For-profit welfare scheme draws concerns


The idea of a welfare system in Ontario run by multinational, for-profit corporations strikes Dr. Gary Bloch as a bit odd.  "Where I get worried about it, is thinking around, really, what are the goals? What are the incentive structures put in place and who will be administering this?" asked the researcher and family physician with St. Michael's Hospital's City Health Associates. "We know there will be private companies bidding to help administer this system. That, to me, is extremely concerning."

Last month, the Ontario government quietly launched a three-year pilot program in for-profit welfare in Hamilton-Niagara, Peel and Muskoka-Kawartha.

These three regions will be the forerunners of a province-wide system the government has already mapped out. Eventually, Ontario will be carved into 15 regions. In each region, municipalities, non-profits and for-profit corporations will be invited to bid through a "Request for Proposals" process to manage the caseload of clients on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) in each region.

The government's latest experiment with welfare reform has been tried before in Australia and the United Kingdom. The results were bad, said Maytree Foundation director of policy and research Garima Talwar Kapoor.

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