July 31st, 2018 to November 22nd, 2018 On July 31, 2018, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS), Lisa MacLeod cancelled the Basic Income (BI) pilot project, halved the increase of social assistance rates that the Liberals had passed and revoked 19 other changes that would have made our lives better. Affected: 4000 people who were on the BI + 1 mio people who are on Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). She also announced that she was starting a very short 100 days review and that her starting point was the old and infamous Mike Harris belief that "the best social program is a job". During her review, Minister MacLeod did not consult any groups of persons with lived experience of poverty and/or disability (Freedom Of Information Request). Minister MacLeod's language was one of "compassion" while announcing harsh austerity measures and reifing the loaded Mike Harris mantra of "the best social program is a job". Of course, working can be validating for those who can, but a lot of jobs aggravate poverty and disability and, on top, not everybody can work. On top, "the best social program is a job" had had devastating effects when (exploitation of persons with disability) and it is a harsh capitalist and ableist way of framing poverty and disability that denies the fact that poverty is a systemic problem and the truth that "social assistance", especially our social assistance system in Ontario is simply degrading. My anxiety went up. Minister MacLeod did not organize consultations. My mind went one level deeper into survival strategizing pattern (typical for ODSP recipients). I was witnessing the fears and the anticipation of other ODSP recipients in the ODSP Action Coalition. Serious suicidal thoughts were coming up and shared.

The Perversion of Poverty in Ontario

November 22nd, 2018 to June 20, 2018 On November 22nd, 2018, Minister MacLeod announced that she was going - to narrow down the definition of disability so that it reflects working abilities, - to grand-parent the current recipients, and - to increase the earning exemptions, but also - increase the clawbacks on earnings from 50% to 75% past the exemptions.

On April 11, 2019, the government presented its budget. MCCSS got one of the two deepest cuts, the other one to legal services. Later the budget bill passed Schedule 17, that will limit if not extinguish our rights to complain when the government is not taking its responsibilities towards us.
Of course, we would rejoice to trash any definition of disability if we were in an equal society where the particularities of each of us would be valued and allowed to flourish equally. But that society does not exist yet. Narrowing down the definition of disability, in a context of austerity, thus, is about sparing money by excluding a lot of persons with disabilities from the only income security program that is supposed to help them. ODSP is notoriously difficult to access and more exclusion means more people with disabilities on Ontario Works which is abysmally not appropriate for anybody (62% under poverty line) and linked to a job market that is still bluntly not accessible and very ableist.

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Changing disability definition a dangerous mistake that will harm thousands
"How will they eat?" Alarm raised over revamp of Ontario's welfare program for disabled
Cuts to legal aid mean worse health for vulnerable people
Ontario PCs Pass Budget Bill That Makes Government Immune To Most Lawsuits
Defend Disability

June 20, 2018 to October 28, 2018 On June 20, 2019: cabinet shuffle. Minister Todd Smith takes over our Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. He was the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade before.

In May 2019, rumours had been heard that the grand-parenting of recipients would not include their medical reviews. On June 27, Dr Sylvain Roy shared that, during a meeting with political advisors, he was told that current recipients would stay on ODSP until their next medical review, at which point, they would be submitted to the new defintion. This means that the grand-parenting would be a grand-parenting of the people, but not of the medical review.

At the beginning of July, changes to employment services were announced which will launch at first in the Region of Peel, Hamilton-Niagara and Muskoka-Kawarthas and be implemented in the rest of the province in 2022. The new system will integrate services for everybody, including people on OW and ODSP (that was not the case before), and delegate their delivery to agencies which will plan and deliver them at a local level and receive funding based on "accountability and outcomes", i.e. on " "achieving results".

Social Impact Bonds are a good example of funding of employment services through "accountability and outcomes". In this case, funders get financial returns if "agreed up social outcomes and cost savings" are achieved. Among social outcomes, very intimate aspects of our lives will start to be quantified, such as our mental health and physical health, our appearances at emergency rooms or emergency shelters, own housing stability, and of course, how often we miss work.

Our future with a narrower definition of disability is dark especially when combined with the cuts in legal aid, the new Schedule 17, the limits put to the grand-parenting and the upcoming funding of employment services on the basis of "results".

For those on ODSP now, future looks like this: fear of the notice of a medical review, extreme stress during the medical review, possibly mental break down (i went suicidal during my first review despite the fact that i have a very patient-centred doctor who really sees me). If expulsed, chaos and serious income INsecurity.
In the current system, when a person earns $800/month, they keep $500/month and live with $1,669/month (allowance + part of earnings). If the new definition excludes them, they will have to live with $1,158/month.

For those not on ODSP now, future might mean denial of access to ODSP and struggle in the face of endless barriers and with next to no income security.

For all on OW and ODSP in the future, stress under the new "results"-based funding model of employement services. Of course, we could look forward to that type of funding if we were going to be the ones deciding what are "achieved results", but there is no chance that this government would trust us or give us any power in this, unless we move mountains of advocacy and protest.

For now, we can at best, expect ableist rules and infringement of our rights (ex. right self-determination, right to adequate standard of living), in the name of "helping" us. We can expect to get pressured to fit standards that we can't fit. Probably exactly the same standards that have marginalized us in the first place.

This government is not doing this because it is ignorant. It is very conscioulsy tapping into the powerlessness of the poorest to establish its own value system. One health provider said that this is not only death by 1000 cuts, it is 1000 deaths by 1000 cuts. Of course, i am afraid of future. Constantly. ODSP is my only "family". i need ODSP and i need to be allowed to keep ODSP even when i can work because even if i were to want to, i cannot work enough in this system to sustain myself.

Reality check: funeral home?

- by claude wittmann