Reforming Social Assistance
Social assistance in Ontario is delivered through two programs: Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Ontario Works was designed to promote self-reliance, providing temporary financial assistance to those in need while they look for a job. Yet today:
- Only one per cent of people on Ontario Works leave the program for a job in any given month
- One in five people stay on the program for five years or longer.
- Half of the people who leave the system return to Ontario Works, and 80 per cent of those return to Ontario Works within a year.
ODSP helps people with disabilities by providing income and employment supports, but the number of people receiving support has been growing by 3.5 per cent each year, significantly outpacing Ontario’s population growth.
Ontario’s Government for the People will make social assistance sustainable, redesigning ODSP and Ontario Works to provide people with more effective and efficient support, while removing barriers between local service systems.
Improvements will be implemented gradually over the next few years, with regular communications to help people understand and prepare for changes, in four priority areas:
Moving People to Employment
- Introducing new Ontario Works earnings exemptions to encourage employment faster.
- Recipients will be able to earn up to $300 per month without reducing their assistance, up from the current $200 flat rate. Twenty-five per cent of subsequent earnings would be exempt.
- Exemptions would start after one month on assistance, quicker than the current three month waiting period.
- Improving employment services for people receiving social assistance, placing a greater focus on outcomes and creating better, more streamlined supports.
- Exploring options for more locally responsive, outcome-driven service delivery models.
- Coordinating local social services to better connect and deliver supports for people, such as helping people on Ontario Works access mental health and addictions supports.
- Incentivizing people on Ontario Works to find jobs, particularly by allowing lower income workers to keep more of what they earn through the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit (LIFT) which, if passed, will help an individual worker earning $30,000 a year keep an extra $850 per year.
- Launching a website, Ontario.ca/openforbusiness, to make matching job seekers with businesses easier. Employers can also post job opportunities at employer.jobbank.gc.ca.
Locally Focused Social Services
- Empowering municipal partners with a modern approach to Ontario Works service delivery that focuses on increased local decision-making and reduced paperwork.
- Simplifying rates and benefits and establishing a new, flexible local discretionary fund so Ontario Works delivery partners can tailor benefits to improve people’s outcomes with a focus on employment.
Supporting People with Disabilities with Dignity
- Redesigning ODSP to consolidate complex supplements and benefits into simplified financial support for people with severe disabilities. Financial eligibility for ODSP will be reviewed yearly, instead of monthly. Front-line staff will work with people to help them connect to other supports.
- Providing clarity to the system around who qualifies for ODSP in the future and looking at aligning Ontario’s new definition of ‘disability’ more closely with federal government guidelines.
- Improving earning exemptions for ODSP recipients by introducing a $6,000 flat annual exemption plus a 25 per cent exemption for earnings above $6,000 instead of the current approach which reduces support after monthly earnings exceed $200.
Cutting Red Tape and Restoring Accountability
- Making it easier for people on social assistance who want to pursue a self-employment opportunity as their pathway to greater self-reliance.
- Modernizing how services are delivered and introducing more paperless, digital options that will make program delivery more efficient and reduce costs.
- Providing people receiving assistance with more options to access information and service by computer or smartphone which will mean front-line staff can spend more time working with people to address complex needs.
- Restoring accountability throughout the social assistance system.
- The province will be accountable for designing a simplified system that focuses on outcomes, helps people instead of trapping them, and uses risk-based approaches to ensure that those who receive assistance are eligible
- Municipalities will be held accountable for helping people achieve their goals and public reporting of outcomes
- People receiving Ontario Works will complete individual action plans and file their taxes so they are maximizing all available benefits.
More details about the changes to social assistance will be available in the coming months.