Articles about the ODSP (opened!)

I’m not sure if anyone was paying any attention or actually reading them in my other thread when I kept posting about ODSP and the crappy support we get.

Please don’t respond to you read all the articles I’m linking too (and as well as copying and paste them in the case you can’t access the links )

Toronto Star post from Friday:

From the article:
Dozens of anti-poverty activists and disability advocates gathered at Queen’s Park Thursday to call for increases to social assistance for people with disabilities, describing the current rates — which have been largely stagnant under Doug Ford’s government — as unlivable and undignified.

“I am constantly made to feel like a second-class citizen,” said Michael Iacovone, a 32-year-old university student with spina bifida who has relied on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) since he was 18.

Iacovone said ODSP — which currently pays up to $1,169 per month, although Iacovone said he receives $980 — actually ensures those who receive it stay well below the poverty line.

“We are left to buy food that is not nutritionally appropriate because there is not enough money to buy fresh produce,” he said. “By the end of the month I’m scraping for loonies and toonies.”

A single person in Ontario with a disability and no children is able to collect a total annual income of $15,731, after accounting for all forms of social assistance and tax credits, according to the latest report by the Maytree Foundation, which studies welfare rates across Canada.

That amount is nearly $9,000 below Canada’s official poverty line, the Market Basket Measure, and nearly $3,000 below a threshold known as “Deep Impact Poverty,” which is defined as households whose disposable income is less than 75 per cent of the Market Basket Measure.

“It’s not poverty, it’s destitution,” said NDP MPP Chris Glover, one of two opposition politicians who spoke at Thursday’s rally.

All three opposition parties have promised to increase social assistance, if elected.

he NDP platform promises an immediate 20-per-cent increase to both Ontario Works and ODSP, while tying future raises to inflation.

Ontario’s Green Party announced Thursday they would double ODSP, with leader Mike Schreiner describing the current rates as “legislated poverty.”

The Liberal party has yet to make a formal announcement, but Scarborough MPP Mitzie Hunter, who also attended Thursday’s rally, said her party would increase ODSP and look at implementing a “living wage.”

Hunter referenced how the previous Liberal government, under Kathleen Wynne, had planned to increase social assistance rates by three per cent in 2018 before losing the election to Ford, who cut the rate increase in half and hasn’t touched them since.

“This government has been very callous to the people on OW and ODSP,” Hunter said.

Ford, speaking at a news conference earlier this month, did not directly answer a question about whether his government will increase ODSP.

“The people that are unable to work, for any reason, be it physically, mentally, I will always be there to support them,” he said. “(But) the best way to help someone that is able to work is to get them a job, and a good paying job, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Progressive Conservative budget, released Thursday, did not include an increase to either OW or ODSP.

Social assistance rates in Ontario have never recovered from the 21.6 per cent cut made by former Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris in 1995. The rates lagged well behind inflation under successive governments, including 15 years under the Liberals.

Several speakers at Thursday’s rally described how the current record inflation has further eroded monthly cheques, pointing to rising food bank usage and stories of some people simply skipping meals.

“The cost of bread has almost doubled,” said Blair Williams, a 46-year-old with quadriplegia who was attending the rally with his service dog. “People that live on ODSP are living in extreme poverty.”

Dr. Talveer Mandur, a psychiatry resident at the University of Toronto, said raising ODSP rates was “a matter of life and death,” citing cases of ODSP recipients considering medically assisted death.

“There’s nothing I can prescribe to help my patients get housing for $500,” he added, referring to the portion of ODSP intended to go toward shelter. “Without making any changes to the ODSP system, the health of our most vulnerable citizens will continue to deteriorate.”


TVO article (from 2018 but close enough)


How the Ontario Disability Support Program can make it tough to find — and hold down — a job

It can be difficult for adults with disabilities to find an accommodating employer and necessary benefits. And ODSP often puts more barriers in their way

hristina Anderson often has to take time off work. Her spina bifida means she requires regular CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays, and frequent appointments with specialists. And those screenings can lead to even more time out of the office: the benign tumour that developed in one of her salivary glands was likely caused by radiation.

“I’m working 40 hours a week, and I am exhausted. I would like to have a full-time job — I just don’t know if I can do it for the next 40 years,” she says.

Anderson is one of the thousands of Ontarians with disabilities who are active in the workforce. But finding a job with an accommodating employer and a comprehensive benefits package is a challenge — and the structure of the Ontario Disability Support Program can create more obstacles.

ODSP exists to support those who cannot work full-time through no fault of their own. Welfare programs for non-disabled adults are usually based on the idea that assistance will be temporary and that recipients will eventually rejoin the workforce — but programs for adults with disabilities can’t work on the assumption that recipients will ever get better or hold down a job.

The program’s rates are higher than those of Ontario Works, as are the asset limits and other benefits that recipients of the program can claim. The maximum rate for a single adult is $1,169 per month — $672 of that covers basic needs, and $497 goes to shelter costs. These amounts don’t include work-related benefits, medical expenses covered by the program, or money received through the special-diet allowance or other benefits the program provides. (By contrast, Ontario Works provides only $733 in total.)

