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Kawartha Lakes food Source Response to Feed Ontario’s Social Assistance Changes in Ontario: Forecasting the Impact of the Government of Ontario’s Proposed Reforms

Back in April 2019, Feed Ontario (formerly Ontario Association of Food Banks) released a report forecasting the impact of the Government of Ontario’s proposed reforms to social assistance and put forth three key recommendations for change. While the article offers a province wide history and prediction, the patterns described are directly reflected within the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Kawartha Lakes Food Source distributes food to 34 member agencies or organizations within our community, which in turn provide food to 5,500 individuals. Of these individuals, 1/3 is on social assistance programming and 1/3 is on provincial disability support.

Unfortunately, social assistance rates do not reflect today’s cost of living, and individuals or families too often do not have enough income to afford all their necessities, leaving them to make tough decisions between putting a roof over their heads or having enough to eat each month. Within Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, and Northumberland County 13.5% of households are food insecure, 1.6% above the provincial average. While some of the proposed changes made by the Ontario Government are a step in the right direction, some are also a cause for concern and may result in worsening food insecurity.

In November of 2018, the provincial government announced several changes to Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) which were intended to help social assistance recipients break the cycle of poverty. Significant reforms include an increase in earning exemptions for both OW and ODSP accompanied by a subsequent 25% increase in clawbacks on earnings. Additionally, the ODSP definition of disability is to be aligned with federal guidelines which may lead to the exclusion of individuals with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, or other episodic disabilities.

The Kawartha Lakes Food Source stands with the following recommendations made by Feed Ontario. First, retain the current definition of ‘disability’ in Ontario. Second, reduce the clawback on earned income under OW and ODSP from 75% to 50%. Lastly, invest in affordable housing through construction, repairs, and a portable housing benefit.

For more information, please read the full report Social Assistance Changes in Ontario: Forecasting the Impact of the Government of Ontario’s Proposed Reforms by Feed Ontario.