Ontario residents with disabilities are seeing major changes to provincial programs offering financial support and medical coverage.
Effective Friday, the government is loosening some of the stringent rules governing the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW). The two are the primary social support systems for residents with disabilities, although Ontario Works assists residents with out disabilities as well.
One of the most notable changes significantly relaxes the rules concerning how much money recipients are allowed to have as assets or savings before having their benefits clawed back.
Singles receiving ODSP will see their asset limits jump from $5,000 to $40,000, while limits for couples will climb from $7,500 to $50,000.
Individuals using Ontario Works will see those limits quadruple from $2,500 to $10,000, while couples’ limits triple from $5,000 to $15,000.
The government is also increasing the limits on how much ODSP or OW recipients can receive in a year as cash gifts. Among other changes going into effect is a two per cent increase in monthly social assistance benefits for both programs.
Advocates say changes are progress
Program users and advocates hailed the changes as definite progress for a system they say had long lagged behind the needs of those who relied on it. But they said the changes still fall short of what’s needed. In particular, they cited the small increase to social assistance benefits.
Individuals on ODSP, for instance, receive just $1,151 per month, including a maximum shelter allowance of $479. The total monthly income for couples on ODSP is currently set at $1,688.
“You increase the size of the water barrel, but you do not allow people to open the tap much more than is currently possible today. It makes things so complex for people who are struggling.”
– Ron Malis, a financial advisor focusing on people with disabilities
Kyle Vose, chair of the ODSP Action Coalition, said the changes that took effect Friday represent a necessary and welcome first step to overhauling the program.
“We are grateful for what we’re getting and for the changes that are being made,” said Vose, who cited the increase to asset limits and cash gifts as among the most exciting of the changes. Those were long-standing sore points within the community, he said.
Ron Malis, a financial advisor focusing on people with disabilities, agreed.
With the previous limits, if a social assistance…