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Social Assistance Review Advisory Council

April 30, 2010

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur Minister of Community & Social Services
Hepburn Block
6th Floor, 80 Grosvenor St
Toronto ON M7A1E9

Dear Minister:

In the 2010 provincial budget, the Ontario government announced that it had decided to wind down the Special Diet Allowance and to create a new program under the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. As your government considers its options for this transition, I am writing on behalf of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council with the following advice regarding the design and principles of the new nutritional supplement program:

  • An overarching policy objective of the new program should be to ensure that low-income Ontarians, including those on social assistance, who have medical conditions that require special dietary needs over and above the cost of a healthy diet can afford their dietary needs.
  • Current recipients of the special diet allowance should be grand parented into the new program, so long as they were in receipt of the special diet allowance through a proper application of the existing rules and regulations.
  • Key stakeholders should be engaged to ensure a coherent policy and delivery framework, including special diet allowance recipients, health care experts, community agencies, advocates, municipalities and social services delivery agents.
  • The unique conditions among First Nations should be recognized, as social Assistance on reserve is delivered under Ontario laws and policies. While Ontario Works is cost-shared with the federal government, there is no corresponding agreement, delivery mechanism or cost sharing on reserves for health programs. Transferring the special diet program to the health ministry may leave First Nations with no program at all, despite the high incidence of diabetes and other chronic illnesses, and the high cost of food. Ontario has to open discussions with First Nations and the federal government on the program transfer and not proceed until a positive resolution is agreed upon.

We would be pleased to discuss this matter further at your convenience and we look forward to submitting our report on terms of reference and scope for a social assistance review in the coming days.

Sincerely,

Gail Nyberg
On behalf of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council