Reducing Poverty – Ten Core Policy Areas

Resource: Audio Seminar | Speark: Sherri Torjman
Sherri Torjman

In this podcast, Mark Cabaj speaks with Sherri Torjman of the Caledon Institute about 10 core areas that are central to any poverty reduction strategy, the roles that communities can play in policy development, and, some of the interventions that help place-based initiatives create more durable change.

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In this podcast you will learn about 10 core areas that are key to any poverty reduction strategy, the roles that communities can play in policy development and some of the interventions that help place-based initiatives create more durable change. The 10 policy areas are drawn from Poverty Policy, a resource developed by Sherri Torjman of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy. The Caledon Institute and Vibrant Communities bring practitioners and government policy makers together to create policies that reduce poverty and improve the prosperity of all Canadians.

Learning Objectives:

  • To gain an overview of some critical poverty elements of a strategy to reduce poverty
  • To consider the implications for place-based initiatives (also known as comprehensive community collaborations)
  • To consider what elements comprise the core of any policy reduction policy

Access Podcast Highlights:

Safety Nets, Springboards & Place-Based Policies

Sherri explained key concepts that provide context to any poverty reduction strategy. She reminded us of the importance of using policies to alleviate the immediate effects of poverty on people, while at the same time working on longer term issues to create conditions to prevent poverty or help people leave it for good. However, we can’t solve poverty through creating policy alone. It is only through place-based initiatives that we can sort through some of the contradictions and problems that public policy creates. At the community level we can see how policies coordinate and are interdependent, and we can identify some of the barriers that prevent people from benefiting from policies.

Listen to Sherri’s explanation and examples of the concepts here.


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Affordable Housing

Because affordable housing creates stability, it is at the core of well-being and poverty reduction. It acts as a safety net as it creates a safe place for families, but it is also a springboard because it sets the stage for things like healthy child development and steady employment. Housing supports can generate cascading outcomes in other areas. Another aspect of housing is neighbourhood-level developments, for example ensuring neighbourhoods are safe, or having accessible recreation facilities.

Sherri gives some examples of non-traditional approaches to providing affordable housing here.

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Early Childhood Development

Sherri spoke about several aspects of early childhood development. Good childcare has immediate economic impacts, as parents are available for training and employment, but there is evidence that very early interventions, starting before birth with pre-natal supports, pay the largest dividends. She described several areas of research that demonstrate the impact of early interventions on brain and child development.

In this clip she describes supports for parents and families, and how provincial governments have begun to put programs in place.

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Work-Related Training

Sherri spoke about the research that questions whether training creates a long-term attachment to the workforce. She made the case for short-term customized training that is driven by the demands of the labour market, although that kind of training will never take the place of investments in post-secondary education.

This clip emphasizes the importance of recognizing foreign credentials and how that can affect the racialization of poverty.

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Income Support

There is a difference between measures that top up earnings, and supports that top up income (i.e. that you don’t need to be working in order to access them). Sherri discussed the importance of raising the overall level of benefits that people are receiving as well as questions of eligibility and access – removing the barriers that result in people deriving no benefit from the programs that are already in place. She suggests we work on how programs interact. For example, employment insurance and welfare programs currently don’t work very well together. Sherri also spoke about supports for people with disabilities that recognize that some people with disabilities are able to move in and out of the work force over time.

She sums up this section here.

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Reflection Questions

1.    What do I know about poverty reduction strategies in my province? How are the various components related? Do they “join up”?
2.    Of the core elements mentioned in the seminar, do you feel that some are more important than others?
3.    Think about an individual living in poverty in your community. Now think about a recent policy change in one of the areas mentioned that affected that person’s life – either positively or negatively.

To reflect on these and other important questions, refer to the Resources and Links below.

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Links & Resources

Poverty Policy - This paper discusses 10 major policy areas that comprise the core of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy.
Forgotten Fundamentals - The Caledon Institute discusses how strong social programs can play a vital part in an economic stimulus package by putting additional money into the hands of lower-income households who are most likely to spend it immediately.
Reclaiming our Humanity - The paper proposes that a civil society seeks to achieve three key objectives: caring communities, economic security and social investment. The overarching theme of civil society is citizenship – which includes not only rights but also broad, collective responsibility for economic, social and environmental well-being.
Towards a New Architecture for Canada's Adult Benefits - This paper makes the case for major changes not just to individual social programs but to the basic structures and functions – the ‘architecture’ of social policy.

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Meet Sherri Torjman

Sherri Torjman is Vice-President of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy. She has written in the areas of welfare reform, customized training, disability income and supports, the social dimension of sustainable development and community-based poverty reduction. Sherri is the author of the book Shared Space: The Communities Agenda. She has also written many Caledon reports including Reclaiming our Humanity; Strategies for a Caring Society; Proposal for National Personal Supports Fund; Survival-of-the-Fittest Employment Policy; The Social Dimension of Sustainable Development; The Key to Kyoto: Social Dimensions of Climate Change; The Social Role of Local Government; The Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit; Reintegrating the Unemployed through Customized Training; and How Finance Re-formed Social Policy.

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