Ford government billed its changes as ‘compassionate’
As Doug Ford’s government gets ready to overhaul social assistance programs, Ontario service providers are warning Ford’s changes, billed as “compassionate,” could force many recipients into homelessness.
Ford’s plan to cancel the Transition Child Benefit and raise assistance clawbacks has already drawn the ire of many service providers.
Earlier this year, Toronto City Manager Chris Murray wrote in a note to city council that Ford’s cuts will increase the strain on municipal services, including its family shelter system. Similar concerns were raised by social service managers in Waterloo, London and Windsor.
The HIV & AIDS Legal Network Ontario — which provides legal support to many Ontarians with disabilities — has noted average recipients of both Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support program will be poorer once eligibility is recalculated.
Under the new rules, Ontario Works recipients will only be able to keep up to $300 of net earned income each month, while ODSP recipients will only be able to keep up to $6,000 per year — every dollar recipients earn beyond those targets will reduce assistance by 75%.
HALCO community legal worker Jill McNall said “the new rules will mean that many people on OW/ODSP who work will be poorer than they were before.”
“Many will be below any credible poverty line,” McNall told PressProgress. “They will be at risk of homelessness.”
Irwin Elman, who previously served as Ontario’s child and youth advocate, agrees.
“I absolutely feel that the changes to OW/ODSP place people at increased risk of homelessness,” Elman told PressProgress.
The changes “attack the bedrock crucial support system our governments over many years have created to keep individuals and families whole in tough times.”
“It is unconscionable that that support would be attacked as well,” Elman added. “People have every right to feel thrown overboard without a life preserver.”
Ron Malis, a financial advisor for Monarch Wealth, who provides advice to many low-income Ontarians, said the overhaul to Ontario Works notes the changes will benefit very few people while pushing others into homelessness.
“Changes to the treatment of income will put a bit more money in the pockets of very, very few recipients,” Malis said.
“The additional amount would be pretty insignificant. Those that the changes negatively impact will see a lot less in their pockets.”
“Homelessness and health risks are real risks,” he added.