Feed Ontario and the provincial food bank network have long-advocated for social assistance reform to improve the programs that so many of our province’s most vulnerable citizens rely on, including nearly 60% of food bank clients. Given the Government of Ontario’s focus on finding efficiencies and cost savings, investing in poverty reduction is a smart choices, because poverty costs the government an estimated $13.1 billion a year Link opens a new window ($15.8 billion when indexed to inflation), due to factors such as increased health costs Link opens a new window and lost productivity.
Beyond the short-term changes to social assistance outlined in our recommendations above, we also strongly encourage the Government of Ontario to consider:
- Raising the Rates: Almost 60% of adults that visit a food bank throughout the year cite social assistance as their primary source of income. This is a clear indication that these support programs do not provide sufficient income to afford all of the recipient’s most basic needs. We recommend an immediate increase to the income support available through Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), with the eventual goal of progressing these programs towards a Minimum Income Standard (equivalent to the Low Income Measure as used by Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, plus an additional 30% for persons with a disability) by 2027-28.
- Income Security: A Roadmap for Change (2017) Link opens a new window provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for tangible improvements to Ontario’s income security system to better support the people who use itWhat Happens When The Safety Net Fails? (2016) Link opens a new window
- Hunger Report 2016: Shedding Light On Energy Poverty Link opens a new window
- Ensuring Rates Are Evidence-Based: The amount given to recipients of social assistance can be arbitrary, instead of based on the actual cost of living for an individual or family. A private member’s bill (Bill 60), introduced by NDP MPP Paul Miller and supported by PC MPP Bob Bailey, intends to change this by creating a non-partisan Social Assistance Research Commission to recommend evidence-based rates. Bill 60 has passed first reading with all-party support, and goes to second reading in May 2019.
- Reforming The Rules To Reduce Barriers: OW and ODSP adhere to a number of complex policy directives that penalize recipients for their assets, savings, and housing. This makes it difficult for adults living on social assistance to establish a foundation that will allow them to break the cycle of poverty. We recommend updating Ontario’s social assistance programs to improve their assessment, reporting and implementation to help individuals move out of poverty.
- Income Security: A Roadmap for Change (2017) Link opens a new window provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for tangible improvements to Ontario’s income security system to better support the people who use it
- Creating More Affordable Housing: Without access to affordable housing, low-income Ontarians often have no choice but to allocate the majority of their monthly income to their housing expense. This leaves very little for other essentials, like heat and hydro, transportation, medicine, and food.
- (Un)Affordable Housing and Food Bank Use (2018)
- Hunger Report 2017: The Rising Cost of Housing and its Impact on Hunger in Ontario Link opens a new window
- A Housing Benefit Would Reduce The Need For Food Banks (2017) Link opens a new window
- Without Affordable Housing, The Need For Food Banks Will Remain (2015) Link opens a new window