ODSP Needs Support Not Criticism

Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s recent analysis of the province’s welfare program for the disabled has added more fuel to fears that cuts are coming for those who rely on the program’s meagre supports.
The auditor’s findings that the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) caseload has increased by 50 per cent in the past decade while costs have soared by 75 per cent have also caught the attention of Todd Smith, minister for children, community and social services, who says the report “shows we need to do something.”
But Lysyk’s report ignores the basic premise of the exercise.
The essential job of Ontario’s auditor general is to review each ministry’s books against the backdrop of their estimates and business plans. These public documents tell the world what ministries plan to spend and what they are going to do with their allocations.
Government intentions in these offerings are always fraught with political aspirations and spending that is usually higher than forecast. This provides the auditor more than enough grist to slam almost every ministry reviewed in a relentless and ongoing audit cycle.
In the case of ODSP, encased as it is in a bewildering network of brittle rules, it is impossible for both recipients and administrators alike to keep from constantly breaking them.
ODSP also suffers from the bad rap of supposedly unsustainable increases.
Yet here we have a program that increases organically from cuts in other disability programs (workers’ compensation, veterans’ programs, private sector disability plans) at the same time as its demographics resemble the growing and aging population that it mirrors. ODSP is also the safety net for all other disability income programs and when they tighten their belts. Higher ODSP caseloads are inevitable.
ODSP should be increasing in numbers and cost more than it has.
The true story is that the increases in ODSP costs actually represent a cut in overall service and benefits over the long haul.
What Lysyk should have done was look at the essential context of demographics, the hydraulics of program disinvestment and increases in both the diagnosis and prevalence of disabilities in the modern world. She could have noted a higher prevalence and improved diagnoses of spectrum disorder conditions, such as PTSD and autism.
She also could have told Ontarians that ODSP benefits have declined by approximately 1 per cent per year to inflation over the last 25 years.
The auditor general could have been critical of successive governments since the 1970s when it was Bill Davis’ policy under the GAINS (Guaranteed Annual Income System) to pay low income seniors and people with disabilities identical monthly sums.
She could have noted that today’s needy senior takes home over $1,700 per month in seniors benefits while ODSP maximizes at about $1,300. It would take a hefty 31 per cent hike in benefits for low income persons with disabilities to realize what their older counterparts receive today.
Nothing stops the auditor general from writing insightful and helpful reports, yet they choose to be limited to what’s called the law of the instrument (give a 5-year-old boy a hammer and everything he sees is a nail).
In this case, give a bean counter a spreadsheet and all she sees is more beans to count. None of this helps people with disabilities or the people who administer the program. It just makes life harder.
Maybe someday, some government will subject an auditor general to a “value for money” audit. But I suspect that may be a long way off as this officer of parliament, in particular, enjoys near oracle status in today’s modern government ecosystem.

John Stapleton is Innovations Fellow at the Metcalf Foundation and a former social assistance policy analyst with the Ontario government.

People with developmental disabilities can not take any more cuts, front-line workers warn 

Developmental Services workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), held a press conference at Queen’s Park to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the tenth anniversary of Ontario’s transition from institution-based developmental services to a community living model. They warned the Ford government that chronic underfunding and cuts to services are leaving people with developmental disabilities isolated from their communities… Click on link below for full article




Brampton Sessions: 456 Vodden St.E. Unit #3, Brampton, ON L6S 5Y7                                     

Date: Tuesday, September 17, 2019   Time: 1:00 – 4:00pm                                                 

Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2019         Time: 1:00 – 4:00pm                                                              

Caledon Sessions: 12 Parr Blvd. Unit #10, Bolton, ON L7E 4H1

Date: Thursday, September 19, 2019    Time: 1:00-4:00pm

To register for these sessions, contact Saara Zainul, Peel Passport Developer at 905-866-6300 ext.225



Lisa Sticht-Maksymec, a lawyer with Pallett Valo, will present information about legal guardianship for adults living with a developmental disability.

Date: Thursday, September 19, 2019                         Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Location: 19 Rutherford Rd S, Unit B, Brampton L6W 3J3 (behind Napa Auto Parts)

To register: email [email protected] or call Karen 905-453-8841 ext.1221


Robert Lattanzio from ARCH Disability Law Centre will discuss the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and expand on the rights and responsibilities of the parent/guardian in developing an IEP.

Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2019                                 Time: 7:00-8:30 pm

Location: 19 Rutherford Rd S, Unit B, Brampton L6W 3J3 (Behind the Napa Auto Parts)

To register: email [email protected] or call Karen 905-453-8841 ext.1221


Passport Community Developer, Saara Zainul, will present information about Passport funding and how to utilize these funds to support their loved ones with a developmental disability.

Date: Tuesday, October 29, 2019                               Time: 7:00-8:00pm

Location: 19 Rutherford Rd.S. Unit B, Brampton L6W 3J3 (behind Napa Auto Parts)

To register: email [email protected] or call Karen 905-453-8841 ext.1221


Lisa Sticht-Maksymec, a lawyer with Pallett Valo, will present information regarding Wills, Henson Trusts & RDSP’s for their loved ones with a developmental disability.

Date: Thursday, November 14, 2019                         Time: 7:00 – 8:30pm                         

Location: 19 Rutherford Rd.S. Unit B, Brampton L6W 3J3 (behind Napa Auto Parts)

To register: email [email protected] or call Karen 905-453-8841 ext.1221


There is a housing crisis confronting Ontarians with developmental disabilities —
and it is a crisis that has been growing steadily more serious for at least twenty years.
For many citizens whose families are unaffected by the challenges connected with
developmental disabilities, the housing crisis is often invisible. Too often, however,
housing challenges can bring pain and consequences that profoundly limit the joys
and opportunities that should be available to all in a province as blessed as ours.

 Click on Read Report