Thursday, February 28, 2008

Just spoke to my OW worker...

I detailed in my voicemail to her what it is that I needed. She asks me what I want like she hasn't even bothered to listen to the message I left her. Fine. I explain that I need a buspass like she gave me for the month of February, for the month of March. Sh asks me what I have planned. I tell her "Job searching...", in a bit of a stunned manner because I would guess that by now this is evident. Apparently, it is not.

Then Nadine says, "Oh you met with a worker from Families First How did that go?" (Hmm, so she did listen to my message). I tell her I did and that Ellen from FF is going to help me with sports for my son, employment strategies, and childcare. "Okay. You will need to let me know when the employment strategies comes through." I tell her that Ellen will be in contact with her. Nadine gets defensive and starts to talk to me like I am being uncooperative and hostile.

"Look, I am trying to help you, but you are not co-operating. You need to call me..." Nadine says to me.

"But I am Nadine. I am calling you now." I interject.

"You need to call me about the Employment Strategies and when you are starting that." She tells me

"Ellen was just here and she said that she is going to contact you with all this information." I explain to Nadine

"No. You need to call me when these things happen. Those workers don't contact us. You need to do that." Nadine insists

I am a little confused. Nadine is in a sense saying that Ellen is lying to me. What is going on here?

"I still need transportation in the meantime." I explain

"Yes, I am issuing the transportation cost" She finally confirms.

"Okay. I will call you then...." I tell her to be interrupted with:

"Okay, Bye Ms.____"


The truth is, I don't like calling her. I feel she is non-supportive and misleading. I do not trust her. Yet, I have to trust her with my life and the life of my child. How can I trust someone that blatantly has the ability to recommend services to me, but just didn't bother? Or someone who doesn't provide me with adequate information?

At this particular moment, I am feeling a bit helpless because my family's is in the hands of either a fool, an incompetent, or petty, power-tripper.

The Childcare Puzzle and the Transportation Hurdle

Today, a worker from Families First (FF) came to see me in my home. This organization works in partnership from what I can tell, with Ontario Works. My OW worker/administrator had asked me if I wanted to hook up with FF in January. However, she asked me in such a way that I might have easily have passed it up not realizing what the program truly offers. Nadine (my worker) said that I qualified to have my son enrolled in a sports program. Had I decided that my son wouldn't want this, or I for one reason or another couldn't manage to incorporate this in our lives, then I would have missed an opportunity that is crucial to creating the support system that I need to gain employment.

See, Families First is that link to the childcare that I need. Nadine didn't present it in that manner at all.

From the link above:


Support is provided through a focused and coordinated approach to helping sole support parents become independent. This is achieved through the collaboration of Ontario Works in Peel, Peel Children's Services, and Peel Health, and community agencies.


Studies show that sole support parents on social assistance experience permanent benefits when they receive additional health, employment, and childcare services and recreational opportunities for their children.

Short Term Goals

* To improve the financial position of sole support parents
* To improve the mental and physical health of sole support families in Peel
* To promote healthy lifestyle activities, physical fitness, cognitive functioning, and self-esteem for children and youth of sole support families
* To reduce sole support parents' reliance on fragmented health care and social assistance services

Long Term Goals

* To reduce child poverty
* To help sole support parents reduce dependency on social assistance in the Region of Peel

It is plain to see that this is the program I need. However, if I had decided not to bother with it, (by a decision based on the limited information and poor presentation of the program from my worker), I would have missed out...WE would have missed out.

As far as childcare goes, FF has a mandate that allows them to give me funds for childcare BEFORE I am employed. OW will only provide funds afterwards, or at least, not count the money paid out to childcare providers when making adjustments to their assistance payouts (the "check" a recipient gets)

Still, don't be fooled, dear readers! The benefits of this FF program are still subject to approval by my OW worker - Nadine. She has the power to disapprove childcare for me. However, she has little reason to do so, since I comply with every rule and I am active in my search. I am even, at the suggestion of my FF worker, set up with an Employment Strategies worker,(something Nadine has the power to do also, but didn't bother), to show good faith on my part.

Ellen, my FF worker, said to me that there are some people who try to get childcare and then don't bother looking for work. Sad as that may be, there are better ways of going about deciding who needs childcare and who is not putting the service to good use for their family. There are better ways to evaluate that in my estimation. One of the ways is through better communication. Another way would be through more transparency of the system which is supposedly meant to help. Why obfuscate matters and covertly manipulate clients into making decisions which may be inappropriate for them because information about what is available is not disclosed to them?

You know, if I was this half-baked and clueless with clients in any other capacity, I would have been fired, pronto!

