May 29 2002 - A Toronto City survey of people leaving
social assistance still face a poverty trap from which it is difficult to escape.
Toronto's Social Services Division commissioned the random telephone
survey of more than 800 people who left Ontario Works (OW) in the first quarter
of 2001 to find out how they fared, and whether they are better off after leaving.
The survey indicates that people are not significantly better off than they were while on OW, or than they were five
The survey data revealed three key findings:
* 77% of survey respondents worked at some point after leaving OW.
* Just 43% said their finances had improved.
* 17% returned to OW in 2001 - a third of these were ill or disabled.
"Having a skilled workforce is vital to Toronto's economic health and
development," said Councillor Brad Duguid, Ward 38 Scarborough Centre, Chair
of the Community Services Committee. "We encourage senior levels of government
to re-invest in strategies that recognize education, supports and skills
upgrading for people on social assistance. Not only do people need to connect
to the labour market, they need to secure stable jobs and increase their
earning potential over time."
Education is a key factor in determining who is likely to return to OW -
returners in 2001 were more likely to have less than a high school education.
And 38% of survey respondents said they required access to education and skills
upgrading to help them keep their current job or find a better one. Unfortunately,
funding cuts at both federal and provincial levels over the last five years have substantially reduced access
to education and training.
"Many people can't break the cycle of moving back and forth between
social assistance and marginal employment," said Heather MacVicar, General
Manager of Social Services. "While our clients obtain jobs, they are typically
unstable and low paying with few benefits. Our survey finds that our clients
want to work, and most of them use at least one job-related service that the
The Toronto City Web site is at www.city.toronto.on.ca