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Income Security and the Ontario Election #2

May 5, 2018 Poverty Reduction

Community Legal Clinics are mandated to do Public Legal Education and Law Reform Work.

In that context, elections provide a unique opportunity to discuss issues important to our community and clients.

One such area is social assistance.

We’d like to see informed debate on social assistance in this year’s provincial election. 

To that end, we will be running a series of questions and backgrounders on our website.  Today is the second story... 

We’d like to understand where all the parties and candidates stand on these issues.

The materials have been prepared by the Income Security and Advocacy Centre. The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) is a community legal clinic established in 2001. and funded by Legal Aid Ontario. ISAC has a provincial mandate to advance the systemic interests and rights of low-income Ontarians around income security programs and low-wage precarious employment.  Find out more about ISAC at http://incomesecurity.org/

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Supports for People with Disabilities

Question 2: What will your party do to work with people with disabilities to strengthen ODSP and make OW responsive to their unique needs?

Background:

  • More than 360,000 people with disabilities rely on ODSP for income and other supports, along with 136,000 members of their families.
  • Singles on ODSP get a maximum of $1,151. Their total annual income with other benefits is only about $15,000 per year, which is more than $7,000 below the poverty line. Nearly 80% of people on ODSP are singles with no dependents.
  • Getting approved for ODSP benefits can take months if not years, often with lengthy appeals. Once approved, people get little in the way of supports.
  • ODSP caseworkers are each responsible for hundreds of people, and their jobs are focused more on ensuring that the rules are being followed than on helping people get the supports and services they need.
  • 70% of people on ODSP first entered the social assistance system through Ontario Works. But OW is not set up to support people with disabilities. The only tangible support is a waiver from OW’s requirement to look for work.
  • People with disabilities have unique needs. Many need long-term support.
  • The Income Security: Roadmap for Change report recommends ways to ensure that OW and ODSP do a better job of supporting people with disabilities. This includes:
    • Maintaining the current definition of disability and a distinct program of supports oriented toward people with disabilities
    • Making social inclusion a goal of the programs and improving employment supports
    • Increasing the amounts of money that people can keep when they work
    • Ensuring that people with disabilities get the supports they need from the first day they enter the door of either OW or ODSP
    • Providing better tailored supports and services that respond to people’s individual needs, and that are pro-active, empathetic, and non-discriminatory
    • Changing the role of caseworkers from “welfare police” to supportive service providers to help people build on their strengths and achieve their goals
    • Improving the ODSP application process and reducing the time it takes to be approved
    • Working with people with disabilities to move to a program that recognizes the need for long-term supports, eliminates asset rules, allows people to keep other public benefits (like CPP-D and EI) and makes it easier for those who work.

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