Widespread uncertainty ahead of Ontario's social assistance revamp

November 1, 2018

There's widespread uncertainty and fear among social assistance recipients in Ontario as a deadline nears for the completion of a review of programs that help the poor, advocates say. 

In the summer, the newly-elected Progressive Conservative government cut a planned increase to social assistance in half. It also hit "pause" on a number of Liberal reforms that had long been requested by those who work with Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients.

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services said it would take 100 days to review the programs. That 100 days ends Nov. 8, and uncertainty about what changes could be in the works has many worried. 

"There is huge uncertainty. We have no idea what's coming. We all agree there's a need for reform. I think what concerns me is that this government has made it clear that their top priority is reducing the deficit and good reform of social assistance requires investments," said Mary Marrone, director of advocacy and legal services at the Income Security Advocacy Centre in Toronto. 

"I would say the impact on people who rely on the program is, at best, fear and anxiety and at worst, despair."

Thousands of people in the province rely on ODSP as their only source of income and any cuts would be devastating, Marrone said. 

The Income Security Advocacy Centre has written a letter to Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, asking her to respect those living on social assistance as she conducts her review. 

Read more: Widespread uncertainty ahead of Ontario's social assistance revamp