Realizing Our Potential: Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy, 2014-2019
Ontario's new Poverty Reduction Strategy, Realizing Our Potential, is built around four key pillars:
A Long-Term Goal to End Homelessness in Ontario
Ontario is setting a new goal of ending homelessness. The province will seek expert advice to help define the problem, understand how to measure it and set targets related to ending homelessness.
Ontario will place a special emphasis on housing supports for those who are homeless or at high risk of losing their homes. As part of the new strategy, the province is enhancing funding for the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative by $42 million starting in 2014-15, to a total of almost $294 million per year.
The province will continue working with the federal government to improve access to affordable housing by building and improving more units. The province will update its 2010 Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy to reflect lessons learned and new research on best practices related to housing and homelessness.
Continuing to Break the Cycle of Poverty
Ontario's first Poverty Reduction Strategy, Breaking the Cycle, focused on children and youth. Steady progress has been made toward meeting the target of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent. Between 2008 and 2011, Ontario lifted 47,000 children and their families out of poverty.
Through the new strategy, Ontario will continue to reduce child poverty through initiatives that will give kids the best possible start. The province is increasing and enhancing the Ontario Child Benefit to keep pace with inflation. It is offering access to early learning through Full-Day Kindergarten, which is now available to every four- and five-year-old across the province.
The province is investing $32 million over the next three years to expand the Student Nutrition Program to serve about 56,000 more school-aged children and youth. During the 2012-13 school year, the program served more than 695,000 school-aged kids. The strategy will also improve children's long-term health by expanding access to health and dental programs, such as prescription drugs and vision care. Ontario is also enhancing wellness among children and youth with earlier identification and treatment of mental health issues.
Moving Toward Employment and Income Security
Employment is critical to reducing poverty. Ontario has already raised the minimum wage to $11 per hour, and will re-introduce legislation to tie its growth to inflation.
Through initiatives such as the Youth Jobs Strategy and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program, the province will boost youth employment by removing obstacles, enhancing work experience and promoting entrepreneurship.
Ontario will support collaborations and partnerships that remove obstacles to employment for vulnerable groups including Aboriginal people, newcomers and persons with disabilities, such as the True Self/Debwewendizwin Program, which provides culturally centred employment training for Aboriginal women in the Nipissing Region. The province will also continue to transform social assistance to maintain an effective social safety net for those in need and to help people access jobs and achieve greater financial independence.
Investing in What Works
The province is committed to funding programs based on evidence. Ontario will work with community partners to focus on evidence-building, and fund programs and interventions that work for people.
For a better understanding of where attention is needed, and which investments are working, Ontario will continue to track existing indicators and expand its focus by looking at three additional indicators: youth not in education, employment or training; long-term unemployment; and poverty rates among certain vulnerable populations.