Hopes & What Works

What We Heard

While there is much in the social assistance system that needs to change, we also heard that there are a lot of positives that can be built on. These include the people on the system themselves, some programs both inside and outside government and some frontline workers who really make a difference. All of these things tell us that change is possible.

All the people we interviewed had hopes — for themselves, their children and their community. They want to work, be productive and contribute. In fact, many were already doing so in numerous ways. Many wanted to turn their own lived experience and knowledge into an asset by working to help others. Ultimately people wanted to live as independently as possible given their circumstances.

Not all people will be able to work full time and leave the social assistance system. “Success” needs to be redefined in terms of helping people attain their full potential. Many non-profit and government programs in the community are doing just that, and we can learn from these examples.

For those who need some ongoing support, there are systems in place that help them manage and achieve some level of independence. Transitional housing organizations such as Habourlight were mentioned for the help they provide in overcoming active addiction and in developing healthier life skills.

Some people with physical disabilities were grateful that there are sources of funding, such as the March of Dimes and Assistive Devices Program, that help them cover things they need that ODSP does not pay for.

A common theme for those whose goal was to leave the system was that third-party support was critical. This usually meant a non-profit organization or a charitable agency to help them navigate the system. Some people were utilizing third-party supports more than others. Many were unaware of supports that existed, whether through social assistance or from an outside agency. Having these supports made a great deal of positive differences in people’s lives.

Certain programs and supports were noted as beneficial depending on the needs of certain communities. For example, newcomers to Canada mentioned how the work training placement programs are helpful because they give Canadian experience and enable the building of networks that are often essential in landing employment.

For some people, a helpful worker made all the difference. Some really appreciated the support received from their Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program caseworkers. For many, feeling like the worker was “on their side,” led to a more positive and productive relationship. In effect, the worker and client became a team. Another person mentioned how her worker frequently shared information in regards to any changes in the delivery of services, so the client had a heads up on what was happening and who to talk to.

As one Blueprinter said, “When a worker has that gift of treating a person with respect, compassion and dignity, you feel it, and you appreciate it by giving it back! In the end you walk out of the office feeling good about the visit and the decisions that were made.”