Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) increases are inadequate

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| Published , updated March 19, 2024

The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is managed by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services governed by the ODSP Act.

Since 1995, ODSP has continued to fall further and further behind multiple poverty line measures including Canada’s official Market Basket Measure (MBM) and the Low Income Measure (LIM-AT) as well as inflation.

They are insufficient to cover basic needs including shelter and food, forcing ODSP recipients to make difficult choices – between bills, medication, and food – that ultimately leave them worse off. They are generally forced to eat a poor diet due to high food prices and non-perishable items being cheaper, but considerably less nutritious than fresh produce.

Recipients of social assistance programs have worse health outcomes than non-recipients and lack of priority for Ontarians living in poverty is costly for our healthcare system.

If we saw an increase in rates, it would give me more space to do the job I am supposed to be doing. It is almost impossible to provide primary health care if people don’t have their foundational needs met. I spend a good portion of my time trying to alleviate effects of poverty

Dr. Gary Bloch, family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital

It has also resulted in increasing number of reports that ODSP recipients with a serious illness, disease or disability are being forced to choose seeking Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) due to a lack of support.

Since ODSP and OW were cut by 21% in 1995, successive Ontario governments of various stripes (PC, NDP & Liberal) have failed to address this trend and provide acceptable levels of social assistance.

Statistics

  • 496,000 people are beneficiaries of ODSP as of December 2023.
  • Maximum for a single individual with a disability is $1,308.
    • Maximum basic needs amount for a single individual with a disability is $752.
    • Maximum shelter amount for a single individual with a disability is $556. The provincial government thinks someone can find a place to live including rent and utilities for that amount. In Ontario. In the middle of a housing crisis.
  • In 1998, a person with disabilities could receive up to $930 a month. In 2023, 25 years later, that amount had gone up just $378.

ODSP falls below Canada’s Official Poverty Line

Canada’s Official Poverty Line is the Market Basket Measure, which differs by location and family type.

In 2022, here is the monthly amount of the MBM for select municipalities and populations:

LocationMonthly MBM for singles 2022
Rural$1871
Toronto$2223
Hamilton$2010
Ottawa$2183
Population < 30k$1902
Population 30-99k$1882
Population 100-400k$1983
Population 500k+$2070

ODSP payments have fallen from just under 80% of the poverty line in 2002, to around 57% of the poverty line in 2022:

Source: Maytree – Welfare in Ontario

ODSP increases were lower than inflation from 2012 to 2022

ODSP and OW have trailed inflation, while Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement and Ontario’s minimum wage have increased faster than inflation over the same timeframe:

ODSP payments have fallen behind inflation and the Low Income Measure since 1995

Municipalities that have

Belleville

Belleville residents who own and occupy a residential property who are recipients of the maximum shelter allowance under ODSP may apply annually to the ODSP property tax rebate program to have a portion of their property taxes cancelled.

Belleville Bylaw 2023-114 set the amounts on June 12, 2023 to:

  • 2023 – $900
  • 2024 – $1,000
  • 2025 – $1,100
  • 2026 – $1,200

Timeline

October 1995 – Harris government cut ODSP by 21%

Harris PC government spent 8 years in power from 1995 to 2003 and did not increase either OW or ODSP.

1998 – Person with disabilities could receive up to $930 a month

In 1998, a person with disabilities could receive up to $930 a month. In 2023, 25 years later, that amount had gone up just $378.

April 2022 – All Ontario political parties except Greens propose ODSP payments below the poverty line – lower than Mike Harris’ when adjusted for inflation

Source: Mike Moffatt

April 2022 – ODSP recipient Richard Ewald said he will apply for MAiD if his situation gets worse

I’m not suicidal. Sometimes it’s a choice between burning to death and jumping out of a high-rise building. I’d like to have that choice. I’ve suffered. I really don’t want to suffer past a certain point

I wouldn’t be doing it if I wasn’t so stuck in this situation with ODSP.

Richard Ewald

May 2022 – 31-year-old Toronto women who uses a wheelchair nears MAiD after nears medically assisted death after not being able to secure affordable housing

I’ve applied for MAiD essentially…because of abject poverty

May 2022 – MAiD cannot be a default for Canada’s failure to fulfill its human rights obligations – Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)

CHRC sent out a press release warning that people with disabilities are being forced to choose Medical Assistance in Dying due to a lack of support.

Several ODSP recipients have previously told CityNews they are considering applying for medical assistance in death (MAID) because it’s becoming too hard to live.

