AMO, municipal governments, and District Social Service Administration Boards (DSSABs) are working in partnership with the provincial government, in taking steps to implement a new vision for Social Assistance Recovery and Renewal. This will significantly realign provincial and municipal delivery roles. AMO supports the proposed transformation and is co-designing the new social assistance program to foster conditions for success. AMO will be involved in the ongoing development of policy, regulation, and funding decisions to successfully implement the vision.
Transformation of social assistance is timely for an economic and socially inclusive recovery from the pandemic. COVID-19 required finding better ways to serve people and highlighted the need for new approaches and models. The new vision should result in better services for residents, with an intent to make communities healthier and more prosperous. Municipal staff will help people access the support services in the community that they need in the right way and at the right time. Creating pathways for people to achieve greater independence and employment through referrals to employment services will improve their quality of life. It also helps communities reduce poverty and achieve workforce development goals.
Municipal governments are well positioned to provide integrated human services to people while the Ontario government is the appropriate primary funder for provincial income support programs. AMO is pleased with the government’s commitment to co-design social assistance transformation in ways that meet the needs of communities and protect municipal governments from increasing social assistance costs which is an ongoing active effort.
At the same time, AMO will continue to work with the provincial government to consider additional measures to reduce poverty and help people afford housing. This could be funded by reinvesting program savings into raising benefit rates and indexing to inflation on an annual basis.
AMO also feels strongly about finding ways to simplify the more than 800 rules governing social assistance. This would make it easier for people to focus on stabilizing their lives and seeking employment rather than meeting complex eligibility requirements.
A ‘social determinants of health’ approach, which recognizes the non-medical factors that contribute to health, is encouraged across government. This includes support for the non-profit community sector to provide services that are essential for life stabilization, including supportive housing and mental health and addictions services.
Ontario’s municipal governments co-fund and deliver social services through 47 Consolidated Municipal Service Managers (CMSMs) and District Social Service Administration Boards (DSSABs). They are on the front lines delivering the Ontario Works component of social assistance to low-income Ontarians. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been delivering services in new, innovative ways to protect the health and well-being of clients and staff, and to ensure the continuity of supports.