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Advocacy Workshop Summary

(posted: September 17, 2016)


Advocacy 1 Workshop: Join the movement – Sept. 2016

“The Society helps those in need to speak for themselves.  When they cannot, the Society must speak on their behalf so that they will not be ignored”
Statute 3.22 of the Rule and Statutes of the Society

Why do people who live in poverty have difficulty in speaking for themselves?

  • They are intimidated by people in power
  • They don’t have advocacy skills
  • They are afraid of reprisals
  • It’s more difficult to advocate for oneself
  • Life has kicked them around so much that they’ve given up
  • No self-respect – who would listen to them anyway?
  • Because of all these issues, Vincentians need to take the lead in advocacy on their behalf but we can help our neighbours-in-need to be heard by telling their stories in a genuine way.

What are the greatest needs of our neighbors in need that we see in our work as Vincentians?
Our neighbours in need lack the most basic things for a dignified life especially decent, affordable housing, money for food, clothing and basic needs, opportunities for education and employment
Some signs that there is progress in the poverty reduction landscape.
Provincially:

  • 1.5% increase in OW and ODSP rates this year instead of the 1% which has been the standard
  • Easier access to ODSP through less onerous medical reviews and better adjudication.
  • Raise in minimum wage to $11.25 with further increases linked to inflation
  • Free tuition and other help for low income people attending college or university
  • $178,000,000 over three years for new housing and portable housing benefits
  • Pilot basic income projects in near future

Federally:

  • Increased child benefit tax benefit
  • Reformed Employment Insurance to reduce wait time and reduce eligibility criteria and increase benefits in high needs areas
  • Increased federal grants for post secondary students by 50%
  • Better benefits for low income senior citizens

Why do we need to advocate for further progress?

These changes signal that governments at both the federal and provincial levels have an awareness that they need to invest more in people especially those who need more help so that they can take their place in society.  However, their improved measures don’t go far enough because many people will still be so far below the poverty line that they need more supports to rise out of poverty.

For example, a 1.5% increase is better than before but it is not enough to keep up with inflation and many people’s incomes are still at or below 50% of the Low Income Measure. We need to work towards a more livable income so that people can be more productive.

Some people think that we can’t afford to pay better income supports to people who currently receive Ontario Works or Ontario Disability, but research shows that people who live in poverty are at much higher risk of getting seriously ill or becoming involved with the justice system.  Hospitalization and incarceration are both costlier ways of looking after people than giving people adequate incomes for a healthy dignified life.  Incarceration cost more than $100,000 per inmate per year.  Hospitalization costs often run to $1000 per day or more depending on the level of care needed by the patient.  If the system gave people more money to live, there could be large savings in other public expenditures.

The improvements in access to education may not go quite far enough because even though tuition and other costs may be covered for low income people, it is not clear if their living costs will be covered for the 2 or 3 years that many programs take to complete.  In a recent interview, Deb Matthews said that recipients of Ontario Works would have to change to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) for their living expenses while they are in school and that program has always provided loans which had to be repaid.

The Canada Child Benefit program is an improvement over the former Canada Child Tax Benefit but it will not be indexed to inflation for 3 or 4 years and so its buying power will decline every year.

The good news is that the politicians are going in the right direction and we have an opportunity to encourage them to do better for the community.

It is easier and more productive to advocate when the governments are already headed in the right direction. Since both the federal and provincial governments have taken some steps to help people rise out of poverty, it is a good time for us to encourage them to do even more.

Keys to successful advocacy:

There are many elements to being a successful advocate.   The first thing is to be an active part in the anti-poverty movement.  Governments don’t have the time to deal with single organizations but they trust movements which consist of groups that are working on various elements of an issue.

What are social movements?

Social movements are a type of group action. They are large, sometimes informal, groups of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues.  They promote, resist, or undo a social change. They do this by engaging with the culture to change people’s opinions, beliefs and habits. They help to create an environment that is receptive and favourable to social change. Organizations within a movement support and reinforce each other’s work.  Politicians and decision makers pay attention to movements.    

The anti-poverty movement has the power to create an environment that can lead to reduced inequality and a better society. 

What are some of the groups in the anti-poverty movement?

Faith communities, food banks, housing organizations, disability groups, educators, health care workers, business owners, labour movements and social services all have some stake or experience with poverty.  There are many aspects to poverty as we know very well from our service to people who live in poverty.  Each group focuses on the specific needs of certain people who live in poverty

Think what could happen if we all work together!  

How will SSVP participation in the anti-poverty movement help our cause?

