SUMMARY
Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services Social Assistance Reform

November 2018

On November 22, 2018, Minister of MCCSS Lisa McLeod, announced her government’s plans to reform social assistance in Ontario. Below summary of highlights and what TAEH will be watching for as the government rolls out its plan.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM ANNOUNCEMENT:

  • There were few actual details provided on what social assistance will look like.

  • One change for TAEH to watch is the redefining of the provincial definition of disability under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)) to more closely align with the federal definition.  There is widespread concern that this will result in a definition that excludes too many people who are in fact experiencing significant disability.

  • Some encouraging changes to the overall program structure and delivery signalled last month, included:

o   A more integrated, locally-driven systems approach (for both First Nations and municipalities) to the delivery of social assistance with employment training and other supports;

o   The recognition that clients must be included in developing a plan towards sustained employment through an individual action plan – one developed in partnership with a case worker that has time to talk and build a relationship with each client.  The information shared on November 22 indicates that these plans will include all the supports a person requires, in a “wrap-around” fashion, including child care, rent supplements etc.;

o   A focus on developing local skills and job training for the jobs that are actually needed in each community – not just the rote set of workshops everyone must currently participate in, regardless of fit with local economies;

o   For those that qualify for the new ODSP, an annual income benefit with eligibility test instead of the current monthly one in place; and

o   A commitment to a gradual, informed implementation process. 

WHAT WE’LL BE WATCHING FOR:

1.       How the future details and developments of the new social assistance program meets the commitment to compassion, meaningful supports and true local integration voiced in November.  This includes compassionate support for those unable to participate in the workforce.  As well, it means meaningful support for those that can work.  It’s also encouraging to know that those currently receiving ODSP will be grand-parented.  We still need to stay tuned for future details in both areas going forward. 

2.       What impact this reform will, and could, have on the ability of people receiving benefits to afford and keep good housing.  This includes:

o   What the next steps are for working with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in contributing to the new program.

o   Will these steps include a bold, responsive portable housing benefit?  Will the newly signed bi-lateral agreement with the federal government under the National Housing Strategy be used strategically to create a portable housing benefit that is deep enough to actually allow people to finally have affordable, safe and adequate housing?

o   Will the new social assistance benefits harmonize the shelter allowance and the general needs portion to allow individuals and families more flexibility and direction in how they use their benefits each month?

3.       What will the future rates for both OW and ODSP be?  What will alignment with the federal government’s definition of disability mean? What will be the eligibility requirements and will there be time limits on how long a person can receive benefits?

This is a conversation that requires real, deep consultation. This is an area of considerable risk in the Minister’s announcement, and while it is encouraging that no sudden changes were announced, we must have a chance to constructively contribute to final decisions.  This includes multi-sector consultations – with all affected, especially people with lived experience.

4.       What will “removing barriers between local service systems” look like in the end, and how will we get there?  Transforming Employment Ontario (EO) and OW to achieve better systems integration is long overdue, but what will be the unintended consequences?   Success here depends on resourcing local level collaboration to drive results, and ensuring an orderly transition to make good on the compassionate support promised on November 22.

5.       We cannot underscore enough the importance of gradual implementation, along with an emphasis on minimal or no disruption.  The Ontario government has to get this right.  Using pilots and deep consultation are both good ideas.

It is serious work to manage transformation or change to achieve the stated desired results.  Minister MacLeod and her team must take the time to do it well and engage with people and others with expertise, with history, with lived experience and with new ideas.

CONCLUSION:

The future of how this government puts into practice its stated commitments to be compassionate and to help those most vulnerable achieve success will be tested.

Ontario – meaning our government and all of us - need to continue to invest in people, in the spectrum of their needs and aspirations.  There can be no going back on that.

RESOURCES

Ontario Government
Media Release - https://news.ontario.ca/mcys/en/2018/11/ontarios-government-for-the-people-announces-plan-to-restore-dignity-independence-and-empowerment-to.html

Backgrounder - https://news.ontario.ca/mcys/en/2018/11/reforming-social-assistance.html

OW and ODSP info - https://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/MCSS/programs/social/index.aspx

Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

Webinar- https://yourlegalrights.on.ca/resource/changes-social-assistance-what-was-announced-what-it-means-and-what-s-next

Post -  https://incomesecurity.org/public-education/working-while-on-ow-what-minister-macleods-changes-to-income-deductions-would-mean/

Backgrounder - Earned-income-exemption-changes-Ontario-Works-Dec-2018-updated.pdf

Summary - https://incomesecurity.org/public-education/many-questions-few-answers-and-great-risk-for-people-with-disabilities/

Media

CBC Radio Interview with Kira Heineck, TAEH Executive Lead - http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1378166851903/

CBC Radio Interview with Philip Dufresne and Victor Willis - https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/metro-morning

               

RAPID HOUSING PROJECT

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Visit our Rapid Housing Project page and learn how you can help end homelessness in Toronto.

Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review 2018

Recently, the provincial government presented its 2018 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review. The Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review is an update to the government's plan and includes an overview of expenses and revenues, key investments, program/policy changes.  Below is our summary of the Provincial government's plan with respect to housing and healthcare.  We have also included links below to the fall statement, media coverage and other information.

We will continue to monitor the areas of housing and mental health and addictions, providing updates as they come in.  We will also be looking closely at the details of the government's new Housing Supply and Action Plan as they become available.

HOUSING

Overview

The PC government addressed the challenges around housing affordably due to inadequate supply and increasing demand in the GTA.  This as we know has led to higher housing prices and rents. The government cites that rent control policies weaken investment incentives and construction activity which have played a role in limiting supply growth in purpose-built rental housing. 

Housing Action Plan

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will launch a Housing Supply Action Plan in spring 2019. The multi-pronged Action Plan will aim at increasing housing supply by addressing barriers that inhibit the development of ownership and rental housing.  

The plan will be informed by immediate public and stakeholder consultations and will focus on actions to help increase supply and address longer term outcomes. The timing for the plan's roll out will be over the next 18 months.  TAEH will strive to be in those consultations and try to keep a focus on how this can produce more deeply affordable housing.

Rental Housing Market

The Provincial government has addressed the need for more purpose-built rental housing.  The undersupply of purpose-built rental units has been a contributing factor to historically low vacancy rates in the rental market, particularly the GTA. 

To encourage more housing supply, the government has said it will enact policies to increase the supply of housing in Ontario by reintroducing the rent control exemption (i.e. reversing the last government's extension of rent control) that will apply to new rental units occupied after November 15, 2018.  TAEH will be exploring what that means for deeply affordable housing.

The Province will follow-through on its commitment to preserve rent control for existing tenants.  There was no indication whether any other changes may be made to the act.

The government will also cancel the  Development Charges Rebate Program which they estimate will save approximately $100 million over the next four years.

HEALTH CARE

Mental Health and Addictions

Ontario has committed to spending $1.9 billion over 10 years on mental health and additions services, matching the federal government's 2017 budget commitment.

The government will be working closely with front-line care providers, along with mental health and addictions organizations, hospitals and patients. Investments this year will address hallway health care and connect people with mental health and addictions issues with supports

The investments will:

·         Prioritize a reduction in wait times and focus on creating support today to intervene early, so patients can receive the help they need to recover sooner;

·         Provide faster access by investing in mental health and opioid addiction treatment services; and

·         Provide a new, enhanced approach to addictions treatment and rehabilitation services through the new Consumption and Treatment Services model.

Access to Treatment

The Province is providing funding to expand the scope and coverage of Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinics for individuals with substance abuse issues that require specialized, evidenced-based addiction medicine support by creating new or expanded RAAMs in communities of high need.

·         RAAM clinics provide patients with immediate access to low-barrier, short term addictions treatment until the patients is stabilized and can be linked with appropriate care in the community for ongoing support.

Hallway Health Care
Capacity challenges with unsustainable hospital occupancy levels are contributing to the use of hallway health care. 

·         In 2018-19, the government has invested an additional $90 million for 1,100 beds and spaces in hospitals and the community, including the creation of over 640 new beds and spaces as an immediate measure.

·         The Province is also adding 6,000 new long-term care beds across Ontario.  

·         The government is committed to investing more than $300 million to support these new beds which represent the first wave of more than 15,000 new long term care beds the government committed to build over the next five years.

Personal Support Worker Agency review
The government has wound down the Self-Directed Personal Support Services Ontario agency to reduce the administrative burden of home care delivery. The wind down has had no impact on home care clients.  The Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) will continue to provide services and support to eligible clients and families under another self-directed care initiative, the Family-Managed Home Care program.

We've included a few links to media coverage as well as the official news release and legislative statement.  As always, we will continue to monitor and provide updates as they come in.   

Ontario Government News Release

https://news.ontario.ca/mof/en/2018/11/a-plan-for-the-people.html

Minister's Statement

https://www.fin.gov.on.ca/fallstatement/2018/statement.html

Fall Statement 

https://www.fin.gov.on.ca/fallstatement/2018/index.html

AMHO Statement

https://amho.ca/fall-economic-statement-2018/

City News

https://toronto.citynews.ca/2018/11/15/ontario-fall-economic-statement/

Toronto Star - https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2018/11/14/ontario-tories-cut-taxes-and-oversight-protections-for-environment-vulnerable-children-and-francophones.html

CBC 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-pc-fall-economic-outlook-cuts-tax-lcbo-1.4906718

The Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness (TAEH) is a community-based collective impact initiative that recognizes the critical importance of working in a new way towards a common goal  This includes working with all levels of government, particularly the City of Toronto to achieve our vision.

Our Vision
Zero chronic and episodic homelessness in Toronto.

Our Mission
To mobilize the collective impact necessary to effect change in Toronto to achieve and maintain zero homelessness.

We believe homelessness is not acceptable and that we can end it.