Last month, Alex, J.B., Jeff and Benjamin came to volunteer for Daily Bread. They are all part of Reena’s Pathways to the Community program. Reena is an organization that supports individuals with developmental disabilities in many different ways.
Reena has been working with Daily Bread for almost five years now, bringing in different groups to volunteer.
“Volunteering at Daily Bread allows participants to gain skills and experience that they can use to further their roles in the community and feel valued,” said Justin Castator, the staff supervisior from Reena who was accompanying the volunteers.
This was Jeff’s first day volunteering, while J.B., Alex and Benjamin, have been coming for a year or more.
What do you like about volunteering at Daily Bread?
“We love coming to Daily Bread to meet new people and make new friends”, said J.B. As volunteers, they often help sort donated food or powdered milk. One of the best things about volunteering, everyone agreed, was knowing that they are helping other people.
What have you learned?
“We’ve learned how to sort food, and read labels,” said Alex, who has been volunteering for a year at Daily Bread. They also learned important things about food health and safety.
J.B., who travels all the way from Thornhill to Etobicoke on public transit by himself, said that one of the most important things he has learned is independence – gaining confidence that he can do things on his own.
What is Reena’s Pathways to the Community program?
The program is the next stage for participants who have completed high school and need some additional assistance finding meaningful roles in the community such as employment as well as social and recreational opportunities. Volunteering is just one aspect of how Reena’s Pathways to the Community program helps participants, as well cooking programs, recreational outings and physical activity. www.reena.org.
Daily Bread Food Bank values diversity and inclusion. We work with a number of community volunteer groups, including those with individuals with physical or developmental disabilities. Please contact email@example.com for more information on how to volunteer if you are a community group.
740,000 people in Ontario rely on disability benefits to survive
Canadians statistics indicate that individuals with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as those without disabilities. They also face higher unemployment rates with lower average incomes[ii] . A recent study released by the United Way shows that in the last 20 years precarious forms of employment have increased by nearly 50 per cent in Toronto and the surrounding area. This means that more people are relying on part-time, temporary and contract employment without access to employee benefits in order to survive.
In a report written for the Metcalf Foundation, social policy expert and Daily Bread board member John Stapleton explores how the changing labour market is impacting access to disability programs in Canada. His research points to the disproportional growth of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) which he calls the “welfareization” of disability incomes.
As a form of social assistance, the ODSP program places strict limits on personal assets, outside income and other sources of support – as Stapleton explains in his report, “almost everyone living on ODSP is poor since the programs design insists upon it.” In Ontario nearly 740,000 individuals rely on disability benefits to survive, with up to 42 per cent receiving ODSP support. To understand the growth of ODSP in recent years, we need to first understand the complexity of disability support programs in Canada.
ODSP is part of a complicated system of eight different programs that Stapleton breaks down into two main categories. The first group are ‘employer triggered programs’. These programs are only available to individuals that have participated in regular paid work, but are no longer working. It does not include people who have been on contract or doing seasonal work. The programs that cover this type of work include private insurance, workers’ compensation, Canada Pension Plan – Disability (CPP-D), veterans’ disability, and Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness Benefit.
The second category is made up of programs that are not based on having been employed and includes ODSP, disability tax credits and the registered disability savings plan (RDSP). When it was first introduced in the 1990s, ODSP was intended to be a disability benefit of last resort for individuals unable to work. However, with the increasing prevalence of precarious work, ODSP has become a critical safety net for many individuals who no longer qualify for employer-triggered programs. After draining savings and personal assets, people who are sick, injured or disabled turn to ODSP as their only option for financial assistance.
There are no easy solutions but Stapleton warns in his report that any attempt to design a new disability income program must take into account the larger context and must not be done in isolation. He argues the need for further research in order to better understand the causes and consequences of the welfareization of disability. With this knowledge policy makers will be able to “provide more effective, robust, and humane support to Ontarians and Canadians with disabilities.” If we want to create a just system of disability support which ensures income security and access to gainful employment, then all levels of government along with private and non-profit sectors must work together to develop a coherent set of policies that are focused on the dignity and value of each member of our society.
Click here to download the full report.