Premier Doug Ford’s government is about to reform social assistance in Ontario, raising fears of the kind of sweeping cuts to welfare made the last time the Progressive Conservatives took power in the province.

More than 960,000 men, women and children receive social assistance from the province’s two welfare programs, Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, according to the latest provincial figures. The annual social assistance tab, including drug benefits, now tops $10 billion.

A two-year study that followed 25 homeless or barely-housed people with life-threatening medical conditions in Victoria has found that many are only given appropriate health care once inching closer to death.

Researchers out of the University of Victoria spent more than 300 hours with the 25 people, following them to medical appointments and with social care workers, according to a report released Thursday.

According to their report, researchers found that those living on the streets suffering from cancer, heart failure and lung disease are open to more vulnerabilities than those who are able to access palliative care – the end-of-life health services which include pain management, increased supports and help for caregivers.