Ontarios most vulnerable are losing out: says Ontario's Ombudsman André Marin
Ombudsman Ontario Press Release dd May 31, 2006
the Waiting Game
May 31, 2006
The Ontario Disability Support Program provides income support, health and other benefits for people with disabilities who are in financial need. The Ombudsmans investigation was launched after the office received 71 complaints of delays of up to 10 months at the Ontario Disability Support Programs Disability Adjudication Unit, which is charged with determining whether or not an applicant for financial support meets the stringent definition of a person with a disability as set out in the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997. During the Ombudsmans investigation, an additional 74 complainants came forward and upon reviewing Ministry statistics it was found that at least 4,630 individuals and probably many more, were affected during the period from April 1, 2004 to December 31, 2005 alone.
insult to injury, Mr. Marin found that once an applicant was deemed to
be entitled to financial support, they were limited by regulation, to
receiving four months of retroactive benefits, regardless of how long
it may have taken for the Ministry to process their application and even
though the delay was through no fault of their own.
It is unfair if even one person is disentitled to benefits retroactively because of Ontario Disability Support Program delays. It is nothing short of shameful when the program is responsible for thousands of vulnerable individuals losing out on benefits Mr. Marin said in his report.
report contains seven recommendations aimed at curbing delays at the Disability
Adjudication Unit and improving service standards. The time has
come to change the rules of the Ontario Disability Support Program waiting
game. The Ministry must go back to first principles and remember why the
Program exists in the first place; it is to serve low income Ontarians
with disabilities, Mr. Marin commented in his findings.
The report also recommends that the regulation under the Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997 be changed to eliminate the four-month restriction on retroactive benefit payments and that those individuals who lost out on retroactive benefits because of Ministry delays be repaid.
I believe the only way to make this situation right is for those who have lost the waiting game to receive the benefits they would have otherwise been entitled to if it were not for the Ministrys delay. But for the Ministrys delays, these individuals would have had funds to improve the quality of their lives, to buy food, do laundry and buy clothing for their children. They have been denied these funds through no fault of their own, Mr. Marin noted.
The Ministry, in its response to the Ombudsmans recommendations, pledged to address the need for improved service standards and noted that the necessary regulatory change had been filed to ensure that applicants would now receive benefits back to the date of their applications. It also indicated that it would consider the Ombudsmans recommendation for restitution but made no formal commitment.
urged the Ministry to act quickly to find the necessary means to repay
those individuals affected, noting that, although it is understandable
that the Ministry may require time, particularly given the challenges
posed by the way in which its statistics have been kept
urge the Ministry to deal with this question with the
investigation has found that thousands of individuals with disabilities
were deprived of benefits, which they were otherwise rightfully entitled
Many of those affected faced months of undeserved financial hardship
and in the end lost out on much needed monies, which should have been
in their pockets to pay for food, shelter and other necessities of life.
I would urge the Minister to act quickly and to find the necessary means
to repay these individuals the monies which they should have received
in the first place, had it not been for the Ministrys delay.
press release is available in French
For further information, call 416-586-3300, TTY 1-866-411-4211 or visit our website: www.ombudsman.on.ca
Source http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/pdf/DAU%20PRMay312006.pdf (PDF file, 2 p.)