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October 1, 2014

Targets, timelines and tracking progress on poverty reduction and ending homelessness

This blog post has also been published as a contribution to the online dialogue ON Poverty Reduction - Strategy at Work.

The Wynne Government unveiled Ontario’s second Poverty Reduction Strategy on September 3, 2014. The new Strategy puts a focus on ending homelessness. Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, who is the Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, said the new strategy will continue to work on reducing child poverty – to reach the original 25% target -- as well as employment, education and training for youth. But ending homelessness stands out as the boldest goal in the new strategy.

What struck me as I listened to Minister Matthews launch the new strategy was the lack of specific targets and timelines to go with the goal of ending homelessness. The strategy obviously will need an action plan and investment strategy. But if the strategy is to succeed, it also needs clear targets and timelines, including targets for both outcomes and policy effort.

The need for clear targets and timelines for poverty reduction strategies was identified by the National Council of Welfare as the first cornerstone in their 2007 report, Solving Poverty. The United Nations Commission for Human Rights has laid out principles and guidelines for implementing poverty reduction strategies. The Commission says a poverty reduction plan “must set benchmarks (i.e., intermediate targets) corresponding to each ultimate target. As a prerequisite of setting targets and benchmarks, the State should identify appropriate indicators, so that the rate of progress can be monitored and, if progress is slow, corrective action can be taken. Indicators should be as disaggregated as possible for each subgroup of the population living in poverty.” (p 12)