UPDATE: Read our response here.
In 2010, the provincial government established the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, led by Commissioners Francis Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh. The Commission’s task was to recommend reforms to social assistance benefit structures, expectations of and supports for labour market participation, and income and asset rules. The Commission was also asked to ensure the long-term viability of the social assistance system and to define Ontario’s position with the federal and municipal governments as it relates to income security for Ontarians.
The Commission’s final report was released today. The Wellesley Institute is currently analyzing the report and will release a rapid response later today. Media enquiries can be directed to Jo Snyder, 416.972.1010 ex. 230.
The Wellesley Institute has undertaken extensive work analyzing the health and health impacts of social assistance reform. The connections between income and health are well-established:
- In Ontario, over three times as many people in the lowest income group report their health to be only poor or fair than in the highest
- The percentage of people with diabetes or heart disease was three to five times higher in the lowest income group than the highest
- In Toronto, life expectancy was 4.5 years less for men in the lowest income group versus the highest and 2.0 years for women.
Currently, social assistance rates are so low that people on social assistance are always in the lowest income group, and this has significant health impacts:
- People on social assistance were five times more likely than the non-poor to report their health as poor or fair
- Over four times as many people on social assistance considered suicide sometime in their lives than non-poor, and almost twenty times as many attempted suicide
- 40 percent of people on social assistance often experienced limits on their activities and participation in social and economic life.
These impacts are avoidable. By designing a social assistance system that is adequate, promotes opportunity, and puts people first, we can make sure that all Ontarians are better off. This means a system that has a vision, allows people to live with dignity, supports employment and training, and enables people to fully participate in their communities.
We also ran a 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 improve social assistance.
In February 2012, the Commission released a Discussion Paper that identified options going forward. The Wellesley Institute analyzed and responded to the Commission’s options.