MPP Barrett introduces Social Assistance Programs Consolidation Act

Opposition Social Services Critic calls for merger of OW and ODSP at the local level


March 6, 2013

QUEEN’S PARK – Following more than a year of consultation, roundtable discussions, and three separate reports calling for the merger of Welfare and Disability in Ontario, the Official Opposition Critic to Social Services has stepped forward to deliver, The Social Assistance Programs Consolidation Act, 2013.

Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett’s Private Members Bill passed First Reading in the Legislature this afternoon.

“The Bill requires the Minister of Community and Social Services to introduce a bill in the Assembly that merges the program established by the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997 and the program established by the Ontario Works Act, 1997 into one consolidated program that is administered by the same body,” Barrett reported as he stood to introduce the bill.

Barrett made it clear that the proposed legislation ensures that any integration a the municipal level must continue to respect the distinct needs of people with disabilities, while broadening employment supports to all recipients.

“This proposal does not amount to treating everyone the same – in fact, it’s the opposite,” Barrett indicated. “This proposal would open up new opportunities for those with disabilities to find training, to acquire new skills and to participate in Ontario’s workforce to the fullest of their abilities.”

Barrett added that the push for service consolidation reflected in his Private Member’s Bill follows similar recommendations in Public Services for Ontarians: A Path to Sustainability and Excellence, February 15, 2012 (Don Drummond), and Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, October 24, 2012 (Frances Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh), as well as the Official Opposition White Paper, Pathways to Prosperity – Welfare to Work.

“Don Drummond concluded that transforming the delivery of Ontario’s benefits system into a fully integrated model represents a clear opportunity to simultaneously make programs more effective and reduce costs in the long run,” noted Barrett. “Meantime, Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh wrote that an integrated system would provide individualized support to all social assistance recipients, including people with disabilities, and a combined program would not affect recipients’ eligibility-related income support.

“Their Brighter Prospects report indicates that integration would help reduce the current system’s 800 rules and regulations by at least half, and would lead to savings of $140 million a year.”

Barrett went on to add that municipalities and First Nations have the necessary, on-the-ground understanding of their communities.

“Beyond knowing their communities and providing supports to jobseekers, municipalities are most closely connected to their local labour markets and the needs of employers,” Barrett concluded. “Clearly any recommended integration must be done in a way that does not negatively impact the municipal sector which is grappling with its own fiscal challenges.”

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For more information contact
Toby Barrett 519-428-0446 or 1-800-903-8629