Over the past several years, it has become clear that the features and benefits of the Ontario Disability Support Program undergo constant change to reflect the prevailing attitudes of government and societal issues.
This web page is designed to assist you in keeping up with the ODSP changes that may affect you or your family member who is receiving ODSP benefits. We will be updating the information whenever important changes are announced or implemented and we encourage you to visit the site often.
July 2010 Announcements:
Canceling the Special Diet Allowance. In 2003, the Provincial Government began promoting the Special Diet Allowance for people receiving the Ontario Disability Support Program benefits. The program was designed to provide up to an additional $250 per month to people on social assistance to pay extra food costs relating to their dietary needs. It has been so well received that changes had to be made. In 2005, qualification was changed from “needs” based to a “disorder” based program where specific dollar amounts were assigned to specific medical conditions. That change significantly reduced the amount of extra dietary funding that people on ODSP received.
The Government says that it must cancel the program because it’s $200 million cost this year is unsustainable. It plans to replace the program with a new program under the Ministry of Health sometime in the future. This new program will be intended for people with “severe” medical conditions but no details have yet been released. It is expected that a relatively low number of people will qualify for this new program and so it will save short term costs to the taxpayer. However, poverty groups point out that a reduction in the quality of nutrition available to people on ODSP will lead to higher overall costs to the government for the long term medical problems it will cause.
February 2006 Announcements:
On February 8th, 2006, the Ontario Government made a number of announcements in respect to employment that will affect people receiving ODSP benefits. These announcements are not yet embraced in the Policy Directives but will eventually find their way there. Until then, they will be outlined in a pattern reflecting the official announcements. The changes have been released under three headings which assist people in:
Improving access to a range of employment services, such as job placement and retention services, to help recipients find real, sustainable jobs.
Increasing the employment start-up benefit from $253 to $500 to help recipients cover the costs of participating in a training program, looking for, starting or changing jobs (e.g., uniform, equipment, professional fees)
Providing up to $600 for up-front informal child care costs while recipients look for a job, participate in training or start a new job
Introducing employment requirements for spouses who do not have a disability or care giving responsibilities and giving them better access to employment services to help them find jobs so they can contribute to improving the lives of their families.
Keeping More of What They Earn:
Replacing the current $160 employment earnings exemption with a 50% flat rate exemption combined with a new $100 monthly work related benefit for each adult family member who is working.
Increasing the maximum amount recipients can deduct for informal child care costs from $390 to $600 per month
Increasing the deduction for disability work related expenses such as attendant care and specialized technology or equipment from $140 to $300 per month.
Moving Toward Financial Independence:
Providing ongoing health related benefits to recipients who leave ODSP for employment until they receive employer health coverage so that people don’t have to worry about how they will pay for their prescription drug, dental and vision care expenses.
Creating a new, one-time employment transition benefit of $500 for recipients who leave ODSP for employment to help cover the costs of starting a job.
Improving rapid reinstatement rules to allow recipients who leave ODSP for employment to return to ODSP at any time if their job does not work out.
Effective April 1, 2006, all ODSP recipients will have improved access to employment services such as job placement and retention services. As well, spouses who do not have a disability or care giving responsibilities may be required to look for work.
All other changes will take effect November 1, 2006.
Ontario Budget March 23, 2006
ODSP Rate Increases by 2%
The March 23, 2006 Provincial budget announced a rate increase of 2% to take effect in November of 2006. The Room and Board allowance will increase from $730 per month to $745 and the maximum Individual allowance will increase from $958 per month to $977.
December 2005 Changes:
Directive 6.4 Special Diet Allowance:
In the past, special dietary requirements were acknowledged by the ODSP. The payments were restricted to a monthly maximum of $250 per month per benefit unit member and were based on the dietary requirement of the individual. The December 2005 Special Diet Allowance has changed the focus from the dietary needs of the person to the specific medical condition. The amount available for each specific medical condition is outlined on the November 4,2005 Special Diets Schedule published under Policy Directive 6.4. It appears as though many people who were participating in the old Special Diet Program will no longer be eligible due to the seemingly more restrictive definition of eligibility.
Also in response to mass sign- up public demonstrations that were held in various cities in the province, the ODSP has mandated that it will no longer accept photo copied application forms for the Special Diet Allowance. ODSP staff will issue an original copy of the Application For a Special Diet form to the member of a benefit unit upon request and that is the only form that will be accepted for processing.
November 2005 Changes:
Directive 5.1 pg. 10 Legal Costs Incurred to Obtain a Financial Benefit:
Prior to November 2005, if a person retained a lawyer to assist in obtaining a financial benefit for which he or she was eligible, the ODSP would consider the gross amount of the award as income. This often meant that even though the legal fees were not available to the recipient of ODSP, these amounts were considered to be income. Under the new policy directives, the legal fees are not income and the net amount will only be considered.
Directive 5.4 pg.4 GST - Approved Business Expense for Small Business:
Approved business expenses for many businesses operated by a person receiving ODSP benefits do not include the GST paid on the cost of goods and services purchased since Canada Revenue Agency will reimburse the GST portion as long as receipts are kept. However small businesses (Revenue of less than $30,000) are not required to collect GST nor are they entitled to reimbursement of GST paid. As announced in the November 2005 Policy Directive, the small business is now allowed to include GST paid on goods and services purchased as part of the approved business expenses for ODSP purposes.
Directive 5.8 pg.1 Gifts and Voluntary Payments Exemption Increased to $5,000:
Since the inception of the ODSP in June of 1998, people receiving benefits have been entitled to receive gifts and voluntary payments up to a maximum value of $4,000 in any 12 month period per member of the benefit unit. These gifts would not be considered to be income for ODSP purposes and therefore would not reduce entitlements. The November 2005 directives announced an increase in these amounts to $5,000 in a 12 month period. Disability related expenses continue to be exempt from income on an unlimited basis.