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People with disabilities demand hike in income support, give province failing grade

People with disabilities demand hike in income support, give province failing grade-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
A rally outside Queen’s Park Tuesday aimed to raise awareness of the challenges people face living on Ontario’s Disability Support Program. The ODSP Action Coalition is calling on the province to increase the payments. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Kyle Vose says he doesn’t want to see people forced to make a choice between paying rent or feeding their households anymore.

“People with disabilities across Ontario want to be treated with respect,” he said.

Vose is the co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition. The group organized a small rally outside Queen’s Park on Tuesday calling on the province to increase Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments.

Vose said the ODSP Action Coalition surveyed hundreds of residents who rely on ODSP as well as their families, asking them to give the program a grade.

“We saw a lot of Fs unfortunately,” he said.

Protest Queen's Park-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
A small group rallied outside Queen’s Park on Tuesday to demand an increase for ODSP payments, which have not been raised in three years. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

Vose and others at the rally said because the payments have not increased since 2018, many who live with disabilities can barely make ends meet between paying for the cost of living and food.

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services says it has invested over $1 billion through the Social Services Relief Fund to ensure that those who are vulnerable have support during the pandemic, but those with disabilities and advocates fear more people will end up experiencing homelessness if the funding isn’t increased urgently.

Kyle Vose-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Kyle Vose is the co-chair of the ODSP Action Coalition. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

According the province’s website, those eligible for ODSP could receive $1,169 per month for basic needs and shelter — an amount that can vary depending on factors like the number of people in their household.

Anthony Frisina, who is with Ontario’s Disability Coalition, is frustrated that as the rate of inflation rises, ODSP remains stagnant.

“We want to continue to grow the disability community as equal members of the community,” he said.

“The federal government indicated that the cost of living for those who cannot work due to the pandemic is $2,000. Well, ODSP needs to match that.”

Province responds

A statement emailed to CBC Toronto from Krystle Caputo, director of communications for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, says:  “When we formed government, we raised the social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent,” adding the Social Services Relief Fund is in addition to over $8.3 billion in social assistance payments issued in 2020 and 2021.

“We look forward to the federal government fulfilling their campaign commitment to create the Canada Disability Benefit to increase the level of supports for those receiving the Ontario Disability Supports Program funding to more closely align with the Canadian Recovery Benefit levels.”

Vose wants to see action soon, including adding a community allowance benefit, giving those who can’t work but can volunteer an opportunity to receive an allowance for their contributions to the community.

“We’re hoping to sit down and meet and create real change in this program.”

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