The Ford government is changing its definition about who qualifies for disability assistance while also allowing people to earn more money while receiving social assistance.
The updates to Ontario’s social assistance system were revealed by Lisa MacLeod, minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod, on Thursday.
The tweaks to social assistance will allow welfare recipients who find work to keep more of their earnings before their payments are clawed back.
Each month, recipients of the Ontario Works social assistance fund will be allowed to earn up to $300, up from the current exemption of $200, MacLeod said.
The earnings exemption for people on the Ontario Disability Support Program will be $6,000 annually, up from the current rate of $200 per month.
During the announcement, MacLeod said the current social assistance system puts users in a «cycle of dependency,» making it difficult for people to find jobs and exit the system.
The government currently spends around $10 billion annually on social assistance, she said, adding that only one per cent of people on social assistance re-enter the workforce in any given month.
The PCs say they will also redesign and simplify the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Ontario will update its definition of disability to more closely align with the federal standard, MacLeod said.
She refused to say if fewer people will qualify for ODSP under the new definition, but added that anyone who currently qualifies will be grandfathered into the system.
«They may end up on Ontario Works,» she said of any Ontarians who may no longer qualify for disability assistance.
Eligibility for the program will also now be reviewed annually instead of monthly.
Advocates like Yogi Acharya, an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, have questioned the government’s record on social assistance so far.
«It’s filled people with unshakeable dread,» he said.
Acharya referred to the province cancelling a basic income pilot project in the summer, and its decision to reduce a planned increase to social assistance from three per cent to 1.5 per cent during the 100-day review.
NDP leader ‘very, very worried’
NDP leader Andrea Horwath was quick to bring that up, too.
«I’m very, very worried,» she said. «We’ve seen a government that has continued to hurt the most vulnerable.»
MacLeod referred to the current social assistance programs, including Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
She said almost a million people are getting social assistance, costing the province $10 billion a year, which is «patchwork» and «disjointed.»
«These are real people and we want to make sure they get the support they need.»