October 2022 – ODSP recipient Amir Farsoud applied for MAiD because social supports are failing him and he fears being homeless over dying

Cases like [Farsoud’s] are emerging with increasing frequency across the country,

We were unbelievably naive as a nation to think that vulnerability, disability, poverty that we could parcel that off and it wasn’t going to be a problem. It’s a huge problem.

I worry about this because it is people living with disability, people living with pain, people living in poverty, that are requesting medical assistance in dying, not because of the physical experience they’re going through, but because of the social circumstances themselves and this is wrong. It’s really a very terrible thing.

Dr. Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist from the University of Toronto

October 2022 – Poverty and stress is making people sicker, and driving a lot of Canadians with disabilities to consider ending their lives

We’re hearing about people who are choosing medical assistance in dying or thinking about it more because they don’t have money to live.

People are living in abject poverty when they’re on social assistance, in almost every province and territory across Canada.

When people are living in such a situation where they’re structurally placed in poverty, is medical assistance in dying really a choice or is it coercion? That’s the question we need to ask ourselves

Dr. Naheed Dosani, palliative care physician and Assistant Professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Toronto

October 2022 – CERB was $2,000 per month during the pandemic, but people with disabilities get $1,000

If the standard of living is $2,000 a month, according to the prime minister, then why are people with disabilities collecting cheques for a thousand dollars a month?

The reality is that it was a big slap in the face for the disabled community when many disabled Canadians were not eligible for the CERB.

Luca “LazyLegz” Patuelli, national co-chair of the advocacy group Disability Without Poverty

July 2023 – Ford PC government increases ODSP rates by 6.5%, ties it to inflation

This added about $80 to a single ODSP recipient’s basic payment, bringing it up to $1,308.

Certain ODSP rates were tied to inflation. In any year that payments go up, you will receive the higher payment at the end of July of each year.

This annual increase applies to:

  • basic needs and shelter maximum amounts for singles and families
  • board and lodge amounts for singles and families
  • the amount provided for a couple where both have disabilities
  • amounts for services provided by a Long-Term Care Home or a Specialized Care Residence

However, this did not bring ODSP up in line with the cost of living or the poverty line. A 6.5% increase to record low rates is giving a crumb while proudly announcing an increase and saying everything is okay now.

September 2023 – Ontario’s most economically vulnerable are even worse off after the pandemic – McMaster University COVID Economic and Social Effects Study (CESES)

February 13, 2024 – Prince Edward County asks province to double ODSP and OW

In a letter sent to various ministers and all municipalities, Price Edward County requested:

  • At least double Ontario Works and ODSP rates and index rates to inflation, answering calls already made by “Raise the Rates” campaign and the “Income Security Advocacy Centre”;
  • Commit to ongoing cost of living increases above and beyond the rate of inflation to make up for the years they were frozen;
  • Commit to jointly working between the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services and the Ministry of Health on the best methods of assessing client needs and then matching those in need to the services they require;

Citing:

  • poverty is taking a devastating toll on communities, undermining a healthy and prosperous Ontario, with people in receipt of Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program being disproportionately impacted;
  • cost of food, housing, medicine, and other essential items have outpaced the highest inflation rates seen in a generation;
  • people in need of social assistance have been legislated into poverty, housing insecurity, hunger, poorer health, their motives questioned, and their dignity undermined;
  • OW and ODSP rates do not provide sufficient income for a basic standard of living and, as a result, hundreds of thousands of people across Ontario who rely on these programs live in poverty;
  • the poverty risk profile for Prince Edward County created by Vital Signs states that 10.1% – 13.5% of County residents are living on low income

How much money does ODSP provide?

The Ontario Disability Support Program Act and regulations set the social assistance rates.

The amount of assistance someone can receive from ODSP depends on:

  • Basic needs calculation
    • Food
    • Clothing
    • Other necessary personal items
  • depends on:
    • Family size
    • Age of family members
    • Whether or not your spouse has a disability
  • Shelter allowance calculation
    • your rent or your mortgage payment
    • heat
    • utilities (hydro, water)
    • property taxes
    • home insurance
    • condominium fees
  • depends on:
    • Actual shelter costs up to a maximum
    • Family size
  • Board and lodging living situations
    • Food and shelter from same source
  • depends on:
    • Family size
    • Age of family members

Take action

Email your MPP, the Premier and party leaders and let them know what you think should be done to improve ODSP.

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Contact information

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