In this week’s eBulletin:
- Quote of the Week
- Open Letter to Deb Matthews
- Five Principles for the new Ontario Nutritional Supplement Program
- Take Action on the Five Principles
- Are You On Special Diet? Tell Your Story
- 25 in 5 Leadership Forum Charts Next Steps
“Fighting poverty brings us together. Living in poverty tears us apart.”
Who said it? Gunnar, a member of the People’s Blueprint for Social Assistance, at the 25 in 5 Leadership Forum held in Toronto May 17 and 18.
Read more about the People’s Blueprint for Social Assistance on Peacock Poverty.
On principles for the Ontario Nutritional Supplement Program
From 25 in 5, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, and the ODSP Action Coalition
Dear Minister Matthews,
The decision the McGuinty government has taken to end the Special Diet Allowance for people on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program has been interpreted as a disturbing signal about the degree to which government is committed to the goals of poverty reduction and the importance of protecting the human rights of people with disabilities.
However, it also presents you with the opportunity to create a new program that will address the acknowledged shortcomings of the Special Diet Allowance program, while ensuring continuation of the important financial support it provides to people with documented health challenges.
In light of the government’s announcement that the Ministry of Health will be creating a replacement program for the Special Diet Allowance, we are writing to forward our proposal for Five Principles that should form the basis for this new program.
The Ontario government is replacing the Special Diet Allowance Program with a new nutritional supplement program.
The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction, Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, ODSP Action Coalition along with a growing number of other individuals and organizations urge the Ontario government to use the following five principles as guideposts for the development of an “Ontario Nutritional Supplement’:
1. CLEAR POLICY OBJECTIVE: People who depend on social assistance benefits, who have associated additional dietary costs due to health challenges, should receive the additional financial support that they need for dietary purposes.
2. ACCESSIBILITY, ADEQUACY, AND EQUITY: The new program must be driven by a commitment to genuine accessibility, adequate levels of support, regular adjustments to keep up with rising costs, and equity.
3. MEET THE NEED: the new program should provide monetary support to address the diversity of needs. It should start with a downpayment equivalent to that of the Special Diet Program.
4. RESPONSIBILITY FOR CURRENT RECIPIENTS: Ontario should commit that anyone who meets the criteria of the Special Diet Allowance Program should be granted access to the current program and that no one will be worse off as a result of the transition.
5. TAKE THE TIME TO GET IT RIGHT:Consulting with key stakeholders – including health care experts, community agencies, advocates, municipalities, social services delivery agents, and people with lived experience – can help ensure that the new program will have a coherent policy objective and a sound delivery mechanism.
Help make sure the new Ontario Nutritional Supplement meets the test:
- Show your support for the Five Principles above by endorsing them online.
Endorse as an individual or get your organization to endorse.
- Email Minister Deb Matthews to tell her you agree with these principles, using 25 in 5’s automatic email.
- Tell your MPP that you support these principles.
Find out who your MPP is at the Elections Ontario website, then click on “Information about your MPP” to get their contact info.
- Tell your story about the benefit you’ve had from being on Special Diet, on 25 in 5’s Without Special Diet page.
Share what it will mean to you if the government’s new Nutritional Supplement program doesn’t meet the Five Principles test.
If you work with people currently receiving Special Diet, please tell them about this opportunity to tell their story.
If the provincial government’s new Nutritional Supplement program doesn’t meet the test of the Five Principles, people who are currently getting the Special Diet Allowance will lose a very important source of support.
We want to know what the impact on people will be.
If you are currently receiving Special Diet, please tell us your story using 25 in 5’s Without Special Diet webpage.
If you are a friend or family member of a person on Special Diet, or if you work with people who are on Special Diet, please let them know about this opportunity to tell their story.
We will use your stories to demonstrate to government how important Special Diet has been for the people who need it, and how important it will be for them to create a Nutritional Supplement program that meets the need.
Living Wage campaigns. Active engagement in the upcoming Social Assistance Review. All Candidates’ Meetings and events across the province during this fall’s municipal elections.
These are just some of the issues and ideas that the more than 120 grassroots activists and advocates raised at the 25 in 5 Leadership Forum on May 17 and 18.
Participants came to Toronto from 17 communities across Ontario to take stock, check in, and think about 25 in 5’s next steps.
On Monday night, old friends and colleagues connected with many new Network partners, including members of the People’s Blueprint Panel. Their personal stories and commitment to change a broken welfare system inspired all the attendees with their energy, optimism, and enthusiasm for the work head. The music and singing was pretty inspiring too!
On Tuesday the Network heard from communities disproportionately affected by poverty, such as racialized groups, newcomers, women, and people with disabilities. The need for population-specific reforms within the broader push for social justice was underscored.
We also heard from Laurel Broten, Minister Responsible for Poverty Reduction, as well as Michael Prue, NDP MPP and poverty critic, and Conservative MPP Toby Barrett. We heard that poverty reduction remains on the Queen’s Park agenda for all parties, and that we must continue to push in every way to ensure progress continues.
In our strategy sessions, we were mindful that making progress will not be easy. High unemployment and underemployment means a greater need for smarter policies. Government deficits present challenges to our call for social investments. Competing priorities in the public arena mean we must never let up our energy.
But there are many stories from across the province about groups of people who are making a difference in their communities. Our success will be based on our ability to work together across issues and geographies, and never miss an opportunity to take advantage of upcoming political moments.
In the months ahead, the 25 in 5 Network will remain a hub where activists can connect on emerging issues, share information on what each other is doing, and take joint action to achieve tangible progress towards sustaining employment, livable incomes, and strong and supportive communities.
Thanks to all who attended, and who continue to bring their commitment and dedication to the eradication of poverty to the 25 in 5 table.