Friday, November 14, 2008

Short Term Recommendations for the Transition Policy

In order to set short term recommendations in motion to establish a policy acknowledging the successful transition from social assistance to a meaningful job, authorities of all social services need to come together to reduce overlap in policies that set up structural barriers to a successful transition into the job market out of social assistance. These authorities include social service providers such as Ontario Works, public housing, child care, and student aid. Short term recommendations need to start with supporting children in their transition into adulthood and continue with developing a short term solution for social service providers, including Ontario Works. These need to be in place to stabilize households in transition to greater self-reliance.

A significant factor that impacts the successful transition of not only recipients, but entire families off of Ontario Works is the failure of social service authorities to "support children in their transition into adulthood." Combined efforts of social assistance authorities helping children with a successful transition into adulthood includes the following steps: Public Housing and Ontario Works redefine adulthood and, under the new definition, children would not take on additional responsibilities or an adult status while successfully in school full time up until the age of 24, authorities providing social assistance provide a four year moratorium on rent increase, loss of OCB, and loss of student assistance. Moreover, the combined efforts of authorities of social services to work towards ensuring these short term goals are carried out should result in a real, tangible transition process for young adults to work with authorities to plan their own approval process, standards, and benchmarks.

There ARE significant short term measures that need to take place to stabilize families and households while they transition to “greater self-reliance." Authorities providing social services need to work with families to reduce punitive practices such as high tax claw backs on much needed additional income while on social assistance, improve asset assessment measures, and improve plans for the receipt of benefits while transitioning into the work force to ensure that the transition is adequately supported. In order to reduce these punitive practices, authorities providing social assistance need to grant one year renewable moratoriums on rent increases, OW reductions, losses in child care subsidies, and student assistance based on pre-approved plans for those adults who truly wish to attain greater self-sufficiency. Recipients should also have the option to renew this moratorium on a yearly basis if they move successfully towards pre-set benchmarks they have identified in all social assistance applications, including Ontario Works. Most importantly, there should be absolutely no punitive measures for those not successful in moving towards self-sufficiency should attempts to move in that direction be genuine (i.e. no retroactive charges). Authorities should also allow raised asset limits in accordance with an approved employment plan to ensure that recipients can accumulate some savings in order to better transition to self-sufficiency. All of these measures require authorities of social services to not only better coordinate their benefits plans, but to also work in cooperation and collaboration with individual families in order to establish plans that adequately address their needs and ensure a successful transition to self-sufficiency in the job market.

Recommendations for acknowledging the transition from workfare to work obtained from: “Why is it so Tough to Get Ahead? How Our Tangled Social Programs Pathologize the Transition to Self-Reliance.” John Stapleton, Metcalfe Foundation: Toronto, 2007.

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