April 1, 2008

Income support programs assist residents in need

York Region’s ongoing investigations saved taxpayers $3.9 million in 2007
NEWMARKET – The Regional Municipality of York shows its commitment to helping residents who need assistance by ensuring they receive what is owing to them and by stopping payments to people whose improved circumstances mean they no longer require assistance.
York Regional Council has approved staff reports outlining two separate ongoing reviews of social assistance allowances, subsidized child care and social housing benefits and eligibility conducted by the Region to meet follow-up and investigative functions mandated by the Province.
“York Region treats all residents with dignity and fairness,” said York Region Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch.  “We help to ensure families receive the financial support they are entitled to and we deliver accountable social programs that prevent abuse of the system.”
Through legislation, the Province requires York Region to regularly review the eligibility of residents who require assistance and to ensure that participants’ receive the income support they need to provide for their families.  Single parents currently make up 37 per cent of participants in the Ontario Works social assistance program.
“Obtaining the income support they are entitled to is an important first step for participants in becoming financially independent,” said Town of Richmond Hill Regional Councillor Brenda Hogg, Chair of the Region’s Community Services and Housing Committee.  “It helps participants minimize their reliance on support programs, which lowers the costs associated with social assistance, child care and housing and helps to ensure the sustainability of the program over the long term.”
The Region’s Family Support Team works with Ontario Works and Housing York Inc. participants to ensure that benefits and eligibility are appropriately delivered.  The team works closely with sole support parents to pursue child and spousal support income on participants’ behalf by negotiating private support agreements or assisting with court applications for support.
In 2007, the Family Support Team completed 2,086 reviews.  It obtained 371 court orders and private agreements for support income to be delivered to families.  In addition, it found 137 overpayments and terminated 59 cases for reasons such as refusal to pursue support, reconciliation with spouses, or participants had obtained a support order in excess of their benefit entitlement.
The Eligibility Review Team also works with Ontario Works participants as well as residents who receive rent-geared-to-income housing assistance and child care fee assistance to ensure compliance with the programs, investigate suspected fraud and recover overpayments.
The Eligibility Review Team completed 1,118 investigations resulting in 127 participants having their assistance terminated due to changes in eligibility.  Another 25 participants had the amount of their assistance reduced and 10 cases (fewer than one per cent) in which fraud was alleged to have occurred were referred to York Regional Police and are under investigation.
The Eligibility Review Team either recovered or avoided ongoing costs totalling $2.1 million while the total for the Family Support Team was $1.8 million.  Of the $3.9 million total of recovered or avoided costs, 80 per cent would be either returned to or saved by the Province.  Twenty per cent of the total, or approximately $780,000, represents the savings to York Region taxpayers in 2007.
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Media Contact: Tim Paleczny, Communications Specialist, York Region
 Phone:  905 830-4444, ext. 1238, (416) 297-9696 or Toll free 1-877-464-9675
 Cell:  905 251-6413  Email: tim.paleczny@york.ca

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