SEDI Urges Ontario Government to Act on Social Assistance Commission Recommendations

27 October 2012
 National charitable organization SEDI – Social and Enterprise Development Innovations, today endorsed the recommendations of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario and called on the Government of Ontario to move forward with their implementation as soon as possible.

“The Commission’s report tackles the systemic barriers currently preventing people on social assistance and disability support from achieving greater independence and provides a blueprint that will give people real opportunities to build a stronger future for themselves and their families,” said Elizabeth Mulholland, SEDI CEO. “We urge the Government of Ontario to publicly adopt the Commission’s recommendations and to begin making these important reforms.”

The Commission, appointed by the Government of Ontario, released its report, Brighter Prospects, Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, on October 24, 2012.

"We would particularly like to endorse the recommendations aimed at progressively removing modest personal savings and assets from the determination of eligibility for social assistance and disability support,” added Barbara Gosse, SEDI’s Director, Savings and Asset Building. “Increasing evidence shows that these assets play a critical role in enabling low-income people to weather short-term emergencies, access education and training, start businesses, find jobs and improve their employment and earning over the longer term.”

The Commission’s report builds on growing evidence from the US and examples from other Canadian provinces, which show that easing savings and asset restrictions can smooth the transition from dependence to independence, without any significant increase in welfare or disability support caseloads. Specifically, it recommends that:
 
  • “the Province take immediate steps to harmonize the liquid asset rules, so that a maximum of $5,000 for a single individual and $7,500 for a couple will apply equally to all social assistance recipients.” (Recommendation 61)
  • “once the liquid asset rules have been harmonized, the Province assess empirically whether the increase has had a demonstrable impact on caseload growth and on recipients’ ability to exit social assistance. We further recommend that if the higher asset limits have not resulted in a significant net caseload increase, the asset limits be further raised.” (Recommendation 62)
  • “the Province introduce a total allowable exemption for Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Registered Education Savings Plans, Individual Development Accounts, and other long-term savings vehicles from the calculation of assets, to a maximum of $60,000, in determining eligibility for social assistance.” (Recommendation 63)
  • “to eliminate unnecessary administration, the Province exempt all primary vehicles from the calculation of assets for all social assistance recipients.” (Recommendation 64)
  • “the Province allow First Nations and northern municipalities greater flexibility in determining asset rules to take into account their unique community needs.” (Recommendation 65)
“We have seen firsthand through SEDI’s programs, the transformational effect that financial literacy education combined with incentivized savings programs can have in enabling social assistance recipients to access post-secondary education and job training, launch successful businesses, move from homelessness to stable housing, and improve their employment rates and earnings,” said Mulholland. “It is in everyone’s interests – taxpayers, the government, and social assistance recipients themselves – that these opportunities are made available to everyone in our social assistance and disability support programs.”