January 16th, 2013
ANTONELLA ARTUSO | QMI AGENCY
TORONTO — An Ontario PC government would combine welfare and disability support programs and direct municipalities to deliver both services.
Leader Tim Hudak said his party will deliver its latest policy white paper, Welfare to Work, Thursday to put ideas forward to make the current system more efficient and less rule-bound.
“We want to merge the two programs — the Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program — into one streamlined program focused not on 800 different rules and 250 different criteria but on moving people into the workplace,” Hudak said Wednesday.
The recommendation to blend programs was included in economist Don Drummond’s 2012 Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services, and supported in the report Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario, by Frances Lankin and Munir A. Sheikh, released late last year.
“The current government has dramatically failed low-income individuals,” Hudak said. “There’s nothing compassionate about a system that is condemning generations of people to dependency.”
Hudak said he doesn’t support all the recommendations in the Brighter Prospects report, but does agree with its suggestion that people on disability supports be allowed access to the full spectrum of employment training and supports available to those on Ontario Works.
The Tories also appeared interested in another recommendation in Brighter Prospects — that as a condition of income, social assistance recipients be required to participate in activities related to preparing for and finding work through individual “Pathway to Employment Plans.”
Hudak was a member of the former Tory government that separated the disability and welfare programs.
“People with disabilities would finally have a separate income support plan designed to meet their unique needs,” the Conservative social services minister said in 1997.
Current Community and Social Services Minister John Milloy said in a statement Wednesday that his ministry is consulting on the recommendations of Brighter Prospects to develop a plan that will transform social assistance, focusing on more effective employment supports, as part of a poverty-reduction strategy.
“The Ontario PCs have shown today that they have no strategy — only cherry-picked policy trial balloons,” Milloy said. “Therefore, when it comes to social assistance, all the public can really measure them against is their well-established track record of shortsighted, slash-and-burn politics. Ontario’s most vulnerable, and all Ontarians, deserve better.”