Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy: 2012 Annual Report
Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy is based on the belief that every child -- regardless of his or her background or circumstance -- has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Over the past four years, working with community partners, the McGuinty government has made strategic investments in young people, families and the economy to help break the cycle of poverty in Ontario. These initiatives and investments are making a difference: 40,000 children and their families have been lifted out of poverty since 2008.
Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy 2012 Annual Report outlines the gains made in helping children and young people get the best start and in increasing opportunities for low-income Ontarians.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT
In 2012, Ontario took some important steps, including:
- Supporting over one million children through the Ontario Child Benefit. Families who receive the benefit will see their benefit increase up to $1,210 per child in 2013 and to $1,310 in 2014. Together, these increases will benefit an additional 90,000 children in 46,000 families.
- Expanding full-day kindergarten. This school year, almost half of Ontario's four- and five-year-olds -- about 122,000 kids and families -- are benefiting from full-day kindergarten at approximately 1,700 schools.
- Investing $17.9 million annually in the Student Nutrition Program and partnering with charities, businesses, school boards and other levels of government. This year, over 630,000 children will receive healthy food in Ontario schools so they are better prepared to learn.
- Supporting 600 new mental health workers in schools, communities and courts across the province who are helping an estimated 20,000 more children and youth get quicker and easier access to the right mental health services and supports.
- Providing free dental care to nearly 33,000 children and youth who may have otherwise gone untreated.
- Providing about 18,000 children and youth across the province with free and safe after school activities through 122 organizations in 381 sites.
- Raising social assistance rates by nearly 15 per cent since 2003. This year's increase will provide an additional $55 million in benefits to families and individuals receiving social assistance.
- Reviewing social assistance programs to remove barriers and opportunities for people to work
- Investing in postsecondary education and training through the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant, making college and university more affordable to almost 200,000 students this academic year.
- Investing more than $2.5 billion in the largest affordable housing program in Ontario's history.
TAKING ACTION FOR YOUTH
As part of the ongoing commitment to create greater opportunities for youth, the government released a Youth Action Plan in August 2012 to support young people in need and provide them with access to experiences that can build their confidence and skills, help them improve their lives and contribute to their communities.
The plan builds on the Review of the Roots of Youth Violence report. Ontario is expanding existing programs and strategically creating new ones to better address the continued needs of disadvantaged youth and the communities in which they live.
To make a lasting difference in the lives of young people, Ontario is working with its partners to develop a province-wide, long-term Ontario Youth Strategy.
The Youth Action Plan will benefit an additional 13,000 young people each year by moving forward on 20 initiatives. Steps being taken include:
- Increasing the number of Youth Outreach Workers in priority communities. There are currently 62 youth outreach workers providing outreach and referral services to disadvantaged youth in seven communities, growing to 97 in nine communities.
- Creating more opportunities for youth to work and connect with local police through the Youth in Policing Initiative.
- Expanding the Summer Jobs for Youth Program to include part-time jobs for youth throughout the school year.
- Providing valuable work experience to more than 4,300 at-risk youth in 33 Ontario communities through the Youth in Policing Initiative and the Summer Jobs for Youth Program in Summer 2012.
- Developing and launching a new $5 million annual Youth Opportunities Fund to support local community initiatives.
- Investing in more community initiatives to help crime prevention through the Safer and Vital Communities Program.
Other supports for young people include:
- Investing in Pathways to Education, a program that helps students in high-needs neighbourhoods graduate from high school and go on to college, university or learn a trade. The initiative currently involves about 4,000 students -- many who are the first in their families to receive a postsecondary education.
- Helping youth in care of a children's aid society (Crown Wards) complete high school and pursue postsecondary education, training and employment through tuition grants, reimbursement of application fees and support through 21 teams that help remove barriers to success.
- Releasing Stepping Stones: A Resource on Youth Development, a document that compiles research and input from youth experts, communities, and youth themselves on how young people grow and develop, and what supports and opportunities they need to transition successfully into adulthood.
- Through the Youth Challenge Fund -- launched in February 2006 -- more than 12,000 at-risk youth in Toronto gained valuable training and work experience, found safe places to meet and contributed in positive ways to their communities.
Measuring progress is a key part of Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy. Progress is measured against the following poverty indicators:
| 1. School Readiness |
2. High School Graduation Rates
3. Educational Progress
4. Birth Weights
| 5. Low Income Measure|
6. Depth of Poverty
7. Standard of Living
8. Ontario Housing Measure
Ontario has made gains in every key indicator since the launch of the strategy.
Since Statistics Canada data lags by 18 months, the 2012 Annual Report shows progress on income-based indicators for 2009 and 2010 -- the first two years of the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
In 2008, 15.2 per cent of children and youth lived under 50 per cent of median income (LIM50): in 2010, that figure had fallen to 13.8. The number of children in deep poverty fell by 40,000 two years into the strategy.
Ontario uses Statistics Canada's Low Income Measure, fixed to a base year of 2008, as the foundation for reporting progress on reducing child poverty. Ontario's fixed LIM50 lines are determined each year by applying the Consumer Price Index inflation rate to the base year.
Despite continuing economic uncertainty, Ontario remains committed to the goals of the Poverty Reduction Strategy and to building on the momentum of the first four years.
Poverty reduction requires the support of all our partners. Ontario will continue to urge the federal government to support its poverty reduction efforts by providing stable funding in critical areas such as child care and early learning, health care and skills training. Ontario will also continue to work diligently with partners to create opportunities for every Ontarian to achieve his or her potential.