Ontario Council, with the assistance of Teresa McKeeman and the CFUW Guelph Working Group on Poverty Reduction, presents its comments concerning the Ontario government’s Basic Income Pilot Project.
Ontario Council, with the assistance of Teresa McKeeman and the CFUW Guelph Working Group on Poverty Reduction, presents its comments concerning the Ontario government’s recommitment to a poverty reduction strategy with Realizing our Potential.
Ontario Council, with the assistance of Teresa McKeeman and CFUW Guelph Working Group on Poverty Reduction, has presented comments on the latest round of consultations concerning Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Ontario Campaign 2002 Press Release
Snapshot of 2011 along with recommendations
Continuing its action on poverty, Ontario Council has endorsed The 25in5’s Call to Action, an open letter to leaders of all Ontario political parties to make the reduction and eradication of poverty a key election issue and to clearly outline their commitments and concrete plans to tackle poverty in our province. This Call to Action will be publicly released in early September.
The letter sends a clear and united message to Ontario politicians that:
- It is time to take the next step.
- People from different backgrounds and from diverse communities across the province are working toward the goal of eradicating poverty in Ontario.
- And we know that this is achievable.
For more information on 25in5, visit http://25in5.ca
As a followup to the Ontario Council AGM 2011 conference, Taking Off the Blinders, CFUW Oakville has created a blog where information can be posted concerning poverty in Ontario and work that CFUW clubs are doing.
All the slides from the conference have been posted.
Letters have been sent concerning the Ontario Budget 2010 to both the Hon. Madeleine Meilleur and the Hon. Deb Matthews concerning the loss of the Special Diet Allowance.
CFUW Hamilton is very concerned about the "clawback" to social assistance allowances that has occurred since July. Maureen Leyland, Norma Ducau and Linda Hall wrote of their concerns. This was published in the Hamilton Spectator. The restructuring of allowances left one Hamilton woman with $1.00 extra, after the increase in Ontario Child Benefit, but the decrease in her Basic Benefit.
CFUW Ontario Council sends comments to the Standing Committee on Social Policy concerning Bill 152, Poverty Reduction Act. Our concerns involve some important points of wordsmithing and three areas of omission – Definitions, Funding and Accountability
Ontario Council sends a letter commending the Hon. Deb Matthews and the Premier on the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
We were very pleased to see that many of our requests over the years have become part of the Strategy, items that we still advocate for such as:
- support for public education
- support for post-secondary education, including technical training
- early learning and child care
- affordable housing
- support to communities and community organizations
- support to parents
- programmes for children, educational, recreational and physical, and
- the recognition of the special needs of abused women, seniors, people with disabilities, aboriginal communities
The Government of Ontario announces its Poverty Reduction Strategy by releasing the report, Breaking the Cycle.
An opinion piece by CFUW Hamilton was published in the Hamilton Spectator concerning the clawback of students’ earnings for families receiving Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program. Fifty per cent of what they earn is deducted from the total benefit of social assistance received by the family.
A NOTE OF THANKS
From: Linda Hall
Sent: December 14, 2008
Subject: Claw Back of Part Time Earnings for Students
This is just a note of thanks for the letter writing you and your club members did to raise awareness among the MPPs regarding the claw back issue affecting post secondary students whose families receive social assistance. I am that sure other clubs also wrote letters, but you were the ones that contacted me for information, and I just wanted to take the opportunity to personally thank you for your support and diligent work.
We recently visited our local Liberal MPP and cabinet member, Ted McMeekin, and he told us that CFUW Ontario's voice was heard loudly and clearly on this issue from across the province. He had high praise for our organization and said that once again we had made a difference.
If I read the changes correctly, not only will the claw back be removed for post secondary students, but the change will also apply for older women who are trying to upgrade their education in an attempt to break the cycle of poverty. Good news all round!
The vast network of CFUW clubs across the province has the power to influence and affect change when we speak as one voice.
Co-chair Advocacy and Action Committee
Linda Hall, CFUW Ontario Council resource person on poverty issues gave an excellent update concerning the poverty file to the Standing Committee on Legislation, covering the province's Poverty Reduction Strategy, and suggested actions for clubs, including activities from CFUW Hamilton.
