Time to get moving: Ontario’s income security roadmap
Published on 10/01/2018
Submission to the Ministry of Community and Social Services regarding Income Security: A Roadmap for Change
In November 2017, the Ontario government released Income Security: A Roadmap for Change, a report by three expert working groups on reforming social assistance and the broader income security system in the province. The report offers recommendations for increasing the level of support available for low-income Ontarians, expanding the supports available for health and housing needs, and making those supports available to a wider range of people.
The Roadmap presents a crucial opportunity to commit to public policy improvements that will transform the lives of Ontarians with low incomes and lead to better outcomes. Our current system is falling short on adequacy, design, and delivery, and does not support those it is intended to serve.
Maytree’s submission offers advice to the government on meeting the goals for a better system set out in the Roadmap. It highlights the scope for immediate change and how the foundations can be laid for long-term, substantive change.
In particular, Maytree offered recommendations in the following areas:
- The Roadmap recommends a person-centered approach to income security systems, moving away from a system of surveillance and sanctions to one of trust, support, and autonomy. Maytree supports this direction, and further recommends that the new approach be more responsive to shifts in individuals’ circumstances.
- The Roadmap calls for a swift increase in social assistance rates and Maytree recommends that this be coupled with legislation to guarantee these levels increase at least in line with costs.
- The Roadmap recommends setting a minimum income floor below which no Ontarian should fall. One option is to peg that floor to the Low Income Measure of poverty but this has technical implications that could create conflicting fiscal priorities for government. In the short term Maytree recommends that the province explore how to obtain the data required for a made-in-Ontario Market Based Measure of poverty and how that can be used to inform decisions on income security levels and targets.
- Maytree supports the recommendation for expanding non-OHIP health services outside of social assistance. But if these services remain income-based they need to be carefully designed to avoid creating new welfare walls.
- Maytree has long called for a portable housing benefit for low-income renters, another element of the proposed Roadmap. The National Housing Strategy consultation has produced a wealth of analysis on how such a benefit could be designed, and could be a useful starting point for this program.