This paper talks about the current social assistance programs in Ontario, Canada. These programs are specially targeted to benefit the underprivileged, disadvantaged and disabled people. Efficiency of these programs depends upon incentive plans and also reducing bureaucracy and channeling the resources in the right direction. Cost effectiveness is key to this idea to distribute the economic resources fairly amongst the members of the society. A lot of money is spent on social welfare but the results are not as expected. Only a fraction of this money actually reaches the intended people. This calls for better strategy and management of social welfare programs.
The author talks about the chronic problems currently prevailing with social assistance programs. They are two separate programs currently running in Ontario namely – ODSP and Ontario Works. ODSP stands for Ontario Disability Support Program. The Ontario Works program is administered by the Ministry of Community and Social Services. OW is intended for those who need temporary financial assistance. The provincially delivered Ontario Disability Support Program is aimed to help people with disabilities and provide them with the resources to live independently. Together 6.7 per cent of Ontario’s total population relies on some form of social assistance. The author expresses concern about the large percentage of population dependent on social assistance and states that this is not sustainable. There has been evidence of higher costs and reduced quality of services because of two separate social assistance programs been maintained by two separate levels of government.
According to the author, the focus should be on helping people get back to work so they can get back on their feet and achieve their potential. All social assistance incentives should be geared towards this goal. The message should never be that recipients are better off going on welfare than going to work. There is a need to deal with the “Why work?” problem – the disincentive to work arising from social welfare programs that creates a small disparity between in-work and out-of-work incomes. Similarly, for those who have been on welfare for a long time but are able to work there should be focus to decrease the welfare incentives and these benefits and incentive should decline over time. Ontario’s social welfare system has been grappling with a series of severe issues. Eligibility rules, budget levels, caseload sizes, policy interpretations and court rulings all influence how the system operates. The job of the government is to manage and steer the activities of thousands of public servants. Yet when it succumbs to red tape and bureaucracy, it becomes inefficient and ineffective.
The author speaks about transforming Ontario’s social assistance system by replacing Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program with one program, focused on ability, not disability, while respecting the distinct needs of the people with disabilities. This one program will be streamlined and better coordinated. This single program would provide individualized employment services to all social assistance recipients, including those with disabilities. As stated earlier, the current rate of increase in social services is unsustainable and must be reduced