More ODSP slight of hand. So long, community startup benefit.

I actually had to go looking for this one, after a reader of this thing up and tipped me off. January’s cost cutting that saw the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) kill their medical transportation funding on no notice wasn’t their only attempt at trimming the budget at our expense–it was just the only one I took immediate notice to. As it turns out, they’ve been quite slash happy, our beloved provincial government.

A little background. As I’ve said before when discussing this topic, you can’t do much to find work and thus get off ODSP if you’re living in a teeny tiny town who’s bus system consists entirely of one bus going from a mall at one end of the town to a second mall at the other, picking up and dropping off along the way (yes, I lived there). Which is going to necessitate a trip, with permanent residency in mind, to yonder larger than life city (Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener, pretty much anywhere that isn’t the middle of nowhere). Rent in most of these cities hits ya pretty hard on a good day, to the tune of you’re either getting a roommate, or paying way too much to share a corner of someone’s basement with a bunch of other folks who can probably only slightly better aford to pay too much for the same corner. On what ODSP gives you, even managing that can be a little tricky if you’d still like money left over for things like, you know, food. Or clothing. Or well, pretty much anything that isn’t putting a roof over your head. Coming up with first and last month’s rent so you can move in to the place that’ll suck up most of your money for the foreseeable future, until something vaguely resembling a break falls into your lap? Not happening without a serious amount of external help. That’s where the community startup benefit came in. Or did, until January of this year.

The way this particular system worked was actually fairly simple, if you paid attention. Every two years, you were eligible for up to $800 to be put towards things you actually needed to get your hands on. Like, say, go buy a few halfway decent outfits. Maybe get caught up on a few bills that have had to wait a month or two longer than you’d like on account of some fool jacked up your rent and you’ve had to rebalance things. Or, and this is the use I most often heard it being put towards, paying for at least most of your last month’s rent so you can manage to get yourself out of the less than helpful situation, and into a spot where you can stand a chance at finding work and getting the hell off ODSP. I used it for that last one myself–and that first one before that (I put my first ever benefit money towards clothes, because I was only a few weeks from employment and getting off ODSP myself, for what that turned out to be worth). It meant you could not only secure yourself a better living situation, but could still aford to actually get you and your belongings there, and still have something left over for all the fun things that come with postmove chaos–like discovering that pretty much everything has an activation fee, and the basics really are cheaper in a small town, even if you make up for it in gas to pick them up.

It was an extremely useful system, and one of the few things during a move I didn’t used to need to step on somebody for. Which matches the Ontario government’s criteria for things what get the axe. So, on January 1 of this year, it got the axe. The page that used to contain information related to that benefit has been removed, replaced instead with a statement confirming the removal.

9.2 – Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit
Removed effective January 1, 2013.

And that’s all she wrote for that program. There are vague mutterings about that program being downloaded to the municipalities, or something else coming out to take its place, but at the moment they’re only vague rumours–the ODSP website’s got nothing, and by the looks of things, neither does anyone who might have an inside track and feel like sharing. So the Ontario government, who spent a good while explaining to me all the wonderful things they’re doing to help us folks on ODSP, has turned around and taken another chunk out of ODSP with nothing to replace it. And once again, the only documentation I can find on it is an obscure corner of their website–the corner linked above–which is more than can be said for their change of heart re: other cost cutting measures, for what that’s also worth.

Like I said before. I get we’ve got a budget situation to deal with. I’m not about to disagree with that. But here’s the thing. This government spent so much time criticising the conservatives for stripping anything and everything they thought they could from ODSP in the 90’s. They spent the majority of their first term and a good chunk of their second making like they were about to up and fix that–they didn’t, naturally, but they do get a B- for effort. Now that the money’s tight (a couple canceled gas plants’ll do that), and folks on ODSP are trying to stay ahead of the small implosion anyone with half a brain knows is coming, the government decides–hey, we don’t need all those extra dollars, so thanks much. Meanwhile the message coming out from all levels of government is the economy’s not back to where it should be yet, so save as much money as humanly possible. I’ll get right on that, government boys. Just as soon as I can properly time things to duck the axe. If you could keep your hands out of my pocket for a year or two, that’d be awesome too. Not happening? Well, I tried.

