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Women speak out against Liberal plans to cut social assistance benefits

TORONTO, Ont. – On the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, community groups marched on the office of Laurel Broten, the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, to demand that her government change its plan to cut the “Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit” (CSUMB) or face a rising groundswell of opposition and protest.

“I hear from women all the time, across the province, who are facing abuse or domestic violence and have difficulty leaving or getting started up somewhere new because they are living in poverty,” said Liisa Schofield of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). “The cut to CSUMB would put low-income women and children at further risk. Today we are holding the Liberal government to account and demanding that they reverse this vicious cut to CSUMB and raise the rates of social assistance to where people can live with health and dignity.”

The CSUMB helps about 16,000 people every month in Ontario. It is one of the only ways that people on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program can cover the costs of moving or obtain the basic items they need to maintain a home. It is a defence against homelessness and gives many women the resources they need to be able to leave situations of domestic violence. The Liberal government’s 2012 budget brought a number of regressive cuts to social assistance, including to the CSUMB, slated for elimination in 2013.

Angela is a woman who hopes and prays she’ll never need the CSUMB again, and she asked Minister Broten to work to protect it. The benefit helped Angela get her hydro reconnected in the middle of winter.

“The CSUMB needs to be accessible to all those who may need these funds to cover such items as moving expenses, basic furnishings, first and last month’s rent, assistance with paying rental arrears to avoid eviction, help with payment of basic utilities such as hydro and water,” she said. “It will be a crying shame to have a city as prosperous as Toronto not to have the social safety net to help and protect the most vulnerable and needy. Let the CSUMB remain available and attainable to all who need it.”

Protecting this benefit and raising social assistance rates should be a high priority for the next Ontario Liberal leader, said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair of CUPE Ontario’s Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee.

“There is a great opportunity for leadership candidates to take a position that enough is enough,” Poole-Cotnam said. “The next Liberal leader has to walk the talk of poverty reduction, not make poverty worse by cutting social assistance benefits and undermining collective bargaining. Social justice in Ontario has to be a real priority for the next leader of the Liberal party.”

Without CSUMB, women and children leaving violent situations or leaving first stage emergency shelters in Ontario may be forced to choose between homelessness and staying in or returning to a dangerous situation, said Susan Young, Director of the Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH).

“November is Woman Abuse Prevention Month, and November 25th marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women,” Young said. “The Ontario government must maintain the CSUMB or it will risk putting more women and children at risk of violence. The CSUMB can be a lifeline. We hope Minister Broten will take the message back to her government – don’t cut the CSUMB.”


For more information, please contact:

Liisa Schofield, Organizer, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, 416-899-6445

Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, Chair, Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee, CUPE Ontario, 613-864-1061

Susan Young, Director, Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH), 647-213-0377

David Robbins, CUPE Ontario Communications, 613-878-1431, [email protected]