunities for relevant education, training and re-skilling.
  • Introducing a new competitive local service delivery model, by opening up the application process to non-for-profits, CMSMs, DSSABs, as well as private sector organizations for managing employment services system in each catchment area.
  • Implementing changes to Ontario's employment services gradually, starting with three pilot programs in fall 2019.
The province’s new social assistance reform plan proposes a multi-ministerial approach to social assistance and indicated that changes would be implemented gradually over several years.