Social programs in Ontario are supposed to help lower-income people in practical ways – with decent-paying jobs, housing, medical help and other necessities. A powerful new research report from social policy expert John Stapleton called “Why is it so tough to get ahead” provides a strong indictment of social programs. Instead of assisting poor people, these programs are pathologizing and penalizing them. Stapleton provides some practical policy advice as the Ontario government promises to enact a poverty reduction strategy.
From the summary to the Stapleton study, which was released by the Metcalfe Foundation:
“Life is tough for poor people – we know that. Why do we develop public policies that make it even tougher? Working-age social assistance recipients in Ontario, especially those who are public housing residents, live with disincentives. The more they earn, the more they lose in benefits; when they tell the truth, they are penalized. The programs within the social assistance and housing systems work in isolation from each other. When people start to earn, the various benefit systems, as well as public housing, often take back more than they leave behind, giving people little or no incentive to work or to become more self-reliant… In Canada’s cities, living costs are high and the pay is not enough to maintain a decent living. Access to work at a living wage is also a problem for disadvantaged youth, for foster children aging out of state care, and other poor, non-immigrant Canadians. This paper aims to show how our social programs discourage these groups of disadvantaged Canadians from achieving self-reliance. We make recommendations for changing social policies, so that the transition to self reliance is a healthy, supported process – not something that poor people get blamed and punished for.”