Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Social Assistance Rates Must Reflect Real Cost of Living

An advocate for the creation of a Social Assistance Rates Board caught up with me following my last post.

Hamilton poverty lawyer Craig Foye of McQuesten Legal notes that the new strategy is “is to try to convince the Government to introduce the proposed legislation as a government bill.”

A Private Member’s Bill that Foye and others had worked on had received first reading in June 2007 but died on the order paper when the government adjourned.

What is a Social Assistance Review Board?

This Board would produce an annual report that would propose social assistance rates that take into account the real cost of living in Ontario.

A recommended monthly basic needs rate would enable recipients to obtain nutritious food baskets, cover basic telephone and transportation costs, purchase personal need items and carry out modifications to rental units to accommodate disabilities and more.

The committee would be made up of six to nine members who’d have “expertise in poverty research.” At least two members would have experience with receiving social assistance and two members would possess expertise regarding the cost of living for persons with disabilities.

Next Steps

Foye hopes that groups and individuals will support the legislation by contacting their MPP and participating in the provincial poverty reduction consultations.

“It is important to tell the government that evidence-based social assistance rates must be part of any poverty reduction strategy,” Foye asserts.

Craig is working with researchers to project the economic/financial impacts on the Hamilton economy that would result from an increase in social assistance rates to subsistence levels.

This will be a useful number. In 1995 Halton Region staff estimated that social assistance costs took $12 – 14 million dollars out of the Burlington economy.

I’m not aware of any accounting done by government on the impact these cuts had on real people.

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