The Ford Government during COVID19 has initiated a war of attrition on Ontario’s Social Tribunals since being elected, making it nearly impossible for those who are in receipt of social assistance to follow through with their rights under law. Now the Ford Government is going to revamp the way Ontario delivers disability support through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) in the middle of a pandemic.
The proposed changes will revamp the role of case management and also digitize the application process, with an eye on getting people who medically can’t work to work. OPSEU president Smokey Thomas says the proposed changes would cause chaos and uncertainty to many of our disabled in the province that are already suffering due to the lack of supports and services through this pandemic. In a press release Thomas stated:
“Despite all the rhetoric, these changes aren’t about helping people with disabilities. They’re about dumping more work on already-overstretched municipalities and kicking more people off ODSP under the guise of employment and independence.”
Most people who are on ODSP can’t work for medical reasons. This is why they are on ODSP. The process to get on ODSP isn’t one that’s easy either. It can take years before someone who has a disability and cannot work is allowed on the program. OPSEU’s president when on to say that in the middle of the pandemic is the wrong time to introduce any changes, since most are already suffering at a great cost. OPSEU’s press release goes on to say:
“Hiving off ODSP case management and life stabilization services would be unduly disruptive and traumatizing for thousands of vulnerable clients,” said Nicole St. Amand, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Ministry Employee Relations Committee (MERC) for MCCSS. “Clients with disabilities need stability during these uncertain times. Now isn’t the time for an overhaul; it’s time for compassion, not chaos.”
“Moving to a digitized application process would take the humanity out of our disability support program,” said Thomas. “Now, more than ever, our province should be centralizing and standardizing supports for the disadvantaged and disabled. If we’re all in this together, the province must lead the way by taking responsibility for our most vulnerable, not divesting and downloading it.
Like with any new plan, there will always be kinks. A very deadly perfect storm has brewed. With the roll out of a new plan, and the massive cutbacks to Ontario’s social tribunals, many of our most vulnerable will fall through the cracks in the middle of a deadly pandemic, which could end up being against international human rights law. Our leaders should take extra care when changing anything that would affect the legal rights and supports for the disabled. Steaming ahead with untested changes in the middle of a deadly pandemic while these people have no legal recourse and are suffering greatly – is not a responsible government, nor one that wishes to be.