27 comments

  1. Shane

    According to my worker, at least here in Toronto, let’s attempt to make sense and say Ottawa’s doing it to, the startup costs, you now must apply to a comprible program in the city in witch you live in/will be living in. My appropriate jabs for further information yielded unsurprisingly little more information except that the requirements, (unlisted mind you), were worse than ODSP’s. Oh and here’s the upshot, ODSP will be nice and help you make this applicationn, but that doesn’t mean diddly squat if your looking at it from the end of actually getting said assistance from this apparent comprible program. Comprible in what manner, getting screwed? I can go along with that.

    • James

      That assumes of course there’s a comparable program in the municipality you’re moving to–for which there’s remarkably no guarantee. As much as, let’s say, toronto’s complaining about not being able to aford to upgrade its transit system without provincial help, I’d be interested to see how they handle something like that.

      With regards their requirements, I’m wondering if that also depends on the municipality, in much the same way as–and this is another assumption–the amount you’re actually entitled to depends on the municipality (you’re not going to get $800 from, say, Petawawa). Escentially, there’s still too much even your worker either doesn’t know or isn’t authorized to actually tell you. This can’t end well, if we’re being honest.

      • Stormy

        James, the I scanned the letter. I emailed it to you. I don’t know how else to show you the proof you ask for?

        • James

          I saw the letter, and was able to do useful things with it. tomorrow, phone calls get made to offices in this region. You may have just handed me more content.

      • Anonymous

        I came across your website when I ‘googled’ how to save money on odsp when you’re planning to take a trip…(save money on odsp? HAH!).
        I read the first paragraph-and when it got to the part about the bus, I went holy shit he must live in Pembroke LOL!
        Petawawa, so not too far.
        Sad(but also happy) to see I’m not the ONLY one struggling…ODSP is a joke, I thought it’d be beneficial to be on it at first but now I see I can’t even make ends meet after paying rent($600), utilities(heat & hydro), and food.
        I even have to pay to do laundry where I am…ugh.
        I barely have a dollar to my name until the next cheque and ODSP does not care!
        End rant, lol.

        • James

          Welcome and all that. Actually you’re not that far off. I used to live there. Been in Ottawa since May of 2011, though. Yes, requires a bit more creativity, but if you ever plan on getting off ODSP, you’re not doing it in Pembroke. I’ve definitely been where you’re at, though, and good god damn if it isn’t pretty. Hopefully you’ll stick around here a while. Non-ODSP content lives up here too, I promise.

        • Stormy

          I was just diagnosed with malnutrition. After paying some of the bills, there is not enough left over to eat. I can’t work, and now ODSP will leave me to die of starvation literally

    • Stormy

      Another heads up for women on ODSP. workers are now insisting you get your wedding rings & other jewlry ( costume or not) appraised. The cheapest I could find was at $100.00 per item.

    • Anne

      It sickens me that people are either born with a disability or disabled through employment, illness and this is the way our government takes care of us. We didn’t ask to be in this position and to be treated so badly. Myself, 30 yrs ago on Odsp I had to work because I married and they said he made too much. Haha. First, the income and rent allowance has not changed at all. Secondly, it worsened my condition after 20 more yrs of doing so and got injured at work. Now I am expected to live to the lowest extremes. Ignorant and makes no sense to me. What happened to being treated equal? I could go on forever but won’t. What can we do to make a difference? To get through to our government that we are just as deserving as them to live a fulfilled life. To live in a decent home, afford vacations, decent clothes and food To have dinners out and enjoy life.

      • James

        The only thing you can really do is sit on your provincial MP. If you can, do the exact same thing with your federal MP. Get as many people involved in this as you can. And, do exactly what you just did this morning–make your voice heard on these issues as much as possible. That’s the only way we’re going to get anywhere, if we get anywhere at all. depending on where you live, your local city council may or may not be able to do much to help out, but let them know you exist as well. Because part of the problem–namely, the lack of afordable housing–falls in their jurisdiction as well as that of the province.

