Quote of the week
“…we chart a new course for social assistance towards a simpler, more effective, and more accountable system…”
— Brighter Prospects: Transforming Social Assistance in Ontario
Frances Lankin’s and Munir Sheik’s review of social assistance programs in Ontario makes the case for a radical overhaul of a patchwork quilt of over 45 different income-based benefit programs.
To begin with, they note that the overall growth in social program spending has grown: the province and municipalities spent more than $8.3 billion on social assistance in 2011-12.
There is another challenge: the sheer complexity of the system. The multiple programs are delivered through many different service providers, under many different funding arrangements.
The result is confusing to the citizen. And on top of that, from a taxpayer perspective, even though the costs are huge, many of the programs are not meeting their outcomes.
And so the question is: How do you ensure efficiency at an affordable cost?
One way could be to leverage new technologies and approaches in the social services sphere to increase efficiencies, save costs and better serve citizens.
Could the government turn Ontario’s benefits system into a fully integrated model with a single point of access for benefits and a coordinated interface for clients? This would make programs more effective, reduce costs in the long run and improve service.
Mobile, social media, the cloud and big data/analytics technologies could be part of an integrated, enterprise model for a common platform that would manage programs across all key departments and stakeholders.
And technological solutions could build a common access point so that citizens, community partners and service providers can interact with benefits and social services programs quickly and cheaply.