News

News, Social Assistance

New data shows Ontario to deny basic needs to approximately 32,000 children

Re-posted from Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

The Ontario government has introduced a law that will cancel the Transition Child Benefit on November 1, 2019.

With Ontario’s changes, families living in poverty who are ineligible for child tax benefits will experience a significant loss of up to $230 per month per child. A typical two-parent households with two children, for example, will see a 27% drop in their income from Ontario Works.

Only Ontario has taken this drastic measure that will deepen child poverty.

In May 2019 we reported on the Ontario government’s plans. Since then we have learned new details, including information about the people who rely on this benefit to feed and clothe their children. We are taking action.

Background

Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provide very low monthly payments to impoverished individuals and families who have no other means to pay for their necessities. Monthly benefits include a “basic needs” allowance for adults (to cover necessities such as food and clothing) and a “shelter” allowance.

OW and ODSP do not provide a basic needs allowance for most children. Parents are expected to pay for their children’s necessities with federal and provincial tax benefits that together provide maximum monthly payments of around $700 per month for a single child.

Some OW and ODSP recipients are ineligible for tax benefits, mainly because of their immigration status. Currently, Ontario ensures that these families can pay for their children’s necessities through the Transition Child Benefit.

On November 1st, Ontario is cancelling the Transition Child Benefit, leaving low-income parents without money to pay for things like food, clothing, diapers and formula for their children. The only exception to the cancellation will be OW recipients who live on a First Nation reserve.

What have we learned recently?

ISAC asked the Ontario government to share information about the Transition Child Benefit. Our research has shown that:

  • The cut to the Transition Child Benefit will affect approximately 16,000 families with 32,000 children each month.
  • The Transition Child Benefit is a very small part of the social assistance budget, amounting to approximately $67 million each year, only 0.7% of the total cost of social assistance in Ontario. But because families who eventually qualify for the tax-delivered benefits have to pay back some of the benefit, the actual cost of the benefit is even smaller: $56.8 million.
  • Refugee claimant families make up 35% of the families who need the Transition Child Benefit to ensure their children have access to necessities.

The families who will be most impacted by the denial of a basic needs allowance for children are those who:

  • Are not eligible for the Canada Child Benefit because of their immigration status (such as refugee claimants and other migrants) and thus rely on the Transition Child Benefit long-term;
  • Are waiting for their Canada Child Benefit application to be processed (e.g. after the birth of a newborn);
  • Have had their Canada Child Benefit suspended pending a tax audit, a suspension that can last for lengthy periods;
  • Have not yet had their tax benefits adjusted after experiencing a drop in their income as compared to the prior tax year (e.g. due to job loss);
  • Are not eligible for the Canada Child Benefit because they did not file their income taxes for the prior tax year.

What is at stake?

 There is a lot at stake with the loss of the Transition Child Benefit:

  • Parents will be unable to feed and clothe children, undermining their health and causing lifelong consequences.
  • It will be more difficult for mothers to leave situations of violence because of financial dependence on their (and the child’s) abuser.
  • Indigenous and Black children are already taken into state care at vastly disproportionate rates on grounds of parental “negligence” concerns that are tied to poverty. By deepening poverty, the cancellation of the Transition Child Benefit will increase the risk that their children will be separated from their parents.
  • These kinds of impacts threaten engage a number of important human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person; the right to be free from cruel and unusual treatment; and the right to equality.

ISAC has given notice to the government of Ontario that we intend to bring a legal challenge to the denial of basic needs for the children of social assistance recipients. To read our notice, click here.

If you are being affected by the cancellation of the Transition Child Benefit, you can share your story with us by filling out this form.

Many communities are taking action to save the Transition Child Benefit. Check our website regularly for updates. To print out a copy of this fact sheet, click here.

Note: This post gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation. For legal advice, please contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic at 613-541-0777.

Legal, News, Social Assistance

HOT TOPIC: Overpayment Recoveries

OW and ODSP Overpayment Recovery Rates May Increase From 5% to 10%

Background

The Auditor General has recommended that both Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) increase the amount they collect toward outstanding overpayments.

The law allows overpayments to be recovered by deducting 10% of benefits. However, previously overpayment recovery was usually set at 5%.

What’s happening?

OW and ODSP’s policy directives have changed, and caseworkers are expected to set the overpayment recovery rate at 10% when the cause of the overpayment is believed to be in the recipient’s control to have prevented.

I have an existing or new overpayment. What can I do?

IF YOU:

  • notice an increase of the overpayment recovery on your statement of assistance
  • receive a notice of a new overpayment
  • receive a letter from the Financial Services Office

THEN:

Contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic by phone at 613-541-0777 or by dropping by 345 Bagot Street.

 

Legal, News, Provincial Budget

Potential cuts to Legal Aid funding in Ontario could impact Local Community Services

The Provincial budget of April 11, 2019, calls for significant cuts to Legal Aid funding in Ontario. If these cuts are of the reported magnitude of 30%, it could result in a serious reduction in front-line services in the City of Kingston, Township of South Frontenac, and Township of Frontenac Islands.