It is possible for ODSP recipients to earn money through work — at least to an extent. They’re allowed to earn $200 a month without getting their next month’s cheque clawed back, but they lose 50 cents of each dollar earned afterward.

For example, if someone earns $500 one month, they will keep $200 free and clear, leaving $300 subject to clawbacks. They will then have $150 removed from the next month’s cheque but will also receive $100 from a work-related benefit. In this way, people who work on ODSP always experience a net gain. (Results of the new Progressive Conservative government’s review of social-assistance programs are expected Thursday. The Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services said it can’t comment on upcoming changes in advance of the announcement.)

“[The clients] think that the government is out to get them or that ODSP doesn’t want them to work, when, in fact, it’s quite the opposite,” says Ryan Hooey, a former recipient of the program who has worked at Insight Advantage, an employment-services agency affiliated with it. “ODSP loves it when people are working, because they can still provide the benefits and the person is getting self-fulfilment from their job. It’s kind of a win-win-win.”

But there’s still a limit to how much someone can earn. The ministry website indicates that “if your earnings are too high, you may no longer qualify for ODSP.” (A ministry spokesperson would not confirm an exact dollar amount for the cutoff.) And, as Anderson says, “Most people on ODSP don’t necessarily want to be on ODSP. They want to be contributing members of society.” However, finding a way to make a better living and work as much as they’re able can be a difficult proposition.

The job hunt itself often presents barriers. “When you hear people talking about jobs they had, especially growing up, it was like working at a fast-food place or working at a store or something, and that’s how they gained experience and some skill,” says Delaney Dunlop, who uses a power wheelchair so could not get an entry-level job like the ones she describes. According to Dunlop, the equipment she needs can create physical barriers in the workplace itself: “You can get through the door, but you wouldn’t be able to get behind the cash register.

After many years of receiving ODSP while still a student, Dunlop is now employed full-time with the federal government, doing application design for Statistics Canada. She found her position through a co-op term she had while taking a diploma in multimedia design, which she completed after doing a four-year degree.

“I was very lucky to have a co-op opportunity. I don’t think I would have found a job like this otherwise,” says Dunlop, adding that a lot of people with disabilities don’t have the opportunity to gain similar experience.

Hooey notes that ODSP has resources in place to support job seekers. “ODSP has some really good things going on, and I think people just really don’t understand what they are,” he says. For example, employment-services agencies such as the one Hooey worked at help clients apply for jobs and offer services including resumé-writing assistance and job coaching. ODSP also offers a startup benefit, which clients can apply for once a year. The $500 grant covers expenses associated with starting a new job, such as work-appropriate clothing, safety equipment, and technology.

Such services, though, can be tricky to navigate. “I like the fact that they have an employment-support program,” Anderson says. “But I wish that it was more structured and less complicated.” To find the agency, she had to sit down with her caseworker and look through a large file folder. She then had to call different agencies until she found a fit.

“Someone might not feel comfortable cold-calling all these different agencies,” she says. “It’s not the easiest process to go through, but neither is getting onto ODSP.”

And while Anderson found her first job through such a service, she says it wasn’t helpful when it came to subsequent positions — it didn’t specialize in the kind of career-track jobs she was interested in. So she decided to look for jobs on her own. Ultimately, she got various casual contracts with the federal government, including her current one with Health Canada, which is temporary but offers full-time hours…

If one does manage to find a job, it can then be a struggle to make ends meet and balance health and work requirements while remaining eligible for assistance. As well as providing money to live on, the program offers what is often the only drug, dental, and equipment coverage people with disabilities have access to, and many employers will not cover those costs even if if they do supply benefits.

Taylor Hyatt works as a policy analyst for Not Dead Yet, a non-profit organization that advocates against medically assisted death and for disability rights. She says she appreciates many things about this job — for instance, that it gives her the flexibility to work from home. But she has found that what she makes at her current job with a non-profit doesn’t cover her health-related expenses. For her, losing the benefits she’d previously received through ODSP isn’t an option.

“Working for a non-profit, I don’t get much in the way of benefits,” she says. “Having insurance without chair repairs is pretty pointless, and, yet, I don’t know who else would cover that, because device repairs aren’t something most employers have to deal with or even think about,” says Hyatt.

Hyatt will be able to continue receiving ODSP benefits for two years, but she’s not sure what she’ll do when that period is over. “I’ll have to go through my caseworker to find the next right move,” she says. “I would hope they would … put me back on for a couple years.”

A representative of the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services says that ODSP offers transitional and extended health benefits for those moving into employment, and that these benefits are provided “until comparable benefits are provided by the employer.”

