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Changes delayed for people on ODSP who work

The Ontario government just announced it's delaying changes to the rules about benefits for people who work while getting income support from Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

Changes planned for April would now take effect in October 2015.

This month's On the Radar highlights the plan to eliminate the Work-Related Benefit and replace it with a new Employment-Related Benefit. Advocates say this will result in many people on ODSP getting less money.
 

How would eliminating the Work-Related Benefit change things for people on ODSP?

How people qualify

The Work-Related Benefit gives people on ODSP $100 each month that they have income from a job, training, or self-employment.

They don't have to apply for the benefit and they don't have to show any work-related costs to get the benefit. If they report net income from work in a month to ODSP they will get the Work-Related Benefit.
 

How this would change

The government has not made all the details about the Employment-Related Benefit clear. But they have said that this benefit is supposed to help people who are moving into jobs, not people who are already working.

Someone who is already working might be able to get the new benefit only if they have costs related to an increase in their hours of work or the amount of money they make.

In most cases, to get the new benefit, people will have to work with a counsellor at an employment service agency to come up with a plan to show their ODSP caseworker. The caseworker will decide whether the person can get the Employment-Related Benefit and how much they can get.
 

How much people get

Under the Work-Related Benefit, a person with a disability who is on ODSP can receive $100 per month, or $1,200 per year.

They can also receive the benefit if their spouse or another person that ODSP includes in their household earns money. So, for example, if the spouse has earnings in a month, ODSP will pay the Work-Related Benefit. If both of them have earnings in that month, they will get $200.
 

How this would change

Under the proposed Employment-Related Benefit, people may be able to get up to $1,800 a year. The amount they get will depend on their employment plan. The benefit is to cover costs of moving into work, for example, work clothes, tools, licensing fees.

If their household includes a spouse without a disability, the maximum amount their spouse could get is $1,200 a year.
 

The right to appeal

Now, if ODSP refuses to give someone the Work-Related Benefit, they can appeal that decision to the Social Benefits Tribunal.
 

How this would change

Caseworkers will make the final decision about whether a person receives the Employment-Related Benefit and how much they get. People will not have the right to appeal their caseworker's decision to the Social Benefits Tribunal.
 

Will there be a transition period?

For 6 months after the changes take effect, a person with a disability who is on ODSP and is getting the Work-Related Benefit can continue to get it, if they still qualify for it each month.
 

What are ODSP advocates doing?

Advocates are worried that the loss of the Work-Related Benefit will leave many people on ODSP with less money. They're also concerned about the loss of appeal rights because caseworkers will make the final decision about the Employment-Related Benefit.

They're working to get the government to reconsider before going ahead with these changes.

For the latest developments, see what the Income Security Advocacy Centre and the ODSP Action Coalition are doing.
This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
February 2015
 
On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.
 

Other related resources

New Implementation Date for Employment-Related Benefit (Ministry of Community and Social Services)
ODSP Action Coalition Facebook page
ODSP Employment Benefits – Changes in 2015 (webinar by the Income Security Advocacy Centre and the ODSP Action Coalition)
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