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May 28, 2002
City surveys people in Toronto who left Ontario Works
People in Toronto who leave social assistance continue to face a poverty trap
from which it is difficult to escape, according to results of a City survey
released today at a meeting of the Community Services Committee. The survey of
more than 800 people who left Ontario Works (OW) in the first quarter of 2001
indicates that people are not significantly better off than they were while on
OW, or than they were five years ago.

Toronto's Social Services Division commissioned the random telephone survey to
gather reliable information about why people left OW, how they have fared, and
whether they are better off after leaving. Analysis of the survey data yielded
three key findings:

- Most people (77 per cent of survey respondents) worked at some point after
leaving OW.
- People are not necessarily better off financially after leaving OW. Only 43
per cent said their finances had improved.
- A sizeable group of people - 17 per cent - returned to OW in 2001. One third
of those who returned 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 indicator of the likelihood of former OW clients returning
to the caseload. Those who returned in 2001 were more likely to have less than
a high school education. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents said they
required access to education and skills upgrading to help them keep their
current job or find a better one. However, over the last five years, funding
cuts at both federal and provincial levels 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 City

Download a copy of the report in PDF file format at:

Media Contact
Councillor Brad Duguid
Ward 38 Scarborough Centre, Chair, Community Services Committee,



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