Hyatt isn’t the only one who’s struggled with this transition. Dunlop now receives health insurance through her full-time job, but she says it doesn’t cover even a quarter of her necessary expenses, which include prescription glasses and wheelchair maintenance. Although the ODSP makes a transitional benefit available for those who have just started working, Dunlop was told that she makes too much money to continue receiving it — she wasn’t told what the cutoff limit was.

And when she stopped receiving ODSP last year after gaining full-time employment, she says, the people she spoke with at ODSP had no advice for her about how to take on the burden of her expenses. “Their attitude is like, ‘Oh, you’re working — good luck,” she says. “They don’t look into anything extra.”

The demands of a full work day can be physically taxing for Dunlop and exacerbate the symptoms of her cerebral palsy. “I have extreme fatigue, spasticity, and pain,” she explains. “It’s quite strenuous at times.” This and the gaps in her health insurance put her in a bind. “I have to basically choose between supporting my disability and supporting myself,” she says.

That’s not a choice Dunlop wants to make: “I have worked hard to be a contributing member of society. I can’t imagine myself sitting at home. That’s just not who I am.”

This one will be two posts from two articles from the same newspaper The same article I’m going going to be quoting half of it the other half isn’t important to this conversation

National Post first article:

Randall Denley: How did Ontario’s disgraceful disability support program get so bad?

Ontario has what it calls a ‘vision for social assistance transformation,’ but it does nothing to give the disabled a livable sum of money

What kind of society believes that disabled people struggling to cope with mental, psychological and physical challenges should be expected to get by on just $1,169 a month? Well, Ontario for one.

That’s what a disabled Ontarian who is single gets every month in government support. It’s a disgrace, but one that seldom makes it onto the political agenda or captures the attention of the media or the public. And yet, 2.6 million Ontarians have a disability and more than 395,000 of them receive the Ontario Disability Support Payment.

The ODSP comes in two parts. The “shelter benefit” is intended to cover to rent, mortgage, property taxes, home insurance, utilities, and condo fees. It tops out at $497. The government generously provides an additional $672 a month to cover all of life’s other costs. Disabled people with children can get more, but the amount is still well below the poverty line. In Toronto, the $1,169 is almost enough to cover the cost of a bachelor apartment. If your lifestyle doesn’t include eating, you can get by.

Let’s put that sum in context. During the pandemic, considerable attention has been paid to how much money people require to live on, either through pandemic support programs or through work. The federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit set the floor for what was politically acceptable at $500 a week. That rate would generate an annual income of $26,000 compared to the meagre $14,028 received by a single person on ODSP. So, that’s the going rate for not working.

But what about working? Ontario Premier Doug Ford raised the minimum wage to $15 as of Jan. 1, an increase of 4.5 per cent. He was widely denounced as a skinflint, but a person working for minimum wage in Ontario, 40 hours per week, can now make an annual income of $31,200 a year. People often wonder how anyone can get by on such a pittance.

Doug Ford inherited the ODSP problem, he didn’t create it. Unfortunately, he has made it worse. One of Ford’s first acts as premier was the halving of a planned three per cent increase in ODSP rates. People on ODSP haven’t received a raise since 2018, even though annual inflation in Ontario now stands at 5.2 per cent.

Ontario has what it calls a “vision for social assistance transformation,” but it does nothing to give the disabled a livable sum of money. Instead, it perpetuates the mistaken idea that disabled people’s main need is help finding work.

The performance of ODSP was examined in some detail in a 2019 report by Ontario’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk. If ODSP is a job program, it’s one of the worst ever designed. The auditor found that only two per cent of disabled adults were referred to the government’s employment supports program. An earlier study showed that of those, only 1.5 per cent earned enough to leave ODSP.

That’s not surprising when one considers who ODSP serves. The vast majority of Ontarians with a disability are not on the program. Of those who are, 57 per cent have either mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. Nevertheless, the PCs’ new “vision” for the disabled continues to push the optimistic goal of finding jobs for them.

ODSP is a curious job program because it begins to claw back earned income at the modest monthly total of just $200. After that, the government reduces its ODSP payments by 50 cents for every dollar earned, apparently thinking that once a person has $1,369 a month to live on, it’s time to lighten the unbearable load they are placing on government.

The government’s plan for the disabled relies heavily on the idea that people with disabilities have families who can afford to support them. It generously allows family to donate up to $10,000 a year, nearly as much as the government itself. Any greater assistance will mean a reduction in government help.

With maximum family help, a disabled person could just ease over the low income cut off, a measure of poverty that shows a single, urban Ontario would need just under $22,000 to get by. Of course, not every disabled person has such family support.

For years, disabled people and their advocates have been calling for better treatment. Instead, they are ignored by a provincial government that can afford to give wealthy people a break on their power rates, vacationers a tax break for renting a cottage, maybe even make licence plates free, a cheap political stunt that would cost $1 billion a year.

Article 2 from National Post:

Randall Denley: Ontario disability program designed to keep the vulnerable poor and weak

Ontario could find the $5.9B needed to raise the income of recipients above the poverty line simply by cancelling the stupidest waste of money in the provincial budget

In my last column I suggested that the $1,169 a month Ontario provides for a single person on the province’s disability support program was unreasonably low by just about any metric. It’s actually a number that’s so small it would make Scrooge blush.

