CCPA: Social assistance poverty gap skyrocketed

May 9, 2016

TORONTO – The poverty gap for single individuals who qualify for Ontario Works or its equivalent has increased by almost 200% since 1993, says a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Ontario office (CCPA-Ontario).

Ontario’s Social Assistance Poverty Gap measures the widening gap between the province’s core poverty indicator, the Low Income Measure (LIM), and the income support allocated to singles and families who qualify for Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.

“Whether you’re single, a single parent, or a family with children, if you qualify for social assistance in Ontario, you fall below the poverty line,” says Economist Kaylie Tiessen. “The gap is starkest for singles on Ontario Works and is dramatically worse than 20 years ago.”

Among the study’s key findings:

  • Between 1989 and 1993, the poverty gap was cut in half and singles on social assistance faced a poverty gap of 20 per cent.  The narrowing of the gap is attributed to the government’s decision to raise social assistance rates and invest in some of the most marginalized people in the province.
  • In 1995, the Mike Harris government slashed social assistance rates, dramatically deepening the poverty gap for singles.
  • In 2014, despite modest adjustments to social assistance rates and other supports such as the Ontario Trillium Benefit implemented by both the McGuinty and Wynne governments, the poverty gap for singles stood at a stark 59 per cent.
  • Though smaller than the gap for single individuals receiving Ontario Works, the poverty gap for all family types has followed a similar pattern, growing dramatically over time. The poverty gap for the additional family types studied is between 30 and 40 per cent.

“Closing the poverty gap requires investments through rate increases as well as benefits, such as the Trillium Benefit, delivered to all low income people. Closing the gap would go a long way to help the province meets its poverty reduction commitments over the next few years,” says Tiessen.

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