ISARC Responds to Province’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy
Clear targets and timelines needed to reach Ontario’s anti-poverty goals
Ontario’s new anti-poverty strategy includes some positive new elements, but without clear targets, timelines and new resources, it risks failure, warns the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC), a province-wide anti-poverty network.
“We applaud the commitment to end homelessness, and the recommitment to reducing child poverty by 25 percent,” says the Rev. Susan Eagle, Chair of ISARC. “But without deadlines, and immediate action, starting with the next provincial budget, this plan risks a disappointing outcome, similar to that of the government’s first poverty reduction strategy, which did not fully achieve its target of a 25 percent reduction in child poverty. However, the progress that was made on child poverty since 2008 affirms that investments to benefit low-income families can have a positive impact. We look forward to talking with government leaders about timelines, measurable outcomes and mid-range goals to achieve progress with this new strategy.”
The new strategy, called Realizing Our Potential, includes positive features such as measures to help the long-term jobless access education, training and employment; a commitment to end homelessness; and discussion of the need to address poverty among adults, not just children.
ISARC is also encouraged by the pledge of $50 million over five years to a Local Poverty Reduction Fund to support local efforts to help lift people out of poverty. Another positive feature is the commitment to provide health benefits such as vision care and prescription drugs for children and youth in low-income families.
Besides the pledge to end homelessness, ISARC is also encouraged by the plan to create 1,000 new supportive housing units for Ontarians facing mental health or addiction challenges.
The need for immediate action is critical. Over 1.5 million people live in poverty in our wealthy province. Many are living far below the poverty line. A single person on Ontario Works must survive on only $626 per month, underscoring the need for significant increases to social assistance rates.
“We’re heartened by the government’s recommitment to confront the tragedy of so many of our neighbours and their children enduring hardship day after day,” says ISARC coordinator Elin Goulden. “However we need to some immediate measures to provide immediate relief to people. Affordable childcare is another key element in lifting low-income families out of poverty, yet the new strategy offers very little in this regard. ISARC will continue to encourage the government to implement the actions needed to match their commitment.”
ISARC will develop a more in-depth analysis of the government’s anti-poverty plan in coming weeks, and urge the government to expedite implementation of its specific elements.