THUNDER BAY – For the second time in six months the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB) has taken the opportunity to suggest 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 on their second paper, Approaches for Reform, to ensure the realities of receiving social assistance in the District of Thunder Bay are reflected.
“It is valuable for the Commission to hear the perspectives of TBDSSAB staff, management and Board”, said TBDSSAB Chair Bob Katajamaki. “That’s why in addition to the public consultation hosted by our community partners, we felt it was important to conduct several focus groups with our staff and consult with our Board. Hearing the challenges and suggestions for change, from those who work in the social assistance system every day, should be tremendously informative for the Commission”.
Analysis of the feedback collected in those sessions resulted in identified key issues and accompanying ideas on how to begin to improve social assistance in Ontario.
Some highlights include:
- Creation of an employment program, similar in design to federal and provincial summer student and internship programs, where recipients of Ontario Works have a placement opportunity with not-for-profit organizations where the subsidy covers 100% of the total cost of employment for a prescribed period of time;
- Address the fragmentation of services and address inefficiency by consolidating all employment services and income support to be delivered through a one-stop model that would integrate Ontario Works and ODSP in the District of Thunder Bay under the umbrella of the TBDSSAB;
- Provide extended health benefits, such as drugs and dental, 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.
“Many of the issues included in our submission have previously been flagged as areas for advocacy by the Board,” noted Katajamaki. “At the recent ROMA/OGRA conference 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.”
The Commission is expected to present their recommendations to the Ontario government in June 2012.