|Louis got the big Magnum P.I. mustache going.|
ODSP, the Ontario Disability Support Program, is the single most complained-about provincial ministry.
It falls under the aegis of the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Yet there are some pretty obvious improvements that could be made quickly and effectively, changes which would go a long way towards improving the lives of the clients and making the program a lot more tolerable. There are times when it's not. There are times when it is intolerable. It’s really just a question of funding those improvements, isn’t it? Honestly, I know the government would love to do this—they just have to get it past those pesky taxpayers.
We all know I’m right, ladies and gentlemen.
For starters, people on ODSP can receive gifts. For a single person, this amounts to $7.000.00 per year. They can get a gift of seven grand dropped in their lap and it will not affect their monthly pension benefit one bit.
They won’t lose a penny, and they didn’t have to lift a finger to get that gift. Bearing in mind, not every client will ever receive such a gift, which in itself is one of life’s little unfairnesses—something the program simply can’t do anything about.
But here’s the real problem. People who go out and earn the exact same figure--$7,000.00 in a year, will be able to make up to $2,400.00 (by my interpretation of the guidelines) and the rest is subject to a fifty percent claw-back on earnings.
This has always been the big problem with the ODSP. It’s a pension for the disabled, who at the same time, have the right to work. I actually got this in writing from former Premier Dalton McGuinty. According to his letter, “…you have the right to fully participate in the life of the province.”
The difficulty is when we work, sometimes very hard, to improve ourselves, and our lives, and to raise our income—surely one key aspect to any plan to improve the quality of one’s life. Or anyone else’s—and this is another bit of a problem with the ODSP. We run smack into one big brick wall, ladies and gentlemen.
When staff are spending more time looking for ways to reduce costs, cutting back on someone’s benefits when they earn a few bucks, and they’re still well below the poverty line, when the social worker really ought to be looking out for the client. The worker should be looking to get that person every conceivable benefit that they might qualify for.
Surely social workers are not cops. They are not doctors, nurses, or psychiatrists. They are supposed to be social workers.
Their job, surely, is to help the client get the most out of the program. Their job is to help and assist the client to make their life better, or to rebuild it entirely in some cases.
The goal really should be to help people improve the quality of their lives. It is true that many clients simply won’t be able to make much of improved opportunities for employment, but then, not everyone is going to get a gift of $7,000.00 either.
And yet there are provisions for that in the guidelines.
There are two basic questions. How much would a reduction of the claw-back, and raising the allowable earnings limits actually cost the taxpayers?
How much does the government spend now, in trying to fairly administer a system which puts up some pretty obvious barriers and disincentives to work. Everyone from the top down knows very well that without any other employment, without any other sources of income, including gifts, the average single client of the ODSP is living thirty-five to forty percent below the poverty line.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, just isn’t fair.
Here’s the thing: we know change is possible. This very government just raised the mileage allowance for medical and business travel from $0.18/kilometre up to $0.40/kilometre.
For someone who travels to another city for medical treatment, life just got a little easier.
The government actually squirts that money out in the form of electronic payments. For business or employment travel, there’s no outlay by the government, but it’s an allowable deduction from income. That sort of thing is important when someone is trying to develop, or take advantage of, employment or business opportunities.
After the Tories were booted, and we never got a single raise in ten or fifteen years, the Liberals began giving an annual raise—it’s not geared to the cost of living, but when I actually qualified, years ago, under the old Family Benefits Act or whatever, my freaking social worker told me in no uncertain terms, “You will never receive a raise in your entire life...”
I don’t know what to think after all these years, but at the time I wondered why she was mad at me!
It’s difficult to account for otherwise. The point is, taking note of inflation over many years, our pensions have been getting smaller and smaller from day one—and this government knows that too.
That’s because guys like me tell them—we tell them every chance we get. And I hope you will too, ladies and gentlemen.
The fact is, we could use your help. It might even make the difference—it might make a big difference.
As for the government, they could probably use a bit of help too—
...right about now.
Just think about that one for a minute.
Thank you for reading.
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