Editorial

By McKeen, Wendy | Canadian Review of Social Policy, Spring 2016 | Go to article overview

Editorial


McKeen, Wendy, Canadian Review of Social Policy


The articles in this issue provide new insights into several social policy and/or social welfare programs that so far have received little critical attention. All of them address vulnerable categories of people in Canadian society and shed further light on the social realities of contemporary Canada under neoliberal austerity politics with its marked legacy of colonialism. The various foci in this issue include: the state of planning in Canada on the issue of homelessness and older people, a Quebec welfare-to-work type program designed to better equip social assistance recipients for participation in the labour market, a key 2013 report on Aboriginal child welfare in British Columbia and its implications for relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, and the issue of leisure and political activism, particularly in policies meant to address the needs of new mothers.

The first two articles provide further insight into the planning or policy responses to date for addressing the situations of two particularly vulnerable groups. The first article, Homelessness among older people: Assessing strategies and frameworks across Canada, by Amanda Grenier, Rachel Barken, Tamara Sussman, David Rothwell and Valérie BourgeoisGuérin, focuses on the situation of older people who are, or are at risk of becoming homeless. The authors note that, because of life course trajectories that are increasing levels of precariousness in society, the numbers of older people who are homeless are on the rise and their situation has become urgent. This includes both people who have been homeless throughout their lives and those who become homeless later in life. The article presents the results of an extensive Canada-wide review that was conducted of planning documents on homelessness in order to ascertain whether, and how, older people are being addressed and included in strategies for ending homelessness. The study reveals that the needs of older people are mainly absent from current strategies to end homelessness. While many of the planning documents recognize older people as a vulnerable sub-group, very few have considered the unique and complex problems and needs of the older homeless population, which, as the authors suggest, lie at the intersection of health, income support, housing, and support/care issues.

The second article, Participation des personnes assistées sociales à la mesure de formation de la main d'oeuvre (MFOR): caractéristiques et résultats de fin de participation, by Ysabel Provencher, Rachel Lépine, and Hans Ivers, focuses on the policy and service response of the Quebec government to the situation of people who are receiving social assistance and are unemployed, and/or face barriers to becoming employed. Under Emploi-Québec's training program, mesure de formation de la main-d'oeuvre (MFOR), social assistance recipients are asked to undertake training to enhance their education or skills, the aim of which is to assist and encourage welfare recipients to move from welfare into paid employment. The article reports on a study done by the authors and based on the program's administrative data, to better understand factors affecting rates of completion versus non-completion of the program. The results indicate that rates of completion steadily dropped between 2005 and 2011, and that the majority (60%) of non-completions were for voluntary reasons. Moreover, a high proportion of those who dropped out did so for non-voluntary reasons (such as having a child, caring for a toddler under 5, or having temporary health problems). While this data might suggest that all is not well with the program, Provencher, Lépine and Ivers stress that more data is needed on people's first-hand experiences with the program and its delivery if we are to gain a more complete understanding of the program's strengths and weaknesses as a mechanism for supporting people receiving social assistance.

The final two articles are also concerned both with the policy treatment of certain vulnerable groups and broader struggles for social justice. …

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