Sue Richards’ Facebook post about her experience trying to get disability:
The intake officer for Ontario Disability Services seemed burdened and depressed as he was looking over my paperwork and outlining the ODSP guidelines to June and I.
When I called to set up the appointment, I was told that I would need to supply a copy of every living expense, details of income – no matter what the source – a list of assets and any savings that I may have squirreled away.
A list of bank accounts, credit cards and lines of credit were also required along with an exact count of the change in my wallet.
I have learned that there are many misconceptions about our social safety net within my community. For instance, ODSP does not provide you with the funds that you need to live the life that you are living. Instead, they provide a set amount of money and expect that you will reduce your expenses to live within that amount.
I was offered 50% of what I needed.
Before I had a chance to feel any relief, the officer informed me that I could not make up the difference between what I needed and what ODSP was prepared to offer by using my line of credit, credit cards, gifts of money or employment. By accepting ODSP terms, I was also required to sign over access to my bank accounts so they could monitor my financial picture and make sure that I followed their rules.
Even though I was clearly suffering from a debilitating illness, I was starting to feel like a criminal in the making. So I asked what I needed to do in order to receive support.
I was told – reduce your expenses.
My only expenses are health and housing related. I don’t drink, smoke, travel, eat out, go out, own a car or pet or have children. I’m no clothes horse either. So reducing my expenses really meant selling my house.
But here’s the irony in that plan. I also need daily personal support. When I applied for this assistance I was told that I was eligible for 1 hour per week – but due to a glut of need in the community, that was not currently available. The waiting list for supported living apartments, which I’m on, was many years long too.
So I used my only asset – and traded my spare room for the needed live-in help – which has worked out beautifully for both Lianne and I.
Back to selling my house.
If I were to liquefy my house, I would have a lump sum of cash. But of course, ODSP does not allow a recipient to have savings over $5,000.00. So I still would not be eligible for social assistance. And, I would have to move – thereby giving up my spare room deal with Lianne and saying good bye to the plethora of needed support I have in my neighbourhood.
And without assisted living, where would I move to that would be as safe and supported and cheap as required by ODSP?
Other sources of aid didn’t bear fruit either. As a self employed artist, I had no employer disability or private insurance. And because of my fluctuating income over the years my contributions to CPP disability was not sufficient to meet their criteria for support.
So – there are cracks in our system. I have fallen through one.
But I have fallen into the arms of helping friends and family. I am very lucky. Grateful. And clearly loved.
– Sue Richards