The Kingston Community Legal Clinic provides legal services, education, and information to our communities, as well as helping our most vulnerable residents keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads.

“We are calling on the Attorney General, Caroline Mulroney, to make a commitment to access to justice, and to respect the commitment of her government to not decrease front line services, and to confirm that funding for community clinics will not be decreased” said Lenny Abramowicz, the Executive Director of the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario.

“We don’t yet know how this apparent cut will affect our local clinic. We will work with our communities as the impact on our services becomes known” said John R. Done, Executive Director of the Kingston Community Legal Clinic.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with information about our Community Legal Clinic services. Should you have any questions, please contact:

John R. Done, Executive Director, Kingston Community Legal Clinic

613-541-0777, Ext. 25

donej@lao.on.ca

Social Assistance

ODSP Dental Benefits: Now Paperless

As of Monday, April 1, 2019, all ODSP recipients and spouses eligible for dental benefits will be expected to use their monthly statement of assistance or government ID (such as a driver’s licence, valid Ontario Health Card, or passport) to access dental services.

These changes do not apply to children and spouses of ODSP recipients under 18. Children and spouses of ODSP recipients under 18 will continue to receive dental cards under Healthy Smiles of Ontario.

 

CCP-Disability, Human Rights

Human Rights Tribunal ruling on insurance companies and CPP-D: Reilly v. Ford

Re-posted from Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

In a disappointing decision released on January 18, 2019, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled that insurance companies do not discriminate when they deduct benefits received from a Canada Pension Plan Disability pension from long-term disability insurance payments.

Background on the Case

Disability insurance plays a critical role in ensuring that those who are off work due to disability have access to the income they need to survive. Every worker contributes to the Canada Pension Plan and many also contribute to private long-term disability insurance plans through their workplace.

However, payments from disability plans are always less than the worker earned while they were working. This often leaves a big income gap at a time when the worker’s expenses are actually higher because of their disability-related needs. Persons with disabilities often have higher costs of living because they have to pay for things like medications, assistance with daily care, travel for treatment, and housing that can accommodate them.

To compound this problem, private insurance companies have a practice of deducting Canada Pension Plan – Disability (CPP-D) benefits from long-term disability payments. But CPP-D payments are only made to workers who can show that they have severe disabilities that will prevent them from working for a long time. The deduction of CPP-D from long-term disability payments means that those with the most severe disabilities actually get less from their long-term disability insurance company than those with milder disabilities.

Paul Reilly is on a long-term leave from Ford Motor Company, and qualifies for both CPP-D and long-term disability through Ford’s private insurance plan. The Ford plan deducts his CPP-D payments dollar-for-dollar. He challenged that practice in an application at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on the grounds that it discriminates against him on the basis of disability.

The Income Security Advocacy Centre partnered with the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario and the ARCH Disability Law Centre to intervene in the case. Our coalition argued that it is discriminatory for insurance companies and employers to pay a smaller amount of long-term disability benefits to people who are receiving CPP-D payments.

The Human Rights Tribunal’s Decision

The Human Rights Tribunal did not accept that insurance companies are discriminating against CPP-D beneficiaries. The Tribunal concluded that private insurance long-term disability policies guarantee that beneficiaries will have a certain amount of their income replaced every month, but not that the insurance company will be the sole source of that income replacement. Since the combined income of people getting private insurance without CPP-D deductions is the same as the income of people getting private insurance with CPP-D deductions, the Tribunal concluded there was no discrimination.

To read the Tribunal’s decision, click here: https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onhrt/doc/2019/2019hrto101/2019hrto101.pdf

Next Steps

The Income Security Advocacy Centre continues to be concerned that CPP-D benefits do not allow many beneficiaries to escape poverty. Indeed, 22% of CPP-D beneficiaries are low-income, as compared to 15% of all Canadians aged 18-64. Deducting CPP-D from long-term disability benefits contributes to the financial hardship faced by persons with disabilities.

Whether or not Mr. Reilly decides to try to challenge the Tribunal’s decision in court, the Income Security Advocacy Centre will continue the fight with persons with disabilities to achieve economic justice.

Note: This post gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation. For legal advice, please contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic at 613-541-0777.

Social Assistance

OW & ODSP: What is a “Health Spending Account”?

Re-posted from Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)

What a “Health Spending Account” might mean to people on OW & ODSP

On November 22, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services announced a number of proposed changes to the social assistance system in Ontario. Among these proposed changes are the creation of something called a Health Spending Account.

While there are currently very few details about the proposed Health Spending Account, our backgrounder outlines some concerns and questions about what it could mean, including:

  • Will a Health Spending Account give people enough money to pay for all of their health-related needs, especially if their costs are very high?
  • How will people access the Health Spending Account?
  • Who will have access to the Health Spending Account?
  • What impact could the Health Spending Account have on eligibility for OW and ODSP?

Read the ISAC backgrounder here:

Note: This post gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation. For legal advice, please contact Kingston Community Legal Clinic at 613-541-0777.