Ontario Council presents comments and thoughts concerning GROWING STRONGER, the government’s consultation for Poverty Reduction. This builds upon recommendations in the 2008 Pre-Budget Brief which are listed below, and also the Family Poverty brief presented in 2007.
CFUW Southport presents comments to the government on GROWING STRONGER, the government’s consultation on Poverty Reduction.
From the CFUW Ontario Council Pre-Budget Brief
The Ontario Council of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW OC) applauds the Ontario government’s initiative concerning family poverty.
Establishing a Cabinet committee under the direction of the Hon. Deborah Matthews to make a “clear-cut progress on reducing child poverty” [Speech From the Throne, Nov.29, 2007] is a positive sign that our Government is committed to taking action on this issue.
The Government has before it many resources.
Over the past few months there has been a flurry of reports from the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition’s social audit of Ontario to John Stapleton’s Why is it so tough to get ahead? to the reports specific to Toronto written by the United Way and the University of Toronto.
These build on others from previous years that includes the study done by Minister Matthews on social assistance, as well as its critique prepared by the Income Security Advocacy Centre, and the reports of the Task Force on Modernizing Income Security for Working- Age Adults (MISWAA).
All of these paint a picture of great concern.
The reports mentioned:
Murray MacAdam, ed Lives Still in the Balance, Ontario’s Social Audit, Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, Kitchener ON
John Stapleton ‘Why is it so tough to get ahead? How our tangled social programs pathologize the transition to self-reliance” Metcalf Foundation, 2007 www.metcalffoundation.com
United Way of Greater Toronto, Losing Ground: The persistent growth of family poverty in Canada's largest city, Nov. 2007 www.unitedwaytoronto.com/whoWeHelp/reports/losingGround.php
J. David Hulchanski, The Three Cities within Toronto: Income polarization among Toronto’s neighbourhoods, 1970–2000 Centre for Urban & Community Studies, University of Torontowww.wellesleyinstitute.com/files/cucs/threecitiestoronto.pdf
Deb Matthews, M.P.P., Review of Employment Assistance Programs in Ontario Works & Ontario Disability Support Program, Ministry of Community & Social Services, December 2004 http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/NR/rdonlyres/F1B51636-3FFA-4490-A703-CCEC8CEE7272/95/EmploymentAssistanceProgram_Matthews_eng.pdf
Income Security Advocacy Centre, The Matthews Report: Moving Towards Real Income Security, May 2005 www.incomesecurity.org/documents/ISACResponsetoMatthewsReport-final.doc
Task Force on Modernizing Income Security for Working- Age Adults (MISWAA)
Also available to the government are a plethora of organizations and people who have experience, expertise and knowledge. This committee of the Cabinet that has been charged with making progress on child poverty will have extensive resources available to it in order to make sound policy decisions, and develop strategy, action plans with targets, timetables and methods of evaluation. What then becomes necessary is the political will and the financial resources to make the essential changes to positively affect the lives of Ontario citizens.
According to the Statistics Canada report, Women in Canada [Statistics Canada Women in Canada, 5th Ed., A Gender-based Statistical Report ] women, especially single mothers, are more likely to be poor than men. While the Speech from the Throne speaks of child poverty, children are members of a family and, in reality, it is family poverty that needs to be tackled. This has been echoed in an earlier report from St. Christopher House about Enabling Families to Succeed [Susan Pigott and Lidia Monaco, Enabling Families to Succeed: Community-Based Supports for Families, St. Christopher House, September 2004]
The report lists four prerequisites which families need to succeed:
- Adequate income and safe, stable, affordable housing;
- Strong and well supported social networks that give parents support;
- Robust community institutions and infrastructure which promotes the formation of informal social networks;
- Service delivery that builds family capacity with programs that
- have stable long term funding, and
- are universal, thereby preventing social exclusion.
Had that single mother on OW with one child received the full NCBS in 2007, her monthly allowance would have been $122 – $91 more than she will be receiving in 2008.
These are some specific concerns that CFUW Ontario Council has noted:
1. Child Care and Early Learning
In order for parents to work or continue their education, children need to be cared for. At the same time, it is now acknowledged that the early years are some of the most fundamental for learning and future child development.
