Bonnie Lysyk just handed Lisa MacLeod a big gift.
Lysyk, Ontario’s Auditor General, issued her 2018 Annual Report today and it shows waste and inefficiency throughout the provincial welfare system.
The report also shows that more people are on welfare, they are staying on it longer than they used to and few leave the program each year to actually take a job.
Basically, the system is a mess.
That is music to the ears of MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. She’s in charge of the welfare system and has been tasked with fixing it, something she told me she would be doing armed with this report.
“She confirms the system is broken and outlines a path forward that we have in large part accepted,” MacLeod said.
So what is wrong with Ontario’s system? Lysyk explains it all over 53 pages.
- Few recipients find employment and the
Ministry does not take action to improve
- The Ministry does not measure whether recipients find stable employment to become self-reliant.
- The underlying cause of overpayments to
recipients is not tracked, limiting the ability
of service managers to prevent them.
- Ministry efforts to prevent fraudulent special diet applications are insufficient.
- Decisions to waive recipient employment
participation requirements are questionable
when not supported with evidence.
- Service managers across Ontario are approximately one year behind investigating approximately 6,000 fraud tips to ensure only eligible recipients are receiving assistance.
And that is just the beginning.
According to the audit just 10-13% of Ontario Works recipients leave the program in any given year because they have found a job.
Since the last audit in 2008/09 the size and cost of Ontario Works has gone up dramatically. The cost has ballooned from $1.9 billion to $3 billion. There are now 450,000 people supported by Ontario Works.
Shockingly they stay on the program for an average of 35 months compared to 19 months in 2008/09.
A system that is supposed to be there to help people when they are down to get back on their feet is not working.
Service Managers told Lysyk that about 36% of cases are hard ones, people dealing with mental health issues and homelessness. Perhaps we need a different program to help people like this, or different resources and some people may never be able to work.
But that still leaves 64% of cases being managed by Ontario Works as employable.
We need to fix what is obviously a system that is not doing what is supposed to do, provide a safety net when needed and a pathway to a job.
There is also obvious abuse by some, as evidenced by Lysyk.
Case workers not following up with people that have been on the system a long time. People getting exemptions from work or special diet allowances without evidence to support those claims.
It all has to end.
Minister MacLeod is on board with fixing this, taking to Twitter to express her views.
The Ontario Works program was meant to promote self-reliance and help those in need while they look for a job. One in five people stay on the program for five years or longer, and just one per cent of Ontario Works recipients are leaving for work each month.
We must do better.
— Lisa MacLeod (@MacLeodLisa) December 5, 2018
Let’s hope MacLeod gets this one right.