THUNDER BAY – The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB) is suggesting ways to fix what is broken in Ontario’s social assistance system. To inform the work of the provincial Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, TBDSSAB has provided recommendations to ensure the realities of receiving social assistance in the District of Thunder Bay are reflected.
“We felt it was really important for the Commissioners to get an accurate picture of life in our District”, said TBDSSAB Chair Iain Angus. “That’s why in addition to the two community consultations attended by Commissioner Frances Lankin in Thunder Bay, we also conducted several focus groups with our staff and Board in Thunder Bay as well as with multiple stakeholders in Nipigon, Schreiber, Marathon, and Geraldton.”
Analysis of the feedback collected in those sessions resulted in 15 identified key issues and accompanying ideas on how to begin to improve social assistance in Ontario.
Some highlights include:
- Creating a ‘third way’ between the employment-focus on Ontario Works and the disability-focus of the Ontario Disability Support Program. This could be achieved through an enhanced assessment process, which would provide those OW recipients who are identified as having multiple barriers to employment with a more supported program stream.
- Providing drug and dental benefits outside the social assistance system to all low-income individuals;
- Calculating basic needs and shelter rates according to local market baskets for various communities, including basic telephone and transportation costs.
“We have been advocating on many of these issues as a Board for a number of years,” notes Angus. “Recently we sat down with the Minister of Community and Social Services to highlight the distinct challenges faced by many families on social assistance in our District. She was quite receptive to our positions and is eagerly awaiting the report from this Commission.” The Commission is expected to present their recommendations to the Ontario government in June 2012. The community will have another opportunity to provide input to the Commission when they release an ‘options’ paper expected in late fall 2011.