"Walking on Eggshells" - Ontario Report Exposes Situation of Women on Welfare

Anonyme, Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - 10:07

While speaking of father's rights and the importance of self validation of men as they see themselves threatened by women who obtain custody of the children they carry and birth, we never hear how the "great dad" might well have forgotten it's not great parenting to abuse the mother and elevate the child. do what you want with this article but read it.

Today the first research report ever done in Ontario on how the welfare system impacts abused women was released by a team of academics and community partners, led by Parkdale's academic director, Janet Mosher. The other authors included Margaret Little of Queen's, and Pat Evans of Carlton University. Community Patners who helped in the research and analysis of findings were the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (Eileen Morrow), and the Ontario Social Safety NetWork (JoAnne Boulding, Lake District Legal Clinic, and Nancy Vander Plaats, Scarborough Community Legal Services).

Pasted in below is the press release which summarizes the key findings and recommendations of the report. It also contains the web address where you can find the complete report.

TORONTO, April 5, 2004 -- A report released today calls on the Ontario government to make substantial changes to Ontario's welfare system to better protect abused women. The report, Walking on Eggshells: Abused Women's Experiences of Ontario's Welfare System, outlines 34 recommendations.

The report stems from the Woman and Abuse Welfare Research Project launched in 2000. It was written by York University's Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Janet Mosher (Principal Investigator) and researchers from Carleton and Queen's Universities in conjunction with the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses and the Ontario Social Safety Network. Funding was provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

"Our findings make it clear that women who flee abusive relationships and turn to welfare seeking refuge and support frequently find neither," says Mosher. "Women's experiences of welfare are often profoundly negative. They encounter a system that is less than forthcoming about their entitlements, and about the multiple rules with which they must comply. They are often subjected to demeaning and humiliating treatment from workers within a system in which suspicion and the devaluation of recipients are structured into its very core."

Interviews were conducted with women who are or have been in an abusive relationship and have accessed social assistance through the Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program. Women in Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, London, Muskoka, Peel and the Tyendinaga Reserve, Mohawk Territory were interviewed between November 2001 and March 2003 for the study.

"For many, the experience of welfare is like another abusive relationship," adds Mosher. "Virtually every woman with whom we spoke was caught in one or more double binds as she struggled to be a good mother, good worker and good citizen. Disturbingly, the decision to return to an abusive relationship is often the 'best' decision for a woman, in a social context of horrendously constrained options."

The 113 page report can be accessed at:

Key recommendations of the report include:

a.. raising welfare rates to meet the true costs of living;
b.. stopping the claw back of the national child benefit supplement;
c.. providing accurate, complete information about the welfare system;
d.. providing meaningful training and support for employment, including assistance for education;
e.. changing welfare worker attitudes towards recipients through (measures such as) training;
f.. redesigning support obligation policies that adequately protect women;
g.. revamping fraud policies and practices;
h.. changing the definition of 'spouse' and 'same-sex partner' to mirror family law.

The report emphasises that genuine respect for women's right to safety, and to live free of violence in their lives means creating the social conditions -- adequate welfare, access to safe housing, access to childcare, access to employment that pays a living wage, etc. -- that would truly make it difficult for men to "get away with it". This was made clear in numerous interviews conducted for the study. As one interviewee stated:

"Many times I thought if I was with an abusive guy at least I could get help for food because the welfare cheque was not enough, so many times we starved because we didn't have food at home. I understand too why so many women go back to abusive guys."

"What is needed most urgently and most profoundly is a fundamental shift from viewing poverty as the failing of individuals, and those who are poor as lazy, unmotivated and deceptive," said Mosher. "To the extent that the welfare system in Ontario continues to operate from such a perspective, there is really little hope that it will offer meaningful support to facilitate women's safe exit from abusive relationships. If nothing changes, women will continue to return to abusive relationships and will not be safe."

Thu, 2004-04-15 05:47

validated after minor formatting, addition of meaningful title

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