Article content

Not only is the monthly payment low, the government does everything it can to limit disabled people’s ability to scrape by. They are allowed up to $40,000 in assets but any income from dividends or GICs has to be declared and will reduce the provincial payment. If the person’s savings creep over $40,000 they will be cut off from disability support until the amount is reduced.

When disabled Ontarians were given up to $600 by the federal government as a pandemic payment, the Ontario government generously agreed to let them keep the first $200, than clawed back half of the remainder.

So eager is the provincial government to shirk its small obligation to the disabled that it discounts its own payments dollar for dollar if a recipient also gets the CPP disability pension. Clearly, the Ontario Disability Support Program is not designed to lift people up, but to keep them well below the poverty line.

another part of the article:
Many people with disabilities face major challenges in coping with day-to-day life and their work opportunities are limited. That’s a burden that many people could face due to sickness or bad luck. Ontario needs to revise its program so that disabled people and their families don’t have to worry about a life of extreme poverty.

Another part:
There is a solution that ought to appeal to disabled Ontarians and the Doug Ford government.

Ontario spends $5.9 billion a year on its disability support program. Although the individual payments are low, the total is relatively high due to the number of people on the program. Last December, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner suggested that ODSP benefits should be doubled. That would raise a disabled individual’s income above the poverty line, although it would still be less than what a minimum wage earner gets.

Last part:

The Liberals say the disability benefit will be based on the Guaranteed Income Supplement available to low-income seniors. The GIS provides up to $959 a month to people with an income of less than $19,464.

If it happens, it would get a disabled Ontario individual close to the poverty line. That’s something, but disabled Ontarians need help now, not years from now.

the next several posts will profiles (pics) based on a report about ODSP and “what prevents them from working” from collaboration between three groups (Granted they’re three are mostly about mental health but the same rules apply for other people on ODSP : Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the “Dream Team” and Houselink Community Homes.

Please note its from 2010 so there’s been some changes like the $15.00 wage from the $10.50 it was at the time of this report

But to start off with some information from the PDF

Issue 1: profile 1 part 1

Part 2:
Issue 1 Claws backs and excemptionspart 2

Exceptions profile:

Next Issue: communication (ODSPs lack of communication that is)

profile three part 2

More lack of commutation:

profile 4 part 2

explain the problem for both profiles;
explaing the problem

more problem with commucations and poor service:

Profile five:

Issue 3: ODSP Earnings and other programs:

profile six part 2

pofile six part 3

Back to Dawn again about Canadian Disablity plan

Issue four: Leaving ODSP
Profile seven:

Same problem as above:

Profile eight

profile 8 part 2

proifle 8 part 3

Problem of employments supports/lack of them:

other half

Back to Rose again:
Back to Rose

Problem for both Rose and Omar:
problem exlpation

The thread is open now for others to post in. But please don’t post until you read my 15 posts of ODSP articles and the profiles.

found a new article (heard about it from my parents)

Woman with chemical sensitivities chose medically-assisted death after failed bid to get better housing

A 31-year-old Toronto woman who uses a wheelchair is nearing final approval for a medically assisted death request after a fruitless bid to secure an affordable apartment that doesn’t worsen her chronic illnesses.

The looming approval for death surprisingly, makes her grateful. “Relieved and elated,” Denise said in an interview with CTV News. “I was scared that they weren’t going to say ‘yes’,” she said.

Denise asked us not to use her real name to protect her identity.

She was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), which triggers rashes, difficulty breathing, and blinding headaches called hemiplegic migraines that cause her temporary paralysis.

The chemicals that make her sick, said Denise, are cigarette smoke, laundry chemicals, and air fresheners. She is at risk of anaphylactic shock and so has EpiPens at all times in case she has a life-threatening allergic attack.

Denise is also a wheelchair user after a spinal cord injury six years ago and has other chronic illnesses.


She desperately wants to move to an apartment that’s wheelchair accessible and has cleaner air. But her only income is from Ontario’s Disability Support Program (ODSP). She receives a total of $1,169 a month plus $50 for a special diet. “I’ve applied for MAiD essentially…because of abject poverty,” she said.

One of her physicians, Dr. Riina Bray, medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, has been looking for better housing saying Denise requires “immediate relocation for her safety.”

But Denise said she and supporters have called 10 different agencies in Toronto over the past six months to locate housing with reduced chemical and smoke exposure that she can afford on ODSP.

“None of them were able to do anything meaningful in terms of getting me relocated, getting the discretionary emergency, or temporary housing and emergency funds,” said Denise.

Applying for medically assisted death has been surprisingly easier. Denise said she began working on applications for MAiD in the summer of 2021.

