Five hundred and seventy-two dollars.

That’s the most a single person is allowed to save up, have stashed in his bank account or have stuffed in a mattress if he or she wants to be eligible for welfare in Ontario.

A family can have just $1,550 worth of assets in on hand to qualify.

It’s stringent rules like these that make it impossible for people to step out of the cycle of poverty, according to a study released today called Why Don’t We Want the Poor to Own Anything?

“You need at least a few thousand dollars to get back on your feet,” said John Stapleton, a social poverty expert who launched the report with the Metcalf Foundation.

“But more significantly ... it doesn’t even allow you to retain the amount of money that you would reasonably need to get yourself out of poverty.”

Currently, Ontario asset rules force those needing social assistance to liquidate assets (such as their savings and RRSPs) to get support.

“Social assistance was supposed to be a program when you hit rock bottom, not just when you lost a job,” said Stapleton.

“Making people destitute to give them emergency help just doesn’t make sense.”

The group is calling for the province to raise limits to $5,000 for single people and $10,000 for families, and exempt all assets for the first six months.

Stapleton says these changes can easily be implemented in the social assistance review the province promised earlier this year.