        Beyond that, call out the issues. Repeatedly. ODSP cuts costs? Let them know you disagree. They cancel a project you depend on? take it up the chain. This entire section of this website started out of a series of open letters I sent back in 2010. There will probably be more in 2013, especially if a provincial election delays or outright cancels the rumoured increases we’re supposed to see insofar as ODSP goes this year. No one in government is speaking for us. That just became our job.

  2. Syl

    I have been following this cut and from what I understand each town or city, where ever you live at the time is responsible for that fund until that years allotted amount runs out and you will have to wait till the next year for a chance at it. So first off this tells me to apply for said funds near the beginning of the year.
    I also understand that each area dictates itself the rules and hoops that the person must jump threw in order to get these funds. By the way these are people who have absolutely no training whatsoever in dealing with people with disabilities.
    As you may know that the politicians are all lying but still trying to jump on a band wagon with nice sounding words after a commissioned report came out at the end of 2012, two years in the making. It was very much full of truth but not as blunt as it should have been but blunt enough that anyone reading it would see that there is a big problem.
    You can read that here by the way (its called ‘Brighter Prospects’ yeah I can’t stop laughing too):
    http://www.socialassistancereview.ca/uploads/File/COMM_Report_FinalH-t-Eng.pdf

    Any also read Minister Milloy’s response here:
    http://news.ontario.ca/mcss/en/2012/10/statement-by-minister-milloy-on-social-assistance-review.html

    Shortly after the release and his statement everyone else started releasing statements and plans on how to fix everything.
    So come the new year what do they do as a first step to fixing things, yes you guessed it, cutting that fund and passing it on to the municipalities.
    I’ve been following all this for a few months now and I still can’t wrap my brain around the sense of it.
    The commissioned report is an embarrassment to the government and this is what they do as a first step to fixing things.
    I hope it was ok that I posted those links. Take them out if you want and maybe post them in one of your own blog posts if I shouldn’t have done that.
    Just a Google on the title of that report and you will find all the other dingbats responses to the ‘problem’ that they just made bigger.
    I can’t wait to see what they will do next to fix the problem.

    • Shane

      if the owner of this blog needs me to yank the pdf and put it into something useful, he’ll probably hit me up or do it himself. now, time to read those links.

  3. Shane

    I just got off the phone with the district manager for this region and asked about this apparent requirement, (or whatever there calling this) for women to have there jewlary apraised. Bluntly I asked what absolute business ODSP has with this information and what bennifit to the recipient of said same bennifits this appraisal would have. If nun why should ODSP care. I’ve been promised faxed documentation by the end of today. I doubt I’ll see it because it’s the government, but if I do, I’ll be sure and pass it along.

  4. shane

    you know that documentation I was promised? It never showed up, today? Was told Tuesday. Who’s betting Tuesday I see nothing Oh, and as an aside, thanks for screwing around with your med coverage system, you just cost me $$$ I actually didn’t have, and you won’t give it back because apparently you posted notices. Where? In your offices in print that I can’t read? Are you fuckin’ serious? Oh, you are. bastards.

  5. James

    This was mailed to me yesterday, and I thought it was worth sharing. With permission, have a little more ODSP budget trimming, of sorts. Thanks for sending it, Rhonda.

    Does anyone remember when Mike Harris decided that people on ODSP were getting too much money? The monthly payments were severely cut supposedly to help with the debt Ontario owed…but didn’t owe as a direct result of ODSP payments. That debt still exists! Recently, ODSP once again felt the need to further reduce benefits to its needy recipients. The special diet allowance was nowhere near enough for me to stick to the diet I must stick to due to celiac disease, but recently it was cut but other special diet amounts were not touched and some were actually increased! I have a diabetic friend who had their allowance increased and even that person said they didn’t know why. Although diabetics have to watch their diet, they basically can eat “regular” food. They don’t have to spend anywhere near $5. to $10. for a loaf of cardboard oops, bread!

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