A psychiatrist, she said, first deemed her competent to make the decision. A second MAiD provider reviewed her medical history and signed the approval according to Denise. Another physician who offers medically assisted death has now asked her to finalize documents including a power of attorney and funeral arrangements along with a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. She said she’s finishing up this documentation.

Denise has also asked doctors to waive the 90-day waiting period for people like her who are “Track Two” cases, meaning their natural death isn’t imminent, hoping for an earlier death.

Bray said none of the doctors contacted her to learn about the efforts to help Denise find housing first. This is despite research showing that people with multiple chemical sensitivities often improve in chemically cleaner environments.

“Shocking,” she said. “They’re easily fixable situations," said Bray.

Denise confirmed that when friends and supporters can raise money for her to stay at a wheelchair-accessible hotel that’s near a ravine with clean air, her symptoms lessen greatly.

“Stays are paid for with donations and are limited in length by how much funds are available. It is an emergency ‘solution’ and absolutely not sustainable,” Denise wrote in an email.

Denise says her life today is a far cry from her early days as a professional make-up artist.

“I was earning $25 an hour. It was a good job,” she told CTV News.

But chemical exposures from her work triggered her Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). MCS is a recognized disability under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It’s believed to be caused by exposures to chemicals, or other environmental exposures that cause physical symptoms, although it is a controversial diagnosis in the medical community.

found some more articles

Disability advocates to rally at Queen’s Park Thursday for higher rates

Alexis Wilson has exactly $125 left each month for food and anything extra once she’s paid her rent and phone bill.

With several health conditions leaving her unable to work, Wilson gets just $1,169 each month from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), meaning she often skips meals and never gets the chance to fulfil other simple longings.

“I would love to be able to just go to a restaurant, a sit-in restaurant and just eat a nice meal. Not even an expensive one, just like a nice meal,” said Wilson, 42, who spoke to CBC News Wednesday at her home in Ajax, Ont., east of Toronto.

Wilson is just one of the more than a half a million people who subsist on ODSP, according to Ontario’s auditor general. She and others with disabilities hope the winner of the provincial election on June 2 will increase the monthly payment. Disability advocates will gather at Queen’s Park Thursday to try to get the issue firmly on the campaign agenda. They’ll call for a monthly rate that pushes recipients like Wilson above the poverty line.

Ontario’s latest budget — which should be seen more as an election platform for Premier Doug Ford’s PC party — doesn’t include any increase in ODSP or Ontario Works (OW) payments, even as more people are expected to need the programs.

The budget anticipates a one per cent caseload change for both programs, with 402,984 people relying on ODSP and 243,934 using OW.

Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy was asked why, when the government is running up a deficit, it didn’t spend more on the programs.

“We’re investing more in social services,” Bethlenfalvy said, noting government spending on its Social Services Relief Fund, which municipalities can use to add to rent banks, build affordable housing or support those in the homeless shelter system.

Bethlenfalvy did not directly address ODSP or OW rates.

Advocates call for nearly double current rate

Anthony Frisina, a spokesperson for the Ontario Disability Coalition, also relies on ODSP payments. He says the groups involved in the rally want to see a rate of at least $2,000 per month, given the federal government deemed that amount a “livable wage” when it set up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit at the start of the pandemic.

This increase would mean many with disabilities could live in accommodations that are safe, desirable and suitable to their accessibility needs, something currently not the case for many, he says.

As it stands, people on ODSP have just $497 to pay for a roof over their heads and that “doesn’t really cover anything nowadays in terms of shelter,” Frisina said.

The current annual ODSP rates give recipients just over $14,000 a year, says Shawn Pegg, the director of social policy and strategic initiatives for Community Living, an organization that advocates for policy changes to better support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“You’re 40 per cent below the poverty line,” said Pegg.

The current rates also mean many have to live with aging parents and people don’t know what they will do when their parents are no longer around to offer them support, he says. Others are forced to cope with living arrangements they would not have chosen otherwise, he says.

‘I don’t know if I want to live another 60 years like this’

Wilson knows what Pegg is talking about.

"I have this terror. What happens when my mom dies?" said Wilson, who receives some food and other support from her mother, a senior with a limited income.

Wilson, who has bipolar disorder, PTSD, arthritis and several other physical disabilities that limit her mobility, says she is considering medically assistance in dying if rates don’t improve.

“I don’t know if I want to live another 60 years like this, It’s a long time to live with very little money,” she said. Ricardo Tranjan, a political economist and senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says income support rates for those with disabilities haven’t always lagged behind the cost of living in Ontario. He says they more than kept up with inflation from 1967 to 1993, only to fall behind after that.

“We have the income and the resources necessary to invest in this, whether or not we decide to do it,” Tranjan told CBC News.

“And I think doing it is the smart thing to do.”

What the parties are promising
CBC News asked the four major parties if they would raise ODSP rates and if so, what metric they would use to determine those increases. Parties were given more than 24 hours to respond.

Tom Rakocevic, the current NDP MPP for Humber River-Black Creek, says the party would immediately raise the rate by 20 per cent and would legislate that rates must at a minimum be indexed to inflation. He says the NDP would also “*end unfair clawbacks for those who are able to work.”

