Editorial: Changes needed for ODSP

For many, the supports under the Ontario Disability Support Program are a lifeline, a means of assistance that otherwise may not be there. Recipients of ODSP may receive monthly financial help, prescription and basic dental coverage, or some combination there of. Depending on the disability, and if the disability is permanent or not, this can vary. While good intentioned, and well needed, this government program needs to be overhauled and should reflect 21st century realities.

Many who are disabled want to work, and there are many programs in place to assist with that. Either through placements, retraining or reduced work hours or workload. That said, earning a pay cheque can lead to many issues dealing with ODSP. Those issues are discouraging and can even have some decide that working isn’t worth the bother.

Recipients are required to report any income earned to ODSP. That income is deducted from some of the financial assistance through the program. Yet the system for doing this is onerous and discouraging. Forms and proof of income can take months to filter through the bureaucracy before payments are adjusted. Those payments are adjusted month to month. Fax machines are the government preferred method of reporting.

The problem with the slow turnaround is we are not talking about high income earners here. If you have a person who is on disability, paying rent and utilities and food, taking months to have deductions and “claw-backs” filter through can put ODSP recipients in more financial hardships. The government system compounds those hardships.

This is 2018. With modern computers, secure websites and modern email systems, there is no excuse for resorting to faxes and many months of delays. No one expects instant results for reporting, but taking two, three or even six months for financial changes to filter through is too long.

Those who want to work, who want to contribute in their way should not be discouraged by an odious process with bureaucratic delays.

In a society were inclusion and equality is something we all strive for. Those who are disabled have every right to be included in the work force, and bureaucracy should not get in the way of that.