Thursday, 1 December 2011

Filing taxes for social service eligibility = more people fallingthrough the cracks?

I was talking with a social services provider today about current eligibility standards for various Ontario social services programs. I mentioned new eligibility criteria that I'd come across for a particular service, and she said that she'd heard rumours that it may become part of eligibility criteria for the sector in which she works: filing taxes.

Makes sense, right? Taxes pay for social services...shouldn't people who use social services pay taxes and contribute to the funding of these services?

Ideally, yes. But the idea of making social service eligibility contingent on filing taxes troubles me.

Just Because People Aren't Filing Taxes Doesn't Necessarily Mean that They Are Trying to "Get Something For Nothing"

I know that there are people are out there who are avoiding filing taxes. I know that people have a number of reasons for doing so. I'm concerned that if receiving social services becomes contingent on filing taxes, people with disabilities who may not understand the importance of filing their taxes each year, such as someone with an intellectual disability or someone with a mental disorder, may be ineligible for services that they need. Not everyone with these disabilities has supportive family or friends to assist them with filing taxes, and government cutbacks to agency supports means that sometimes people may not have a support worker to assist them either.

A Step in the Wrong Direction

Social services eligibility criteria requiring someone to file taxes penalizes people who already may be very vulnerable, and potentially removes the opportunity to receive support from people who may be very badly in need of it already.

It's not a good way to go. Hearing that at least one Ontario service that I know have has gone this way and that another may go the same way made me feel sad and disappointed. We can do better for the vulnerable people in our society.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you that these policies will make it more difficult for those who most need the services. The really unfortunate thing is that this is just one initiative and there are bound to be many more. Quite simply each time the government adds a 'hurdle' in any form, one more extra step, one more hoop to jump through, approximately 10% of claimants will drop their claims. The money saved theoretically justifies the inconvenience to claimants. The reality is that people taking advantage and people who have a real need are both as likely to withdraw.

    *sigh* It only gets harder.