The Ontario Greens say they would double the ODSP rates as a first step to implementing a basic income and tie future increases to inflation. The party referred to current rates as “legislated poverty.”

While the Ontario Liberals did not provide exact figures, a spokesperson says their fully costed platform is coming and will include changes to improve ODSP rates. The Liberal plan “will include letting people on ODSP keep more of the employment money they earn and reducing the number of complex rules.”

‘Maybe there can be positive change’

Meantime, Wilson says hearing some parties talk about ODSP is giving her hope heading into the election.

“If we get a discussion going maybe there can be positive change,” she said.

Wilson worked full-time before her disabilities, and could have small pleasures. Now, she says, she hasn’t bought a single article of clothing in about a decade. If things break or she loses them, she says she just has to do without.

If the rates changed for the better, she says she would probably just buy a book.

“I haven’t been able to buy a book in over a decade …Yes, I can go to the library, but there’s something special about when that book is yours … the smell of a new book.”

*Well that’s something new I saw about Ontario government NDP promising to end “unfair clawbacks”. I didn’t see that in other articles. I did see about the 20% increase and the “tying it to future inflation”

ODSP paystub

from Sept of last year also from the CBC:

People with disabilities demand hike in income support, give province failing grade

Province says it raised social assistance rates by 1.5% in 2018

Kyle Vose says he doesn’t want to see people forced to make a choice between paying rent or feeding their households anymore.

“People with disabilities across Ontario want to be treated with respect,” he said.

Vose is the co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition. The group organized a small rally outside Queen’s Park on Tuesday calling on the province to increase Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments.

Vose said the ODSP Action Coalition surveyed hundreds of residents who rely on ODSP as well as their families, asking them to give the program a grade.

“We saw a lot of Fs unfortunately,” he said.

Vose and others at the rally said because the payments have not increased since 2018, many who live with disabilities can barely make ends meet between paying for the cost of living and food.

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services says it has invested over $1 billion through the Social Services Relief Fund to ensure that those who are vulnerable have support during the pandemic, but those with disabilities and advocates fear more people will end up experiencing homelessness if the funding isn’t increased urgently.

According the province’s website, those eligible for ODSP could receive $1,169 per month for basic needs and shelter — an amount that can vary depending on factors like the number of people in their household.

Anthony Frisina, who is with Ontario’s Disability Coalition, is frustrated that as the rate of inflation rises, ODSP remains stagnant.

“We want to continue to grow the disability community as equal members of the community,” he said.

“The federal government indicated that the cost of living for those who cannot work due to the pandemic is $2,000. Well, ODSP needs to match that.”

Province responds

A statement emailed to CBC Toronto from Krystle Caputo, director of communications for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, says: “When we formed government, we raised the social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent,” adding the Social Services Relief Fund is in addition to over $8.3 billion in social assistance payments issued in 2020 and 2021.

“We look forward to the federal government fulfilling their campaign commitment to create the Canada Disability Benefit to increase the level of supports for those receiving the Ontario Disability Supports Program funding to more closely align with the Canadian Recovery Benefit levels.”

Vose wants to see action soon, including adding a community allowance benefit, giving those who can’t work but can volunteer an opportunity to receive an allowance for their contributions to the community.

“We’re hoping to sit down and meet and create real change in this program.”

this time about how even falling in love could become a hard ship. This first one is from 2018

[ODS falling in love hardship](ODSP Falling in Love Hardship](TVO | Current affairs, documentaries and education)

How the Ontario Disability Support Program makes falling in love a challenging proposition

ODSP is supposed to assist those with disabilities — but critics say its marriage regulations can lead to dependence, financial hardship, and abuse

When Tim and Natalie Rose first moved in together, they had no idea that doing so would cause them to lose their income and leave them thousands of dollars in debt.

But that can be the reality for many couples when one or both partners receive assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program, or ODSP.

The pair met just before Tim moved to England to study human-rights law, but they knew there was a connection, so they gave long distance a try.

“We kind of realized as I was leaving for England that we just wanted to be together all the time,” Tim says.

Their relationship lasted the year’s separation, and when Tim returned to his native Toronto, Natalie was looking for a place to live as well.

“We decided to move in together right away, actually, because of disability,” Natalie explained. Tim has cerebral palsy and requires at least a semi-accessible apartment to accommodate his wheelchair. Because of the lack of such apartments in Toronto, he had thought he would have to move into an assisted-living arrangement at first, which would have made it difficult for Natalie to visit him. And Natalie would not have been able to afford an accessible space on her own. “We just thought, you know what, it would just be easier and make more sense to move in together,” she says. Eventually, they found a space that worked.

Tim was supporting himself through ODSP. Unlike Ontario Works, which is designed for short-term assistance, it provides recipients with support for long periods of time — sometimes their whole adult lives. The rates are higher, and there are less stringent clawbacks for things like employment income, gifts, and assets. This is a recognition of the fact that living with a permanent disability is expensive and that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find long-term, stable employment, especially of the kind that will offer the health benefits and prescription drug coverage many people with disabilities need.

