TORONTO, October 2/06
– Anti-poverty activists are pleading with the McGuinty government to stop robbing families on social assistance of their desperately needed child benefit. They are calling on Premier McGuinty to keep his election promise to end the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS). With only one year left in his mandate, activists insist the Premier must make ending the clawback a priority as the Legislature resumes business this fall.
“Keeping the money from these children ultimately puts them at greater risk for injury, chronic illness and premature mortality,” warns Dr. Pellizzari, Medical Officer of Health for Perth District. “Many of these children have parents who are too sick or too disabled to work. Clawing back their baby bonus cheque only accentuates their risk and deprivation.”
The NCBS is intended to reduce the depth of child poverty. However, approximately 75 per cent of the benefit is deducted from people on social assistance. A family on social assistance with one child receives only $40 per month of the NCBS, rather than the full $162. Ending the clawback is an urgent priority as social assistance rates are dangerously low. A single mother with one child receives $987 per month from Ontario Works, the province’s welfare program. The average rent in Ontario for a two-bedroom apartment is $903 per month.
Nurses know the consequences of poverty, according to Joan Lesmond, immediate past president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario. “We see it in our practice. Many families that receive social assistance can’t make ends meet because almost all of their money goes to paying the rent, leaving little or nothing to buy healthy and nutritious food. That means children from poor families are more likely to experience poor mental and physical health as a result,” says Lesmond.
Beverley Halls, a single mother on the Ontario Disability Support Program, is subject to the clawback. “The government wants to punish us for being on social assistance. But I don’t choose to be on social assistance. The truth is that with a small child and a disability it’s very difficult to find a suitable job,” says Halls.
Approximately $256 million dollars a year is clawed back from families on social assistance. It is reinvested in programs designed to help low-income people, such as rent banks and childcare supplements. Anti-poverty activists are calling for the government to end the clawback and find the money necessary to maintain the reinvestment programs.
“Kids are going hungry and families are being forced into homeless shelters because the McGuinty government has not kept its promise to end the clawback,” says Sarah Blackstock, research and policy analyst with the Income Security Advocacy Centre. “Blame for this misery lies with the McGuinty government. The opportunity to alleviate this misery also lies with the McGuinty government.”