Last week we called for an emergency phone/email/tweet action in support of Adam. Adam had had bedbugs and was denied the Housing Stabilization Fund because he had gotten funds within the last two years. Adam has chronic leg and back pain and is recovering from shoulder surgery. Nevertheless, Toronto Employment and Social Services refused to accommodate him as a disabled person and said he had to keep sleeping on his concrete floor until at least October.
Instead, Adam called OCAP. The cheque for the maximum amount for soft furniture under the Housing Stabilization Fund policy is in the mail!
Thanks to everyone who took a couple of minutes to make this happen. Direct action gets the goods!
This past week we successfully fought the denial of a Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) application that replicated past patterns of arbitrary decision making. The applicant contacted us after having their requests for last month’s rent, moving expenses and furniture denied. The decision letter cited the applicant being “currently housed” as the reason for denial. It is absurd for a fund designed to “prevent homelessness” to deny emergency housing assistance to people on the basis that they aren’t yet homeless. It is also against the HSF’s administration policies which identify three criteria for the fund, two of which rely on the applicant being housed. In this case the applicant was seeking assistance to move to an apartment with lower rent.
Following OCAP’s intervention, the decision was reversed and the applicant was provided the full amount they were entitled to. But the case brings up concerns about the ongoing arbitrary decision making by Toronto Employment and Social Services.
In 2016 and 2017, we uncovered and exposed a series of problems in the administration of the fund through our report and subsequent actions. The fight resulted in substantial changes to the benefit (you can read our analysis of the changes here), one significant one being that after years of secrecy, the fund’s administrator – the Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS), was forced to release the HSF administration policy publicly. This greatly increased people’s ability to challenge unjust denials.
In summary, if your application for HSF is denied:
1. Check the HSF policy online to determine what you are entitled to.
2. Contact your local community legal clinic, or
3. Get in touch with us.
The Ford government has announced its planned changes to social assistance. It is clear they intend to use social assistance as a weapon in their war on the poor. OCAP’s analysis of the announcement can be read here.
Join us to help make sense of the cuts being proposed, and to talk about how we’re going to fight back.
Ford Government intensifies attack on Ontario’s poorest people
The social assistance reforms that the Ford Government announced today can well be described as the new Doug Ford Poor Laws. As expected, they’re making Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) significantly more restrictive and precarious.
The basic intention is to refine the system as a tool to push people into the lowest paying and most exploitative jobs on offer. It is entirely in line with the attack they have already carried on the minimum wage, workers’ rights, and job protections. Forcing people off social assistance while depressing working conditions in the midst of a housing crisis won’t move people out of poverty but will make the Progressive Conservative’s bankrolling base of business executives and owners even richer.
The reforms will divide people on social assistance into those deemed the most severely disabled and those who must join the scramble for jobs. The kind of “compassion” that severely disabled can expect from this Government is made clear from the fact that the social services Minister, Lisa McLeod, would offer no comment on whether any increases in social assistance rates can be expected over the next three years.
Those presently on ODSP will be grand-parented into the new system but new eligibility rules will use the more narrow federal definition of disability. Many who could get onto ODSP under the existing rules will be forced to try to live on OW, including having to look for work even when they are too unwell to do so.
All those who are deemed capable of working will be expected to comply with “individual action plans” and the Government’s “Open for Business” website will draw the most unscrupulous employers directly into the process. Local municipalities will be encouraged to compete with each other in the development of punitive and intrusive practices designed to hound people into scrambling for the worst jobs. The door is certainly open to the privatization of delivery and services.
The government also signalled that supplementary benefits accessed by people on social assistance will be moved from being mandatory to discretionary. These benefits will likely differ from municipality to municipality. So we’ll be left with a patchwork of benefits with no access to the Social Benefits Tribunal to appeal denials. Outright elimination of particular existing benefits remains a possibility.
People on OW will only be able to earn $300 monthly without claw backs, up from the current $200, but less than the $400 it was supposed to go up to this December. Earnings above $300 will be subject to a 75% claw back, which is worse than the current 50%. The earning exemption for ODSP changes to $6000 annually, but is again subject to the increased 75% claw back beyond that limit.
Over the next eighteen months the full viciousness of the Doug Ford Poor Laws will emerge but it is already clear that, for the Tories, social assistance is a weapon in their war on the poor.
On November 17, the Ford Conservatives will further their gruesome vision for Ontario at their party convention. Their government “for the (rich) people” has already attacked social assistance, job protections, minimum wage, healthcare, education, and environmental safeguards. They’re not finished. In two weeks, they’ll announce a series of sweeping cuts to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program.
Ford’s vision for Ontario is a grim one for ordinary people: where we are paid less but must pay more for services; where business executives and owners get richer by forcing the rest of us to work with fewer job and unemployment protections; where the rich unite in their quest to exploit and pit the rest of us against each other in a struggle to survive.
On November 17, we will demonstrate that attempts to “open Ontario for business” on this basis will be blocked. To make sure Ford gets the message, we’ll start with an action at Ford’s own business: Deco Labels and Tags.
It’s time to defend our communities. Join us.