When a person with a disability appeals a decision to refuse them ODSP benefits, they have the right to have their appeal hearing conducted fairly. The Tribunal must listen to their testimony with an open mind before making a decision. It must also consider information about the person’s health conditions in light of their personal situation.
The Income Security Advocacy Centre and East Toronto Community Legal Services worked together to represent a single mother who was refused ODSP benefits. We argued that the Social Benefits Tribunal jumped to the wrong conclusion that she stopped working because she did not have childcare, rather than because of her health (as her doctors explained). Instead of giving her a chance to correct the Tribunal’s conclusion and fully explain her disability, the Tribunal suggested she cancel her appeal. When she did not and proceeded with her hearing the Tribunal responded to her explanations with disbelief.
We argued that the Tribunal’s conduct raised an appearance of bias because it prejudged the outcome of her case early in the hearing. We also argued that this led the Tribunal to misunderstand the evidence and ignore its proper context. For example, the Tribunal said her answers to questions were unclear when her medical reports showed she had memory problems due to trauma as a survivor of domestic and childhood abuse.
After starting an appeal at the Divisional Court, the case was resolved without a hearing.
To read our legal arguments, click here.