Child care statistics are difficult to correlate but all do point out a dearth of regulated, quality spaces. In 2005, there were more than 1.2 million children under 12 years of age with mothers working, but with only 229,875 regulated spaces available. With the addition this year of another 7000 spaces, the total would approximate 236,875, a mere 20% of what is needed. It should be noted that the Chair of the Children’s Services Committee of Toronto reported that her city had actually lost 1800 regulated spaces over the last ten years. [Peter Ehrlich, “Politicians hold key to children's futures” Toronto Star, Jan.21,2008 ] Also of concern is that these child care spaces have age variations ranging from infant care (only 6,949) to school age. [Martha Friendly, Jane Beach, Carolyn Ferns, Michelle Turiano, Early childhood education and care in Canada 2006. 7th edition, Childcare Resource and Research Unit, June 2007, pg.75-92]
Child care is also expensive. The report, Early childhood education and care in Canada 2006, notes that the average daily child care cost in Ontario is $43, or $10,750 per year.
Where there are spaces available, for families that are earning $20,000, subsidies will bring the costs to zero dollars per child per day; for a family earning $30,000, it is $4.00 per child per day; and then increasing incrementally to $42.00 per child per day for a family earning $70,000. Approximately 96,000 children receive these subsidies. Also 13,500 children, whose parents are receiving Ontario Works benefits, are subsidized for regulated care with another 9,400 children receiving subsidies for unregulated care.
Since 1987, the Canadian Federation of University Women has supported quality, universal, accessible and developmental child care.
- Quality – research continues to show the importance of the quality of the program and the caregivers on the child’s development [Canadian Council on Learning, Lessons in Learning: Why is High-Quality Child Care Essential? The Link Between Quality Child Care and Early Learning May 31, 2006]
- Universal – Gillian Doherty, in her study published in December 2007, “Ensuring the Best Start in Life; Targeting versus Universality in Early Childhood Development” shows that, as there are vulnerable children found across all socio-economic groups, targeting only children from low income families is unwise. [Gillian Doherty, “Ensuring the Best Start in Life; Targeting versus Universality in Early Childhood Development” IRPP Choices Vol. 13, no. 8, December 2007]
- Accessible – reasonable prices (Québec has chosen to have $7.00 per day child care) and subsidies for those who cannot afford it.
- Developmental – early learning is now considered a fundamental part of quality child care and we commend the Government of Ontario for its Best Start program.
2. The Clawback, the Ontario Child Benefit and social assistance benefits
We commend the Ontario Government for establishing the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB).
However according to the Income Security Advocacy Center,
“The Ontario Child Benefit … implemented in July 2008, …is scheduled to increase gradually from $50/month/child to $92/month/child by 2011. As of July, 2008, the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) will also no longer be deducted monthly from the cheques of families on OW and ODSP. …[But] As of July, 2008, monthly ODSP and OW benefits for families will be reduced, and families will no longer receive a separate winter clothing allowance or back-to-school clothing allowance. Thus, a single mother on OW with one child, for example, will only be better off by $31/month as of July 2008, growing gradually to $50/month by 2011.” [Retrieved from www.incomesecurity.org, Jan. 15, 2008]
We commend the government for enhancing the rates for Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, but because of the 21.5% cut in Ontario Works in 1995, and inflation varying between 1.6% and 2.5%, we wonder if families are further ahead.
3. Housing and Homelessness
A safe, secure, healthy home should be a fundamental right for any person. According to the Ontario Association for Non-Profit Housing, currently there were 123,182 Ontario households waiting for housing in 2007. As of November 30th, 2007, there were 379 affordable housing projects in progress representing 10,498 units. [Ontario. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Affordable Housing, retrieved Jan.19,2008]
The Street Health Report 2007 of Toronto highlighted the desperate situation of people forced to live on the streets of Toronto and the need for both affordable and supportive housing.
At the same time, the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto published a report [Anne Decter, Lost in the Shuffle: The Impact of Homelessness on Children’s Education In Toronto, Community Social Planning Council of Toronto.2007] that found that the majority of homeless children, aged six to 12, attend three schools in the year when they lose housing, and, as a result, they repeat and/or fall behind in their studies, lose friends and community support. Some children can actually attend more than 10 schools before reaching the secondary school level. Naturally many of these children suffer emotional trauma from the situation that led to their homelessness. As well, they may be subject to bullying and suffer social isolation in their new schools. Neither the school nor the shelter system is equipped to help them.