As Tim was required to inform the program of any changes in his household, he gave ODSP his new address and said he was moving in with a girlfriend. So that he wouldn’t lose his income or health benefits, they kept their finances completely separate and reported their income every month, believing that they were in compliance with the rules. At first, nothing happened.

Over time, it became clear that they wanted their relationship to be more permanent, and when they filed their taxes the following year, it was as common-law partners. They admit to having done so in error, not realizing that keeping separate finances was not enough, and they believed themselves to have acted in line with ODSP’s policy directives until that point.

But they had run afoul of the program’s marriage regulations. Tim’s new caseworker told them that Tim should no longer be on ODSP and that his income and assets needed to be recalculated based on Natalie’s. Social assistance considers people living as a family in the same household as part of a “benefit unit,” not as single individuals. This means that income and expenses are calculated as a whole. If a recipient is part of a couple, the couple can currently receive a maximum of $952 per month for basic needs and $769 for shelter costs, excluding benefits for work-related, disability, or child-care expenses. (Different rules and limits apply when both spouses are disabled.)

Then, as now, any member of a unit who worked would be able to earn $200 a month without clawbacks. Every additional dollar after that is clawed back at a rate of 50 per cent.

At the time, Natalie was making around $1,000 a month from sporadic work doing occupational-therapy education. The couple says they couldn’t have survived on her income alone, and it was low enough that they still would have qualified for benefits, albeit at a reduced rate. More important, they would still have been eligible for medical and dental coverage through the program.

However, Natalie also had a $10,000 bond left over from savings her parents had put away for her education. Under asset limits at the time, recipients were prohibited from having more than $5,000 in assets per single person, or $7,500 per couple. This alone disqualified her and Tim from receiving ODSP income support or benefits at all. (The asset limits were raised in 2017 to $40,000 for a single person and $50,000 for a couple, not including exempt assets such as life-insurance policies.)

ODSP representatives also told them that, according to their regulations, they had been considered spouses not from the time they filed as common-law, but from three months after they moved in together. This meant that the couple was liable for all of Tim’s support payments during that period, as well as ODSP’s portion of a new wheelchair and dental work. (ODSP covers only 25 per cent of the cost of any new wheelchair; the other 75 per cent is covered under the province’s Assistive Devices Program.) The total bill came to around $27,000.

According to a representative of the program, when a person, couple, or family is in receipt of ODSP and starts making too much money to receive income support, they can still be covered under transitional or extended health-benefit programs. These programs exist so that no one will lose health coverage as a consequence of starting work, and cover the same things ODSP health insurance does, like prescription drugs, equipment, and dental care.

But because Natalie’s assets were too high under the old rules, she and Tim were not eligible for the program at all and were told they had to pay back the entirety of the medical costs.

“We were terrified,” Tim says. “We were sick to our stomach. I felt incredibly guilty.” The only way for the couple to get back on ODSP was for Natalie to get rid of her savings. She says she asked what she should do with it, and the caseworker told her she should “buy things like TVs or even put a down payment on a house.” When they questioned whether $10,000 would be enough for a down payment on a property in Toronto, they were reassured that it was possible. “[The caseworker] said to us, ‘Don’t worry about it. I just slapped a $93,000 debt on somebody yesterday,’” Natalie recalled. “She acted like it wasn’t a big deal at all.”

While the couple wrestled with what to do, they experienced doubts about their relationship, even considered breaking up. Both say they felt responsible for the impact of the situation on the other.

“For me, it made me feel like a total worthless drain on society, a drain on my wife, and a drain on my marriage,” says Tim.

“I felt like my presence in his life was actually affecting him negatively,” adds Natalie, who says she felt guilty because Tim had lost not only his income, but also his access to medical equipment and dental care.

The program’s rules for who is considered a spouse and after how long are a subject of contention among disabled people, and the legality of these rules has been challenged in the past.

Jennifer and Dan Aucoin are among those who have challenged it: in 2016, they were part of a group that brought a case before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. When Dan and Jennifer married in 2013, Dan was initially cut off from income support entirely because Jennifer was still receiving child support from a previous marriage. Jennifer’s income was considered a replacement for the income that Dan received in his own name. The couple, along with others, challenged this on the basis that it was not consistent with the Family Law Act.

The Ontario Family Law Act says that a couple should be deemed spouses if they have continuously cohabited in a marriage-like relationship “for a period of not less than three years.”

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, for tax purposes, the term “spouse” applies “only to a person to whom you are legally married,” while a common-law partner can be anyone with whom you have been living in a conjugal relationship for at least 12 continuous months.

Neither of these definitions is used by ODSP. In order to be considered a spouse under that program, you have to have been living together in a marriage-like relationship for only three months. The Aucoins argued that this constituted discrimination because, in their view, they did not have access to the rights of spouses in Ontario.

