Friday, December 05, 2008

Poverty Reduction Strategy

Back in the early nineties – the Rae days – I sat in on some interviews social assistance caseworkers had with their clients.

It was an eye opener.

Demeaning is the way I’d characterize it. I’m not blaming the worker. The system was the problem.

Then along came Mike Harris and things got a lot worse.

Which brings me to the present and the much-awaited Poverty Reduction Strategy unveiled yesterday by the Provincial Government.

At this point there seems to be much satisfaction with this report.
For example, the 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction (a multi-sectoral coalition of more than 350 provincial and Toronto-based organizations and individuals working to eliminate poverty) has a good and fairly positive analysis of it at

Poverty is finally on the agenda and will remain there for several years.

I've Seen this Picture

However, the commitment to undertake a review of social assistance with the goal of reducing barriers and increasing opportunity seems like one of those proroguing dodges we've been reading about lately.

This same minister completed a similar review in December 2004. At that time she got it right. The Mathews’ Report, as it was known, documented an OW (welfare) system that was a mess.

For example:

Clients afraid of caseworkers. (p. 29)

Time and money wasted on job placements and training that didn’t assist in the move towards job readiness. (p. 21)

The requirement of applying 800 rules and regulations before eligibility could be determined and a cheque could be issued. (p. 25)

And this outrageous story:

The value of leftovers from a Sunday dinner at a parent’s house being deducted from the social assistance cheque. (p. 28)

Now four years later a commitment to a review.

What am I missing here?

I wonder how those with a first hand knowledge of social assistance feel about this.