I am still trying to figure out what the role of an "Ontario Works Worker" or administrator is in actuality. When I figure out more on that, I will post as comprehensive a piece I can on it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My Family, Friends and Many Blessings

I am certainly blessed. Many people have stepped up to help out my family when the chips were down. A few generous souls from all over the world have sent food and other offerings to boost our spirits and make certain that we do not starve during the next months. This time of year is a terrible time. It is cold and bills are coming in from the holidays. People are generally in a bad mood. However, I can thank the caring people over at Barbelith for responding.

Barbelith is a community I have been involved with for about 7 years. It has it's good times and bad, as it is a very close-knit community. The members are mostly known to one another, compared to many other forums, and they deal intimately with each other's opinions and life situations. Really, it is unlike any other internet message board.

Through the support I receive, online and off, in the various forms: food, kind words, prayers, gifts, etc...I am not getting rich because of this help, I am just getting help with some very basic needs. In other words, I am not defrauding my government by accepting help.

I should mention that when I asked my worker for help with transportation getting to job interviews, she offered to put the maximum amount in my bank account for a bus pass. There were absolutely no issues. The only issue I would bring up in regards to this would be that it was not an automatic cost. Getting around Mississauga on foot is not even an option! So, I am not certain how that gets swept aside and less-informed, or more timid clients end up suffering for it because their worker is not focused on how to help them, rather than the bottom line.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Cost of Living

On Welfare in Ontario, a single mother with one child can receive a maximum total payment of $1056, (of which I only receive $1018, for reasons unknown to me). Out of that money the provincial subsidy portion of the National Child Tax Benefit is removed so the Province is not paying out twice, (I think that is the logic.)

Thus, in my case: $1018-112 = $906+270(Child Tax Benefit)= $1176

Now, that is it, that is far as cash goes. There is help one can get, as I have just been able to acquire money for transportation - $96.00 for a bus pass.

Let's look at expenses, though. Out of that meager possible $1018-$1056 that a single mother with one child can get, the Ontario Works program will only allow one to allocate $538.00 towards rent. FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-EIGHT DOLLARS? It doesn't matter what part of the province one lives in, this is the cap. This is damn near impossible if one lives near any of the more populated city centres. That money will barely get one room in a boarding house. Of course, this is not feasible for a mother and child. I currently live in a one-bedroom apartment with my son, and this is not adequate for us. He is seven and he needs a proper bedroom and so do I. However, the apartments in the entire Greater Toronto Area and surrounding municipalities have very high rental rates, even in the "bad" areas, which I am not crazy about bringing my child up in anyway. So, I had to ask them for permission to rent my apartment because, like most places, was above the enforced limit by OW. I pay a little less than the going rate for a one-bedroom apartment, $700. This is because she is the mother of my best friend. So..

$700 rent
$120 bills (heat,internet connection, phone - which is not considered a necessity by OW)
$50 transport (because up to now, I have had to pay that myself until they had proof I was seeking employment and getting job interviews)

Totaling - $870

Thus, $1176-$870= $306 left for groceries for the month. Now, that is if I do absolutely nothing for my son such as give him money for pizza day at school and pay the fees for skating trips and the like, that can be about $40-50 in a month. (For pete's sake, he doesn't need to feel excluded at school on top of everything else!)

So now, grocery is down to about $256 - $266, for the month.

Heaven forbid there should be any unforeseen events or accidents...or a bloody special occasion.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obstacles to Overcome

Childcare is not so much of an issue right now, but transportation is. As far as childcare goes, my landlady, (who also happens to be my best friend's mom) is an angel. She, having also been a single mom at much more difficult point in history than today, is very understanding about my needing a leg up in order to get on my feet. She is more helpful than even my parents have been, but then again I don't wish to impose. Her offer is not a permanent solution. I have to find adequate childcare still, but at least I can start a job and have proof of employment that I need for such subsidy. I wonder, what happens to other single parents in similar situations? I am indeed lucky, but until she discussed this with me, I had to turn down at least 4 different jobs.

The other issue with childcare, other than cost and subsidies, is the times the facilities are open from and till. If most jobs are from 8:30am or 9am till about 4:30pm or 5pm, then why aren't these childcare facilities staying open in order to accommodate that? If I get off work at 5pm and then get out of the building, wait for a bus and walk over from the stop to the facility, that is going to go way over 1/2 hour. It is not reasonable. I don't even think that it is reasonable to think that a person who drives could do that. So, the places I have checked so far that are open till 6pm only start at 7:30am, and the places opening at 7am close at 5:30pm. So, parents get screwed either way. I will get back to the unrealistic structures of childcare in Ontario in another post. I will look more thoroughly into this issue.

However, there is the problem of transportation. Should I feed my child this month or save my money for buying bus tickets to take me to job interviews? There is a possibility that Ontario Works will provide funds for transportation, but it may have the same catch22 issue as the childcare. At least, I think that is the case, but I will have to check this with my worker. Is it me, or do others see how the system is set up to keep people in it?

I want the *bleep* out.