If we accept that housing costs should account for no more 30% of a family’s pre-tax monthly bills, and that the average rent of a two bedroom apartment in Toronto (October 2007) was $1057 [Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Rental market survey 2007 Dec.2007], it would mean that a single mother working for minimum wage at $8.75/hour would have to work 100 hours per week to afford this apartment and in Barrie, that same single mother would have to work 85 hours per week. If she opts for a one bedroom apartment, then in Toronto she would have to work 85 hours per week to afford this apartment and in Ottawa, 73 hours per week.
4. Food Bank Use
According to the Ontario Hunger Count Report 2007, the number of Ontarians served by food banks per month was 318,540 and of those, 38.8% were children, 29.3% were new Canadians and 14.2% were employed.
CFUW Ontario Council echoes the recommendations of the reports cited in this brief:
- Accessible affordable housing
- Accessible quality child care
- Good jobs at wages to support families
- Strong safety net of income support programs
- Accessible education and training.
While these are the basics that must be constantly and seriously considered, there are other areas of concerns that cannot be neglected.
So many times individuals and families living in poverty find themselves isolated and excluded. Some have left their extended families; immigrants have arrived in a new unfamiliar country; and adolescents migrate to our cities. For whatever reason, much of it economic, people leave their support system which can be disastrous for many generations to come.
We need to build the capacity to support families by empowering their community. Providing ongoing, stable assistance to community institutions will, in turn, build that capacity needed to support families – whatever shape these families might take.
CFUW Ontario Council therefore recommends that funds be made available to:
- Create and support both formal and informal social networks and community programs, for example, community kitchens, gardens and development projects.
- Support the community institutions that are currently in operation by
- Offering stable funding for their programs that are geared to family and individual support;
- Funding municipalities to make more recreation programs and facilities available;
- Funding municipalities and school boards to make available programs for young adolescents who are too old for after-school programs.
- Create multi-service programming that helps parents and families build skills, access resources and develop strong and well-supported networks.
- Offer universal programs that will not further isolate and exclude individuals.
A letter of congratulations was sent to the Premier on his re-election, as well as expressing our support for his commitment to reduce family poverty.
The Ontario Government established the Ontario Child Benefit in the 2007 Budget. For more information see ISSUES – CHILDREN – Ontario Child Benefit
CFUW Ontario Council presents a brief, Family Poverty: A Submission to the Government of Ontario. For the Submission
The University Women’s Club of North York sponsors a forum Fairness For Us All: Income Security for the 21st Century with Susan Piggott of St. Christopher House. Ms. Piggott co-chaired the task force "Modernizing Income Security for Working-Age Adults". For the Report
From the Ontario Council Pre-Budget Brief:
We commend the Government’s anti-poverty measures, however we remain concerned about the high percentage of women living in poverty, in particular elderly women living alone, sole support female parents, older women, women of colour, immigrant women and women with disabilities, for whom poverty persists or even deepens, aggravated by the budgetary adjustments made since 1995 and the resulting cuts in social services.
Child poverty is really family poverty. One of the worst is female lone parent families – 39% of low income children live in sole support female parent families. Of all families with children in Canada, 21.4% live in housing where shelter costs are more than 30% of their total income. Among low-income families with children, 66% live in unaffordable housing
Employment income is no longer sufficient to escape poverty and hunger and earn a sustainable living. In the Greater Toronto Area, 33% of families using food banks have at least one family member working (a small percentage of which are children under 18). We commend the 30 cent minimum wage increase but $7.75 minimum wage is not enough to make a living and support a family.
Welfare recipients who enter the work force in low-paying jobs lose prescription drug and dental benefits. Also, any added income from employment is “clawed-back” in programs such as rent-geared-to-income housing and day care subsidies.”
Also of concern is the clawback of the Canada Child Tax Benefit, which includes the Child Tax Benefit Supplement that has been clawed back in Ontario from welfare families.
We agree with Susan Pigott and Lidia Monaco of St. Christopher’s House,
“The debilitating effects of poverty and inadequate housing are hardships that low-income families live with every day and we all have a responsibility to advocate for improved social conditions through better income support programs, improved labour market conditions, and adequate social housing. Removing the provincial claw-back to the national child benefit, raising provincial social assistance rates, as well as enforcing child support payments and raising the minimum wage are all income-related measures which would assist low income parents. Above all, we need more affordable housing and rent supplements.”