Reducing Poverty for Everyone - Message from Kitchener-Waterloo

Oct 4 2013

At today's Poverty Reduction Consultations in Kitchener, the community was determined to broaden the focus of the strategy in Ontario: Increase Social Assistance Supports, Increase Labour Standards and Minimum Wage, Invest and Lift everyone out of poverty. The regional priorities remain housing and health. The Minister of Community and Social Services, Ted McMeekin said: "No one is guilty for needing assistance and we are all responsible for finding solutions".

Read the consultation submission from the Poverty Free Kitchener-Waterloo Action Group and see the faces and the voices from the Waterloo Region participants on our facebook album.

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Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion
6th Floor, Hepburn Block, 80 Grosvenor Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1E9

Kitchener, October 4th 2013

Submission to the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy Consultations “Breaking the Cycle”

We assert the following points as the most important for the overall Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy. These points have emerged through all local consultations to this point and have been the foundation of earlier submissions, particularly those related to social assistance reform.

• Immediately increase the base rate of social assistance by $100 a month without paying for it by cutting other benefits • Social assistance rates should be raised to bring all recipients out of deep poverty (i.e. above 80% of the Ontario Low Income Measure) • Restore the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit

• Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program should not be merged as this will disadvantage ODSP recipients • We have to challenge the underlying assumptions that everyone is able to work in the current labor market conditions

• Minimum wage should be increased to 10% above Low Income Measure so that all full-time, full-year workers earn income bringing them above the poverty line
• Integrated policies should be guiding the investment to help people find and keep decent work: increase of Child Benefit, accessible Employment Insurance, affordable childcare, and improvement and enforcement of employment standards.

Report from a Community Discussion held September 27th 2013

The Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo and its partners in Poverty Free Kitchener-Waterloo group had provided input to the Ontario Government regarding priorities for social assistance reform and poverty reduction strategies since 2008. The Group encourages all Members of Provincial Parliament, regardless of their political stripe, to work together to address economic inequality and invest in fair and integrated supports and infrastructure, regardless of the economic context. This will provide the foundation necessary for achieving prosperity in Ontario and providing supports and services when it is most needed.

We expect that no further consultations will be done before firm action is taken to ensure the Ontario social assistance system provides adequate incomes for a healthy quality of life and until all people working full time are lifted out of poverty. These are the clear priorities that we have validated yet again at the most recent community discussion on Poverty Reduction held in Kitchener-Waterloo on September 27th 2013.

In addition, the emphasis on employment for those with disabilities has limited merit without clearly recognizing that many are not, nor will they ever, be marketable in our current employment environment. Re-examining labour conditions and ensuring decent and accessible full-time and part-time jobs has to be open to alternative approaches and wider community contributions.

We hope the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion will be the one to jointly promote the shift in policies and strategies in which poverty is not seen as attributed to individuals, but rather an attribute of the communities and the society we live in. That will allow us to counter the systemic roots of poverty and call for collective responsibility in eliminating conditions of unequal income distribution keeping people in poverty.

Regarding the multiple but connected consultations on poverty reduction, we again raise the importance of integrated systems and different Ministries working together. We think that there are as well, more meaningful and more accessible ways of working together on poverty reduction. The community effort in creating a local framework to measure successful poverty reduction outcomes includes ensuring the presence of a diversity of local stakeholders to ensure there is ongoing meaningful local input.

This is what the community members reiterated at the September 27th meeting in Kitchener as important in creating a more inclusive process that goes beyond occasional consultations:

• Ensuring diverse input in how collaboration/consultations are designed to include stakeholder’s perspective and values
• Ensuring clear language and appropriate content for a diversity of stakeholders
• Ensuring tailored opportunities for input for people with different abilities
• Creating a welcoming environment of trust and respect
• Providing adequate timelines for input
• Discussion and feedback materials being accessible beyond Internet
• Providing a list of action items and timelines that result from what has been heard
• Providing support to local partners for popular education and organization of community meetings to sustain meaningful communication and collaboration

Thank you for considering the input of our community. We support all efforts to act decisively to achieve the goals of the Poverty Reduction Strategy in Ontario.

Poverty Free Kitchener Action Group Click on the image to see enlarged framework.

PovertyFreeKW_OPRSConsultationOct4th2013.pdf328.57 KB