By MPP Toby Barrett
To The Haldimand Press
A comprehensive package of reforms to encourage employment, restore people’s dignity, and empower the province’s most vulnerable to break free from poverty has been rolled out by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.
Last year, more than 450,000 people – recipients and their dependents – received assistance through Ontario Works. Delivered through municipal and First Nations governments, Ontario Works provides temporary financial assistance while helping recipients find jobs and become self-reliant.
The Auditor General of Ontario recently investigated the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the Ontario Works program. The findings from Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk do not paint a pretty picture:
- Since the last audit in 2009, the average monthly number of Ontario Works cases increased by almost 25% from 202,000 to 250,000 by 2017/18.
- The average length of time people depended on Ontario Works doubled, going from 19 months to almost three years.
- Service managers identified 36% of recipients have barriers affecting employability, such as homelessness and mental health issues.
- In each of the last five years, Ontario Works only helped 10 to 13% of recipient cases to find jobs, and only 1% re-enter the workforce in a given month.
- Costs of the Ontario Works program increased more than 55% since the last audit in 2009 – an increase from $1.9 billion to almost $3 billion.