As a social worker, I am exposed to a variety of people from many different backgrounds. Many need assistance with the most basic things including paying for food and shelter.
In my experience, the shelter and support portion of welfare programs in most jurisdictions are shamefully inadequate. One thing that's clear is that it's time to re-think ancient social policy. Too many children and families have been trapped for generations in a cycle of poverty. We need to find a way to lift the needy out of impoverishment and put quality of life for Canadians, rich and poor, at the top of the political agenda.
The existing welfare system evolved out of old English Poor Laws, which espoused the concept of "less eligibility." This meant that any welfare payment must be less than the wage of the least paid worker. It has created a race to the bottom and puts downward pressure on wages. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be great for business, but has hurt the health and well-being of the poor, and society in general.
I believe that one place to start would be to have one central income tax department issuing welfare cheques. There is no need for welfare offices in every city, in every province across the country. It is expensive and inefficient, and it stigmatizes the poor.
What if potential welfare applicants were required to apply online and receive their funds via direct deposit, with notification sent by email? This would mean they'd have to become Internet, email, and computer literate. This would make them more marketable to potential employers.
And if welfare recipients learned how to do their banking online, they might be inclined to learn more about their financial options and track their spending.
A strong, national welfare program backed by the Federal Treasury is better than 13 provincial and territorial piece-meal programs. This program would stimulate the economy, increase demand for goods and services, and lead to job creation. It would carry no more stigma than a sales tax refund, and would send a message that all Canadians deserve a basic quality of life that allows them to make the most of their potential.
In fact, implementing a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians who fall below the federal low-income cutoff is a great way to essentially abolish severe poverty in this country.
It is just plain wrong that thousands of children and families are living in poverty in a country as rich as Canada.
What would you do to improve the welfare system in Canada?
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