ODSP Action Coalition first formed in 2002 when 16 community forums were held across the province to document the problems and develop recommendations for improvements to the Ontario Disability Support Program, on which many people with disabilities in Ontario rely for survival. Several reports by a number of organizations (including Denial by Design, which was researched and written by the Income Security Advocacy Centre for the Coalition) also documented widespread issues and concerns with the rules, and treatment of clients.
Issues that the Coalition worked on included the complex application and disability adjudication process; the inconsistent and unfair provision of benefits such as medical transportation and special diet; the lack of clear information given to applicants/clients; unfair treatment of applicants/clients by local offices/caseworkers; and rules related to earnings and employment supports.
The Coalition uses a variety of strategies to push for positive change to ODSP: direct political lobbying; joining with other groups and organizations in campaigns, rallies and marches; providing information and materials about rights and benefits; meetings and consultations with government officials; media work; use of strategies such as appeals, complaints to the provincial Ombudsman or legal challenges.
Meanwhile one issue has always been at the top of most members' priority list, and that is the amounts of monthly income support which are inadequate to pay the costs of shelter, nutritious food and the other essentials of life. After intense lobbying by many groups and individuals, the Liberal government raised the rates by 3% effective in 2005, by another 2% in each of November, 2006, November, 2007, and November 2008. Despite these raises people with disabilities still have less purchasing power now than they did in 1993. But we are not giving up. The Coalition will continue to use every opportunity to push for effective increases to bring incomes up to the average cost for shelter, food, transportation and personal necessities.