In 2010, the province of Ontario established the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, led by Commissioners Francis Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh. The Commission’s Terms of Reference are to:
- Establish an appropriate benefit structure that reduces barriers and supports people’s transition into, and attachment within, the labour market.
- Place reasonable expectations on, and provide supports for, people who rely on social assistance with respect to active engagement in the labour market and participation in treatment and rehabilitation.
- Simplify income and asset rules to improve equity and make it easier to understand and administer social assistance.
- Ensure the long-term viability of the social assistance system.
- Define Ontario’s position vis-à-vis the federal and municipal governments as it relates to income security for Ontarians.
The Wellesley Institute was part of a broad partnership of health sector leaders that came together to ensure that health and health equity are emphasized in the review.
Our initial submission (and action summary) to the Commission set out a range of recommendations that would create a health-enabling social assistance system. You can learn about our recommendations by reading our blog series on creating a vision of a high-performing social assistance system, building a basket of essential supports, supporting people on social assistance into training and employment, building on health promotion and primary care initiatives, and collaborative solutions to fixing social assistance.
In February 2012, the Commission released a Discussion Paper that identified options going forward. The Wellesley Institute prepared a rapid analysis of the Discussion Paper and worked again with our partners to create a formal response to the Commission.
Since the Commission released its Discussion Paper, the Drummond Report has weighed in on social assistance reform, and the Ontario 2012 budget has frozen social assistance rates and reduced access to benefits for people on social assistance. It is unclear how this will impact the work of the Commission.
The Commission is expected to deliver its formal report to the government in September 2012. In the meantime, we will continue to blog on social assistance reform, so check back regularly.