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September 6, 2002
City releases report: update on province's zero tolerance policy for social assistance fraud
  
A report going before the City's Community Services Committee on September 12
provides an update on the implementation of the Province's zero tolerance
policy for social assistance fraud.

As of April 1, 2000, people convicted of social assistance fraud are banned
from receiving social assistance benefits for life, including benefits provided
under both Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program
(ODSP). One conviction triggers the ban.

"The City is concerned that the lifetime ban represents a disproportionate
response to the problem of fraud in the social assistance system," said
Councillor Olivia Chow, Chair of the Community Services Committee. "When the
zero tolerance policy was first introduced, City Council supported the Regional
Municipality of Waterloo's resolution that the Provincial government not
proceed with the implementation of a lifetime ban for individuals convicted of
social assistance fraud."

"The vast majority of people receiving social assistance in Toronto are
legitimately in need of the support," said Heather MacVicar, General Manager,
Social Services Division. "To put the fraud issue in perspective, it should be
pointed out that less than one per cent of the 11,800 allegations that Toronto
Social Services reviewed in 2001 were referred to the Division's Fraud Review
Unit because fraud was suspected. In fact, 80 per cent of the allegations were
untrue or inaccurate. Toronto Social Services has always made safeguarding the
financial integrity of the social assistance system a priority."

Toronto Social Services has put in place an effective series of fraud
prevention and control processes, and is committed to ensuring the integrity of
the OW program. The Division's actions have been reinforced by changes in the
OW legislation that have required municipalities to take additional steps to
investigate and control fraud. In most cases, Toronto Social Services
implemented these steps well prior to the legislation's passage.


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