Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says proposed changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) announced today would create chaos and uncertainty for many of the province’s most vulnerable people.
Thomas says the changes would force those with disabilities to navigate an entirely new support system, and he’s concerned such a proposal was put forward in the middle of a major public health crisis.
“This is the wrong time to introduce sweeping changes and disrupt the lives of our most vulnerable,” said Thomas. “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.
“Overhauling ODSP would only create more instability at a time when so many people are already suffering,” said Thomas. “It would put more strain on the small cities that don’t have the funds to pay for it and the big cities that are struggling too. Neither have the ability to increase their revenues or assume more responsibility for service delivery.”
Most ODSP clients started in the OW program before qualifying for longer-term ODSP benefits. OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says many of them have already been deemed unable to work and he calls today’s announcement especially cruel in the midst of a global health pandemic.
“ODSP clients have already proven their eligibility,” said Almeida. “Announcing changes that would kick more vulnerable people off their disability supports and pressure those who aren’t able to work to re-enter the labour market at a time of record-breaking unemployment, job insecurity and mental health crisis isn’t just wrong-headed, it’s cruel and unusual. It’s heartbreaking.”
The union says the proposed changes would be extremely destabilizing for clients.
“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.
“Throughout the pandemic our members have been front line heroes,” said Thomas. “We won’t abandon those most in need. Ontarians deserve better and we’ll fight for it.”
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931