News, Social Assistance

New data shows Ontario to deny basic needs to approximately 32,000 children

Re-posted from Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

The Ontario government has introduced a law that will cancel the Transition Child Benefit on November 1, 2019.

With Ontario’s changes, families living in poverty who are ineligible for child tax benefits will experience a significant loss of up to $230 per month per child. A typical two-parent households with two children, for example, will see a 27% drop in their income from Ontario Works.

Only Ontario has taken this drastic measure that will deepen child poverty.

In May 2019 we reported on the Ontario government’s plans. Since then we have learned new details, including information about the people who rely on this benefit to feed and clothe their children. We are taking action.

Background

Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provide very low monthly payments to impoverished individuals and families who have no other means to pay for their necessities. Monthly benefits include a “basic needs” allowance for adults (to cover necessities such as food and clothing) and a “shelter” allowance.

OW and ODSP do not provide a basic needs allowance for most children. Parents are expected to pay for their children’s necessities with federal and provincial tax benefits that together provide maximum monthly payments of around $700 per month for a single child.

Some OW and ODSP recipients are ineligible for tax benefits, mainly because of their immigration status. Currently, Ontario ensures that these families can pay for their children’s necessities through the Transition Child Benefit.

On November 1st, Ontario is cancelling the Transition Child Benefit, leaving low-income parents without money to pay for things like food, clothing, diapers and formula for their children. The only exception to the cancellation will be OW recipients who live on a First Nation reserve.

What have we learned recently?

ISAC asked the Ontario government to share information about the Transition Child Benefit. Our research has shown that:

  • The cut to the Transition Child Benefit will affect approximately 16,000 families with 32,000 children each month.
  • The Transition Child Benefit is a very small part of the social assistance budget, amounting to approximately $67 million each year, only 0.7% of the total cost of social assistance in Ontario. But because families who eventually qualify for the tax-delivered benefits have to pay back some of the benefit, the actual cost of the benefit is even smaller: $56.8 million.
  • Refugee claimant families make up 35% of the families who need the Transition Child Benefit to ensure their children have access to necessities.

The families who will be most impacted by the denial of a basic needs allowance for children are those who:

  • Are not eligible for the Canada Child Benefit because of their immigration status (such as refugee claimants and other migrants) and thus rely on the Transition Child Benefit long-term;
  • Are waiting for their Canada Child Benefit application to be processed (e.g. after the birth of a newborn);
  • Have had their Canada Child Benefit suspended pending a tax audit, a suspension that can last for lengthy periods;
  • Have not yet had their tax benefits adjusted after experiencing a drop in their income as compared to the prior tax year (e.g. due to job loss);
  • Are not eligible for the Canada Child Benefit because they did not file their income taxes for the prior tax year.

What is at stake?

 There is a lot at stake with the loss of the Transition Child Benefit:

  • Parents will be unable to feed and clothe children, undermining their health and causing lifelong consequences.
  • It will be more difficult for mothers to leave situations of violence because of financial dependence on their (and the child’s) abuser.
  • Indigenous and Black children are already taken into state care at vastly disproportionate rates on grounds of parental “negligence” concerns that are tied to poverty. By deepening poverty, the cancellation of the Transition Child Benefit will increase the risk that their children will be separated from their parents.
  • These kinds of impacts threaten engage a number of important human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to be free from cruel and unusual treatment; and the right to equality.

ISAC has given notice to the government of Ontario that we intend to bring a legal challenge to the denial of basic needs for the children of social assistance recipients. To read our notice, click here.

If you are being affected by the cancellation of the Transition Child Benefit, you can share your story with us by filling out this form.

Many communities are taking action to save the Transition Child Benefit. Check our website regularly for updates. To print out a copy of this fact sheet, click here.

Note: This post gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation. For legal advice, please contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic at 613-541-0777.

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