Participating in the anti-poverty movement will raise the profile of the SSVP so that more people will know who we are and what we do.
Vincentians will learn what other people and organizations are doing and we may be able to help our neighbours-in-need better.
By being active participants in the anti-poverty movement we will have credibility with our elected officials.

What does the SSVP need to do to be a strong voice in the anti-poverty movement?

Movements seek to engage people to think about their beliefs, values and habits. They help to create an environment that is favorable to social change. Good skills are needed.

Learn communication skills that will get the message across effectively.

Make sure that our input to the movement is high quality.  This means that our research provides accurate information and that our stories about our neighbors are genuine and representative.
Work to have input that appeals to both heads and hearts of people- mix of stories and statistics because people don’t all respond to the same information.

Seek out and participate in opportunities to contribute to community consultations.  These include town hall meetings, and meetings of organizations that have a stake in poverty.  Sign up for community consultations.  Respond to governments’ requests for input on various issues.  Currently the federal government is asking for input on a national housing strategy.  Last year, the provincial government asked for input on amendments to the labor standards act.  There are many opportunities for input and you can monitor how these work to get a feel for how consultations work before you actually participate.

Attend town, city or county council meetings.  Doing this will inform you about their issues, challenges and priorities.  The elected representatives will perceive that that you are a responsible member of the community and you will have credibility when you speak.

Share your knowledge and experience with people in your daily life: your family, friends, fellow parishioners.  Often, social change can begin at home.  Vincentians can share their experiences of home visits, working in food banks or knowledge that you have gained from research or the media.

What are some ways that we can support other organizations in the Anti-poverty movement?  
Many anti-poverty organizations have face book pages and twitter accounts which you can monitor and contribute to.  You can build on their work by sharing your knowledge and experience.
Attend their annual general meeting to show support and find out what is new in their organizations.
Become a member of another organization because membership lists build the movement.

There are many ways to build the anti-poverty movement and no one person needs to do it all each of us but can try something.

Resources:
Tamarack Community Impact bookinar series
http://deepeningcommunity.ca/library-topics/impact-bookinar-series/create-container-your-content
Government of Canada 2016 budget
http://www.budget.gc.ca/2016/docs/plan/toc-tdm-en.html
Province of Ontario budget 2016
http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2016/budhi.html
 

 

Workshops

Advocacy Workshop Summary

(posted: September 17, 2016)


Advocacy 1 Workshop: Join the movement – Sept. 2016

“The Society helps those in need to speak for themselves.  When they cannot, the Society must speak on their behalf so that they will not be ignored”
Statute 3.22 of the Rule and Statutes of the Society

Why do people who live in poverty have difficulty in speaking for themselves?

  • They are intimidated by people in power
  • They don’t have advocacy skills
  • They are afraid of reprisals
  • It’s more difficult to advocate for oneself
  • Life has kicked them around so much that they’ve given up
  • No self-respect – who would listen to them anyway?
  • Because of all these issues, Vincentians need to take the lead in advocacy on their behalf but we can help our neighbours-in-need to be heard by telling their stories in a genuine way.

What are the greatest needs of our neighbors in need that we see in our work as Vincentians?
Our neighbours in need lack the most basic things for a dignified life especially decent, affordable housing, money for food, clothing and basic needs, opportunities for education and employment
Some signs that there is progress in the poverty reduction landscape.
Provincially:

  • 1.5% increase in OW and ODSP rates this year instead of the 1% which has been the standard
  • Easier access to ODSP through less onerous medical reviews and better adjudication.
  • Raise in minimum wage to $11.25 with further increases linked to inflation
  • Free tuition and other help for low income people attending college or university
  • $178,000,000 over three years for new housing and portable housing benefits
  • Pilot basic income projects in near future

Federally:

  • Increased child benefit tax benefit
  • Reformed Employment Insurance to reduce wait time and reduce eligibility criteria and increase benefits in high needs areas
  • Increased federal grants for post secondary students by 50%
  • Better benefits for low income senior citizens

Why do we need to advocate for further progress?

These changes signal that governments at both the federal and provincial levels have an awareness that they need to invest more in people especially those who need more help so that they can take their place in society.  However, their improved measures don’t go far enough because many people will still be so far below the poverty line that they need more supports to rise out of poverty.

For example, a 1.5% increase is better than before but it is not enough to keep up with inflation and many people’s incomes are still at or below 50% of the Low Income Measure. We need to work towards a more livable income so that people can be more productive.

