The ODSP Action Coalition and other organizations who campaigned to keep the $100 per month that is provided for all ODSP recipients who work, are happy that the government has listened and announced they will not be cutting this benefit this year as originally announced. Thanks to all who signed petitions, participated in our WRB survey, wrote letters and emails to the Premier and Minister of Community and Social Services, and met with cabinet Ministers.
The Coalition has launched a six month action campaign to mobilize members and supporters to press the government to improve income adequacy for ODSP recipients and their families. In January, the Ontario legislature and the Minister of Finance are listening to the public's ideas about what should be included in this year's provincial budget. The Action kit below, will help you to write your own letter stating that they must raise the amount of income support for ODSP, and not cut the Work Related benefit.
Our Coalition's pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs this year is simple, with only 2 key points: Provide adequate incomes for ODSP recipients and their families, and Stop the cut to the Work Related Benefit. Several Coalition members have been given the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee in different cities and will present this submission along with examples from their own experience. Anyone can also send in a written submission to the clerk of the Finance Committee, Katch Koch (firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ontario government has announced that the Work Related Benefit, which is $100 per month that ODSP recipients who work currently have added to their income, will be stopped in 2015. They are also making other changes to the current employment-related benefits as they plan to try to get more people with disabilities to work. The ODSP Action Coalition opposes any cuts as long as the current level of income supports remains so inadequate. The paper below outlines our concerns and positions on this issue.
The ODSP Action Coalition joined with other groups to "intervene" in a case at the Ontario Court of Appeal which deals with the rights of people who are homeless or inadequately housed. The key issue in this case is whether governments have any obligation to provide programs to address homelessness, and whether protections in the Charter of Rights deal with social assistance and related programs. A hearing was held in May 2014 to determine whether this case has a right to proceed.
This paper compares the maximum ODSP rates paid to people with disabilities, with the average costs for rent, food, telephone and transportation in several different Ontario communities. It shows that often people do not receive enough even for these basic expenses, let alone for other needs like clothing, personal care items, or the additional costs created by their disability. It includes the Coalition's recommendations that the amounts of income support need to be set based on the real costs that people have, and that an expert panel including people with lived experience should be set
This updated lobby Kit and the Key Messages are useful if planning to meet with or write letters to your local Member of Provincial Parliament about the current issues in social assistance reform, such as the rates, merging OW and ODSP, mandatory work plans for people with disabilities, etc. The Lobby kit gives practical tips and form letters youc an use. For more background information to prepare what you will say when you have a meeting, see the short papers listed on our Resources for Advocacy page under "Key Issues in ODSP Reform.".
The ODSP Action Coalition has written a letter to Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services, protesting the change in the way the social assistance rate increase is being given this year. Instead of paying a 1% increase in the total allowance for families, they are giving an increase only for the person with a disability, with no increase at all for the non-disabled family members. Thus, a single person on ODSP gets $11.00 per month more, but all ODSP families, regardless of size of family, will also only get a raise of $11.00 per month.
Our Coalition Policy Committee has written another short issues paper in our series dealing with social assistance reform issues from the perspective of people with disabilities. This one discusses the recommendation of the Commission for the Review of Social Asssitance that the government should set targets to reduce ODSP caseloads. We say this would be wrong, and that the Commission did not look carefully enough at the reasons so many people need ODSP.
The ODSP Action Coalition has produced a series of short papers dealing with key issues for ODSP recipients. These information sheets discuss many of the recommendations from Brighter Prospects, the report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance. We provide the perspective of members of the Coalition on those important issues.
The ODSP Action Coalition has written to both Premier Kathleen Wynne, and to the new Minister for Community and Social Services, Ted McMeekin. Premier Wynne has stated that she wants to be the "Social Justice" premier, and also that she wants to proceed with social assistance reform. She has appointed Francis Lankin, one of the Commissioners who reviewed social assistance and issued the report "Brighter Prospects", to the transition team, signalling that the government may proceed with implementing at least some of the recommendations. Also part of the transition team is Don Drummond, who authored a report on how the government could save money.
"Disability will still be a life sentence to poverty if this report's recommendations are implemented," says Kyle Vose, co-chair, ODSP Action Coalition.
There are no concrete recommendations to improve the incomes of people with disabilities in "Brighter Prospects", the report presented by Francis Lankin and Munir Sheikh. However, at least the Commission recommends that wherever recipients would lose income as a result of these changes, they will be "grandparented" or allowed to keep their present level of benefits. As well, the current defintion of disability is to be retained.
Our co-chairs, Kyle Vose and Naomi Ives-Peak, along with other members of our Employment Supports committee, have met twice with Glen Murray, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. This Minister has responsibility for Employment Ontario. The spring budget announced that all the different employment and training programs run by 11 different ministries will be coordinated under Employment Ontario, so the Coalition wants to have input into the changes to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are respected.
On May 17 the "Dalton and Me" Tour co-sponsored by the Put Food in the Budget campaign, and the ODSP Action Coalition, arrived at our regular Coalition meeting. This life-size mannequin of the Premier is touring the province to allow people to tell Dalton McGuinty what they think about the recent budget which only gave a 1% increase to social assistance rates.
People attending were asked to answer one of the following questions:
1) What's the one thing you want the Premier to know about your life on ODSP?
The Coalition has responded to the latest discussion paper put out by the Commisison for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario. Our submission, entitled "Positive or Punitive: What Will Reform Mean for People with Disabilities?" questions many of the proposals suggested by the Commission. We worry that some of the changes could end up hurting people on ODSP if it is decided that some recipients can work and if ODSP is merged with OW.
After meeting with the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in early July, the ODSP Action Coalition decided we should do a follow-up submission on key issues and questions that emerged during our discussion with the Commiission.Â These issues include: whether people with disabilities should be divided intoÂ two groups--those who can work, and those who cannot work; whether there should be a requirement for people with disabilities to work, or to agree toÂ treatment or rehabilitation in order to get income support; and whether the Accessibility for People with Disabilities Act is effective in removing barriers and making workplaces fully accommodating.Â We also stress in this submission that there areÂ some goodÂ thingsÂ in the ODSP Act, such as a definition of disability that recognizes that disability is not just a medical issue butÂ includesÂ factorsÂ like social barriers.Â Although the Coalition hasÂ always had lots ofÂ complaints about the way current program is
236 people from all over Ontario who receive ODSP shared their struggles to survive with the ODSP Action Coalition.Â Their stories are summarized and quoted in a report released today, July 7 2010, at Toronto's Metro Hall.Â
The report is organized around the themes of
The Coalition had an opportunity to meet with members of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council (SARAC)Â in late January, and to present them with a list of quick changes that could be made toÂ some of the "stupid rules" inÂ ODSP.Â This Council was recently appointed by the government to give advice on two things:Â some "quick fix" changes to counterproductive rules, and the mandate and scope of a more conprehensive social assistance review to be carried out later this year.