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Ontario Budget 2013: Poverty Reduction Must Remain the Priority

Category: Social Assistance Reform

For Immediate Release: May 2, 2013

Budget commitments a start… Poverty Reduction must remain the priority.

Several poverty-related measures were announced in today’s Ontario budget: including increasing social assistance rates by 1% (as well as an additional $14 monthly increase for singles on Ontario Works) and increasing earnings exemptions for those on social assistance that are able to work. However, the changes do not go far enough to address the crisis facing many families in Ontario living who live in deep poverty.

Close to 55,000 children, women and men in Hamilton rely on Ontario social assistance benefits; however rates are so desperately low that many families are not able to afford basic necessities.

Today a single person on Ontario Works receives only $606/month – an amount that does not come close to meeting the actual costs of rental housing, food, utilities, personal needs or other necessities. Today’s budget announcement will increase rates for a single person on Ontario works by $20/month.

Many Hamiltonians are going hungry: Seventy-five percent of all people using food banks in the city are on provincial social assistance programs. The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and community partners have called upon the provincial government to overhaul Ontario’s outdated social assistance system. The Roundtable urged the government to immediately increase rates by $100/month and to commit to establishing an evidence-based system for setting rates – based on the real costs of living.

Changes to asset levels and earnings will have an impact: “Creating logical transitions from poverty to prosperity; ones that improve the health of an individual and the community” says Roundtable member and ODSP recipient, Laura Cattari.

“Today’s budget’s was a first step, an acknowledgement that recipients have been living in deep poverty for far too long” says Peter Hutton, chair of the Roundtable’s social assistance working group. “We look forward to working with the government and all political parties to ensure real social assistance reform remains a priority”.

For Hamilton and other communities, there does not appear to be an initial announcement to reverse last year’s cuts to Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefits or Discretionary Health benefits–critical programs intended to prevent homelessness and maintain health. Hamilton organizations led a campaign last December that saw the provincial government commit $42 million in transitional funds to cover the cuts for 2013. “With no further provincial commitments, the future of those programs will be placed in crisis once again at the end of this year” said Tom Cooper, Director of the Roundtable.


Ontario Communities Unite!

Category: Social Assistance Reform

Join us in Hamilton on December 14th and let’s reverse the cuts to community start up benefits!

The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and Hamilton Organizing for Poverty Elimination (HOPE) are asking communities and provincial organizations to meet, strategize and mobilize in response to the provincial government’s cuts to Community Start Up & Maintenance Benefits and Discretionary health benefits on December 14th.  Hamilton City Council recently committed to fund CSUMB for another 6 months, but as in all municipalities- that funding is not sustainable and puts the most marginalized residents of our communities at risk.  The objective of the ‘Ontario Communities Uniting’ forum is to develop a coordinated message and to demonstrate to the provincial government (and those running to become Premier) that communities will not sit idly by as critical programs that prevent homelessness, promote health and maintain dignity are slashed.  The meeting will be held at Hamilton City Hall from 10am – 2pm on December 14th.

For more details: ontario uniting csumb meeting


Commission for the Review of Social Assistance Final Report

Category: Social Assistance Reform

A Media Statement responding to the Commission’s Report, released today, can be found here.


Category: NewsSocial Assistance Reform

Are cuts coming to Hamilton’s programs to prevent homelessness?

Find out more and take Action..

Information Session:

Community Start Up Benefits cuts – Information Session

Backgrounder:  2012 Cuts to the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefits


Right to An Adequate Standard of Living

Category: Social Assistance Reform

On June 7th, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic and McMaster Poverty Initiative co-hosted a forum on the Right to An Adequate Standard of Living.  Watch excerpts from the presentation here


Article 25. of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states…

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Presenters included:

Bruce Porter, Human rights expert – Director of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre

Craig Foye from Hamilton Community Legal Clinic who has championed the need for an evidence-based approach to setting social assistance rates;

Laura Cattari – a Roundtable member and community activist through Advocacy Hamilton with lived-expertise of Ontario’s social assistance system;

Mark Chamberlain past chair of the Roundtable, community business leader and member of the National Council of Welfare;

Dr. Atif Kubursi, Professor Emeritus, McMaster University Department of Economics and international economic development expert


Councillors and observers unanimous: Provincial decision to download key health benefits is wrong!

Category: NewsSocial Assistance Reform

Read more coverage on the downloading of health benefits, below.

 Backgrounder: What are discretionary health benefits?

May 16, 2012:  Andrew Dreschel’s column in the Hamilton Spectator

May 16, 2012: Spectator Editorial: City steps up to do province’s job

From May 15th, Hamilton Spectator:  City Decries provincial benefits cuts

Bill Kelly’s opinion: More Political Games, and Guess Who Pays


Ontario is ducking obligations to poor

Category: Social Assistance Reform

Read Roundtable member Pat Reid’s timely response to cap health benefits for most vulnerable members of our community:

Pat Reid’s response to provincial budget


“Don’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor!”

Category: National Poverty PlanShifting AttitudesSocial Assistance Reform

April 17, 2012, Hamilton Spectator Editorial, Howard Elliott: 
Any Budget Compromise must include lifting welfare freeze!

April 16, 2012, Hamilton Spectator Editorial, Rick Hughes: 
We Must Provide necessary social services

April 10th, 2012, Hamilton Spectator: 
“Discretionary” health benefits such as eyeglasses, dentures, baby supplies – even funerals – now at risk as province downloads costs to municipalities

April 9th, 2012, RAISE THE HAMMER:
 Balancing the books on the backs of the poor, by Ryan McGreal

April 9th, 2012, CTV Newsnet
  Armine Yalnizyan on the growing gap of inequality in Canada

April 4th, 2012, Hamilton Spectator:
Food Banks face Baby Food Crisis – Food Share and Poverty Roundtable denounce provincial budget

April 3rd, 2012:
CHCH News: “Provincial Budget’s Hunger Games”

Press Release APRIL 3, 2012 – Povincial Budget
“Critical shortage of baby formula at area food banks spurs Hamilton Community to Action, but will the 2012 provincial budget deepen the crisis?”

Ontario’s social assistance system is failing this province’s most vulnerable citizens. Rates are too low, rules are too complex and opportunities to move off the system into well-paying jobs are few and far between. Individuals with disabilities do not have the supports they need to help them live healthier.

Poverty Roundtable responds to provincial budget measures that freeze welfare rates, delay Ontario Child Benefits – Read Tom Cooper’s column in the Hamilton Spectator

Deirdre Pike and Tom Cooper talk welfare freeze on AM 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly show  2012 budget discussion Bill Kelly

The Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario has released Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform and What We Heard: A Summary of Discussion on Social Assistance.

Click here to read the Hamilton Poverty Roundtable’s response

Visit the Social Assistance Page for more information

Organizations in Hamilton Respond to the Social Assistance Discussion Paper:


Hamilton social assistance benefits at risk

Category: Social Assistance Reform

The city has a hard decision to make — either pay as much as $1.8 million for things such as glasses and dental care for disadvantaged Hamiltonians or let them go without.

Read the full article at The Hamilton Spectator