Some people think that we can’t afford to pay better income supports to people who currently receive Ontario Works or Ontario Disability, but research shows that people who live in poverty are at much higher risk of getting seriously ill or becoming involved with the justice system.  Hospitalization and incarceration are both costlier ways of looking after people than giving people adequate incomes for a healthy dignified life.  Incarceration cost more than $100,000 per inmate per year.  Hospitalization costs often run to $1000 per day or more depending on the level of care needed by the patient.  If the system gave people more money to live, there could be large savings in other public expenditures.

The improvements in access to education may not go quite far enough because even though tuition and other costs may be covered for low income people, it is not clear if their living costs will be covered for the 2 or 3 years that many programs take to complete.  In a recent interview, Deb Matthews said that recipients of Ontario Works would have to change to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) for their living expenses while they are in school and that program has always provided loans which had to be repaid.

The Canada Child Benefit program is an improvement over the former Canada Child Tax Benefit but it will not be indexed to inflation for 3 or 4 years and so its buying power will decline every year.

The good news is that the politicians are going in the right direction and we have an opportunity to encourage them to do better for the community.

It is easier and more productive to advocate when the governments are already headed in the right direction. Since both the federal and provincial governments have taken some steps to help people rise out of poverty, it is a good time for us to encourage them to do even more.

Keys to successful advocacy:

There are many elements to being a successful advocate.   The first thing is to be an active part in the anti-poverty movement.  Governments don’t have the time to deal with single organizations but they trust movements which consist of groups that are working on various elements of an issue.

What are social movements?

Social movements are a type of group action. They are large, sometimes informal, groups of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues.  They promote, resist, or undo a social change. They do this by engaging with the culture to change people’s opinions, beliefs and habits. They help to create an environment that is receptive and favourable to social change. Organizations within a movement support and reinforce each other’s work.  Politicians and decision makers pay attention to movements.    

The anti-poverty movement has the power to create an environment that can lead to reduced inequality and a better society. 

What are some of the groups in the anti-poverty movement?

Faith communities, food banks, housing organizations, disability groups, educators, health care workers, business owners, labour movements and social services all have some stake or experience with poverty.  There are many aspects to poverty as we know very well from our service to people who live in poverty.  Each group focuses on the specific needs of certain people who live in poverty

Think what could happen if we all work together!  

How will SSVP participation in the anti-poverty movement help our cause?

Participating in the anti-poverty movement will raise the profile of the SSVP so that more people will know who we are and what we do.
Vincentians will learn what other people and organizations are doing and we may be able to help our neighbours-in-need better.
By being active participants in the anti-poverty movement we will have credibility with our elected officials.

What does the SSVP need to do to be a strong voice in the anti-poverty movement?

Movements seek to engage people to think about their beliefs, values and habits. They help to create an environment that is favorable to social change. Good skills are needed.

Learn communication skills that will get the message across effectively.

Make sure that our input to the movement is high quality.  This means that our research provides accurate information and that our stories about our neighbors are genuine and representative.
Work to have input that appeals to both heads and hearts of people- mix of stories and statistics because people don’t all respond to the same information.

Seek out and participate in opportunities to contribute to community consultations.  These include town hall meetings, and meetings of organizations that have a stake in poverty.  Sign up for community consultations.  Respond to governments’ requests for input on various issues.  Currently the federal government is asking for input on a national housing strategy.  Last year, the provincial government asked for input on amendments to the labor standards act.  There are many opportunities for input and you can monitor how these work to get a feel for how consultations work before you actually participate.

Attend town, city or county council meetings.  Doing this will inform you about their issues, challenges and priorities.  The elected representatives will perceive that that you are a responsible member of the community and you will have credibility when you speak.

Share your knowledge and experience with people in your daily life: your family, friends, fellow parishioners.  Often, social change can begin at home.  Vincentians can share their experiences of home visits, working in food banks or knowledge that you have gained from research or the media.

What are some ways that we can support other organizations in the Anti-poverty movement?  
Many anti-poverty organizations have face book pages and twitter accounts which you can monitor and contribute to.  You can build on their work by sharing your knowledge and experience.
Attend their annual general meeting to show support and find out what is new in their organizations.
Become a member of another organization because membership lists build the movement.

There are many ways to build the anti-poverty movement and no one person needs to do it all each of us but can try something.

Resources:
Tamarack Community Impact bookinar series
http://deepeningcommunity.ca/library-topics/impact-bookinar-series/create-container-your-content
Government of Canada 2016 budget
http://www.budget.gc.ca/2016/docs/plan/toc-tdm-en.html
Province of Ontario budget 2016
http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2016/budhi.html