“Not only is this a human-rights violation because it discriminates against people with disabilities, but it puts couples with one on ODSP and one not in a very difficult position,” says Jennifer.

Dan calls the system degrading. “You’re not allowed your independence,” he says.

The tribunal did not agree. It found that the Aucoins and their fellow plaintiffs were not being discriminated against on the basis of disability, because the province can choose to set whatever conditions it likes on the receipt of income support. And because ODSP is a “program of last resort,” recipients have an obligation to seek other sources of income, including from their spouses.

The Aucoins say they plan to challenge the decision.

Kyle Vose, chair of the ODSP Action Coalition, a group that lobbies for changes to the program, says its marriage policies can lead to assault and abuse because they make one partner dependent on the other. “If you’re living with someone and they have to pay for all your medication, they have to look after you because you have no income — they can now take advantage of you … That leaves the person with a disability at a disadvantage, instead of having their own income and their own money.”

“If someone was making $100,000 a year, or $200,000,” he says, “then maybe they don’t need it. But we’re talking about people who are making minimum wage. The system is set up to fail, and it’s set up to keep people living in poverty. And that’s not right.”

Vose is optimistic that if there is enough public outcry, the provincial government may update the policy. “A lot of our demands have been met in the last year or so,” he explains, pointing to recent changes related to child-support and asset limits. Consultations coordinated by the ODSP Action Coalition with people who use ODSP have shown that people believe spousal regulations should be the next area targeted for reform.

“We call it the double-disability clause. We argue that they should be rating the person on the person, not on the relationship they’re in, because if they do, what ends up happening is people don’t qualify,” Vose says.

Not every recipient thinks the system is unfair. Michael Feir is blind and has been married twice, both times to blind people who receive ODSP, as he does. He says he believes the ODSP regulations constitute a fair way to account for the shared expenses of living as a couple. “You’re living in the same place, you’re paying the same rent, so a lot of the costs get shared,” he says.

Feir says that there are challenges but that the issue is not as clear-cut as it seems. The real barrier for couples, he argues, is the lack of subsidized housing for people with disabilities. “If you have subsidized housing, the system can work reasonably well, because that’s where most of your money gets chewed up if you don’t,” he says.

The amount for shelter costs given to ODSP recipients assumes they are paying subsidized rent. Since many people don’t have that, their rent ends up taking up much of the money they get every month for basic needs.

Feir and his second wife live in a subsidized apartment now, something he and his first wife never had access to. “Part of what destroyed our marriage was the sheer not knowing, waiting, going through all our savings, having to rely on our parents to support us financially,” he says.

Tim and Natalie’s story has a happy ending. Eventually, they were able to reduce their debt by negotiating a solution with the province. When Natalie went back to school to get her doctorate, the couple was able to get back on ODSP. In a strange twist, Natalie was classified as the recipient and Tim as her spouse, because, even though Tim was the one with the permanent disability, it was her student status that granted them both eligibility.

“Your tax dollars went to supporting me, and I didn’t even want it,” says Natalie. “I was an ODSP recipient for two years.”

They were able to meet with a financial adviser who told them how they can have assets allowed by ODSP. Programs such as the Registered Disability Savings Plan, or RDSP, allow people with disabilities to save without affecting their asset limits.

After a while, Tim was able to find full-time work: the couple currently does not receive ODSP or any other income support. But many other families like theirs do not know what the future will hold.

The former Liberal government commissioned a report outlining proposed recommendations for the reform of various social-assistance programs, including Ontario Works and ODSP. Among the working group’s findings was the recommendation that there should be an “assured income standard” for people with disabilities in the province — “a floor below which no one should fall.” This would mean that people and families living with disabilities would be entitled to a certain standard of living, regardless of employment or marital status, which would make it easier to transition on and off the program with a change in life circumstances. The report also recommends that ODSP’s definition of a spouse should be changed to bring it in line with the Family Law Act, meaning that a couple would be considered spouses after three years of living together — not three months.

Under the 2018 Liberal budget, the ODSP’s definition of a spouse would have been brought in line with the Family Law Act, based on cohabitation for three years, not three months. However, the new Progressive Conservative government [recently announced]
(Ontario government scraps basic income pilot project, limits welfare increase to 1.5 per cent | The Star) that the planned changes to the ODSP outlined in the Liberal budget have been “paused.” Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod has promised that the government will introduce its own reforms to Ontario Works and ODSP by early November.

In the meantime, Natalie Rose says she worries about couples who do not have the resources she and Tim had. “We had so much privilege in our situation … and it still took, like, a year for us to solve the problem, and you just think how many people don’t have those resources and will just accept whatever ODSP tells them,” she says.

She and Tim are adamant that the policies need to be changed. “We should not have been punished for falling in love,” she says. “It’s hard enough for disabled people to find love to begin with. To punish them further for it is just absolutely despicable. Whether the policies were put in place to do that or not, that’s the end result.”