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Within Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, and Northumberland County 13.5% of households are food insecure.

Food Source: Province should change course on social assistance reforms

in Poverty Reduction/Provincial by

Kawartha Lakes Food Source is calling for several changes to the Province’s social assistance reforms — including retaining the current definition of ‘disability’ in Ontario.

In April 2019, Feed Ontario released a report forecasting the impact of the Government of Ontario’s proposed reforms to social assistance and put forth three key recommendations for change — recommendations Food Source is in full agreement with, as outlined in a recent press release.

In addition to retaining the current definition of disability, Food Source also wants to see the Province reduce the clawback on earned income under Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program from 75% to 50%.

Lastly, there is a need to invest in affordable housing through construction, repairs, and a portable housing benefit, according to Food Source.

Kawartha Lakes Food Source distributes food to 34 member agencies or organizations within our community, which in turn provide food to 5,500 individuals. Of these individuals, 1/3 is on social assistance programming and 1/3 is on provincial disability support.

“Unfortunately, social assistance rates do not reflect today’s cost of living, and individuals or families too often do not have enough income to afford all their necessities, leaving them to make tough decisions between putting a roof over their heads or having enough to eat each month,” according to Food Source.

Within Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, and Northumberland County 13.5% of households are food insecure, 1.6% above the provincial average. While some of the proposed changes made by the Ontario Government are a step in the right direction, according to the press release, some are also a cause for concern and may result in worsening food insecurity.

In November of 2018, the provincial government announced several changes to Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) which were intended to help social assistance recipients break the cycle of poverty.

Significant reforms include an increase in earning exemptions for both OW and ODSP accompanied by a subsequent 25% increase in clawbacks on earnings. Additionally, the ODSP definition of disability is to be aligned with federal guidelines which may lead to the exclusion of individuals with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, or other episodic disabilities.

For more information, read the full report Social Assistance Changes in Ontario: Forecasting the Impact of the Government of Ontario’s Proposed Reforms by Feed Ontario, which can be found at www.kawarthalakesfoodsource.com.

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also Vice Chair of the Ontario Basic Income Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

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