Tuesday, 3 January 2012

We're Cutting What Now?: Hardship Fund, Christmas Bureau and Child Care Edition

Over the next two weeks there's going to be a lot of talk about which programs and services to cut and which should avoid the chopping block. But you also get the sense that not enough is known about each of these programs, what they do and how much they each cost. 

Over the next week or so I'll do a series here at the Clamshell going through the various programs in a summary format so that when something comes up it's easy to look up information or explain a program to someone else. 

Today: The Hardship Fund, Christmas Bureau and three child care centres

Hardship Fund: This fund is designed to assist seniors, disabled people and the 'working poor' who live on their own and are not using any other kind of social program like ODSP with the purchase of needed prescription medication, wheelchairs, prosthetics, glasses and dental care. The idea behind the fund is to act as a care provider of last resort for people who fall through the cracks of other programs. 

The numbers: The Hardship Fund assists 1,300 people annually at a cost of $900,000. This works out to 60 cents on the average property tax bill. 

The case for it: Treating healthcare issues before they become worse saves much more money done the line. For instance, it's better to provide the needed prescription medication for an individual at home than wait for a chronic condition to escalate to the point where he or she needs critical care. But more than the hard costs, there's also the matter of respect and dignity both for the people in need and the city at large. After all, how can our city have respect and dignity for itself if it sells out those values for its seniors for 60 cents? 

The case against it: Not only does every little bit help, but the Hardship Fund is exactly the kind of thing the provincial government should cover. Toronto is not in the business of covering the province's social service costs. Cutting the Hardship Fund comes with a request for the province to do its share and fund the difference, and with this we can go towards the more fair and equitable relationship with the province that Toronto needs. 

The politics: In September, there was a 23-22 vote to cut the fund in principle. Jaye Robinson was in dissent while Gloria Lindsay Luby, James Pasternak and Ron Moeser voted to cancel it. 

Candidate Rob Ford: When I'm Mayor, the gravy train party will come to an end, ladies and gentleman, and more money will be spent on seniors. That's where money should be spent. -Rob Ford speaking at a midtown seniors mayoral forum in June 2010.  

Further reading: The Toronto Star did a good profile on a senior who used the fund to get a bed she needed that would not give her bed sores: 

The Wellesley Institute also did a report on the fund.

The city website

The Christmas Bureau: Since 1956, a bureau that is run in the last few months of the year to co-ordinate charitable donations from outside groups. The idea is that one central body that has access to identifying the people in need of Christmas gifts (through social services) can more efficiently allocate the gifts,leaving outside groups to fundraise and promote their cause, which they are better geared to do. 

The numbers: The Christmas Bureau assists 138,000 children and families at a cost of $151,000. This works out be ten cents on the average property tax bill. 

The case for it: If this program didn't exist, it would be exactly the kind of thing Rob Ford would want. The Christmas bureau is already an efficiency; it ensures that there's not a duplication of resources and that the best candidates for gifts are connected with the program. Additionally, it's exactly the kind of thing that that makes our city more livable and lends credence to 'Toronto the Good'. 

The case against it: The Christmas Bureau is a nice to have but not a must have. This is the kind of program that the city should let the non-profit sector to take over. 

The politics: In September, there was a 25-20 vote to cut the bureau in principle. Ford ally Michael Thompson was in dissent while Ana Bailao, Chin Lee, Gloria Lindsay Luby, Ron Moeser and Jaye Robinson supported cutting it. 

Mayor Rob Ford: It's our goal to make this holiday season a festive and memorable one for everyone in the city of Toronto - Ford at the launch of the City of Toronto toy drive 

Further Reading: Torontoist did an excellent summary of the Bureau a few weeks ago. 

The city website 

Child care: The budget proposes closing three child care centers: St. Mark's at Queen and Lansdowne, Belleview at College and Bathurst and Greenholme-Albion in Etobicoke. Meanwhile, existing child care fees could rise $500 per child

The numbers: There are currently 55 city-run daycares and closing these three would save around $1 million annually, or 65 cents on the average property tax bill. The three daycares provide 100 child care spots and there is currently a waiting list of 20,000 for the city's child care subsidies. 

The case for it: Judging by the waiting list, there's clearly not enough capacity for child care demand as it is, let alone cutting it. These programs ensure proper care for children and enable parents- particularly single moms and low-income earners- to stay off social assistance, work, progress in their careers and add to the tax base rather than taking away from it. 

The case against it: With the province providing all-day kindergarten, the need for child care will diminish. Besides, what are we doing in this business anyway? Can't the private sector do it better?

The politics: A September vote to not pursue child care cuts lost 25-20, with Jaye Robinson, Chin Lee, Gloria Lindsay Luby, James Pasternak and Ron Moeser voting against it. 

Candidate Rob Ford: Ford pledged to invest more in child care with the money found from city gravy, as seen in his Financial Plan Backgrounder below:

Further Reading: The Toronto Star did a piece on this issue a few weeks ago that provides a good outline of how the debate will proceed in Council. 

The city website. 

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