Low-income people with disabilities across the province have won a big victory in a campaign to ensure that people on ODSP who work don’t lose an important source of monthly income.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services has announced a hold on plans to change OW and ODSP employment benefits. This means the $100 Work-Related Benefit for people on ODSP will not be eliminated in October, as previously announced. The Work-Related Benefit will continue to be available for the foreseeable future, so people on ODSP who earn income from work, a training program, or self-employment will continue to get that money.
The ODSP Action Coalition has been campaigning for several months against the loss of the Work-Related Benefit. We congratulate the Coalition and all of its allies on this victory and on their hard work and perseverance, and are happy to have been able to provide support as an institutional partner.
We commend the government for listening to the Coalition and its allies. The Ministry has recognized that making changes to employment benefit policy can have a serious impact on people’s monthly incomes and that therefore any changes must take place within a broader context of reform and after consultation.
First announced by the provincial government in the 2014 provincial budget, a new Employment-Related Benefit would have replaced the Work-Related Benefit and six other employment benefits in OW and ODSP starting in April of this year. It was subsequently postponed until October 1.
The newly-announced deferral means that all seven employment benefits currently available to people on OW and ODSP will continue to be available.
The ODSP Action Coalition and allies have been campaigning against the loss of the Work-Related Benefit since December 2014, when ISAC and the Coalition created background information materials, held an information webinar, and asked for the input of people who would be affected.
More than 500 people responded to that call. As a result, a report was written on the impact of the loss of the Benefit, which included the concern of many that they would no longer be able to afford to work.
Since the campaign began, members of the Coalition met with the Minister of Community and Social Services, Helena Jaczek, as well as more than a dozen Cabinet ministers or their staff and the Opposition parties to present the report and discuss the impact of the decision. Coalition members and allies sent 600 emails to the Premier, the Minister, Cabinet ministers and the Opposition. 1,500 signatures were gathered on a petition that was read into the Ontario Legislature seven times by both Opposition parties, who also asked pointed questions during Question Period. Many other groups and organizations wrote their own letters. And the issue garnered media attention from the Toronto Star.
The Ministry has now said that the new benefit is being delayed “to ensure alignment with the government’s broader work on social assistance reform”. They have already announced that they will consult on the larger issue of “rate restructuring” as the next step in reforming OW and ODSP, and we anticipate that the whole issue of changes to employment benefits will be part of these consultations.
This victory demonstrates how important it is for people on social assistance to speak from their experience about how changes to social assistance programs will affect them, and for their allies to support them in that work.
It also demonstrates the importance of government talking to people who will be affected by reforms in order to understand clearly what those impacts are and the real consequences for real people.
As the government moves forward with reforming OW and ODSP, we encourage all concerned Ontarians to continue to be actively aware of and involved in discussions about social assistance reform.
- Ministry of Community and Social Services Bulletin: September 9, 2015: http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/news/releases/2015/20150909.aspx
- ODSP Action Coalition report: “Why are they taking it away from us?”: http://www.odspaction.ca/resource/why-are-they-taking-it-away-us-results-survey-odsp-recipients-work-related-benefit
- ODSP Action Coalition position paper: http://www.odspaction.ca/resource/odsp-recipients-who-work-lose-100-month
- ISAC background paper on the proposed changes to employment benefits: ISAC Issue Backgrounder - Changes to ODSP Employment Benefits - update March 2015
- ISAC and Coalition joint webinar: http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/webinar/odsp-employment-benefits