The province created the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) in order to provide income support to Ontarians with disabilities in financial need. Yet it’s been well established through Daily Bread reports and others that ODSP rates are gravely insufficient for supporting a dignified life.
As the result of hard work by many disability advocates, in June 2022 all four political parties in Ontario promised to increase ODSP rates for the first time since 2018, and in September a 5% increase came into place. For most single individuals that meant a new monthly income of $1,228, up from $1,169.
(With a new annual income of $14,736, this still places ODSP recipients who are single individuals nearly $10,000 under the Toronto poverty line of $24,720. They are still in deep poverty.)
What did this 5% increase mean to ODSP recipients? To find out, we reached out to food bank clients on ODSP and published their responses in this new report from our Click/Hear program. We asked clients what they’re spending this additional money on, and what they would do if they were to receive a larger increase.
Most clients said the 5% increase is insignificant and will not make an impact on their daily lives. “The small increase we occasionally receive is fast eaten up by the yearly rent increase and inflation,” said one respondent. “Every month you are forced to decide if you will do laundry or buy some healthy food, for example.”
When asked what they would do if they received an extra $100 per month, 60% of respondents said they would spend the money on more food; however, given the choice between “more food” and “better food,” clients were much more likely to choose the latter category. They wished they could buy healthier food, including fish, “nice kind of meat,” “some chicken, beef or fish,” fresh fruits, and salads.
If rates were raised $1,000 per month, to just over the poverty line, most clients said they would move to better or more accessible housing. “I’m sleeping in the living room,” explained one respondent. “I don’t have enough money to afford my own bedroom [separate from my son]. I’d like to close my door and sleep.”
But the gap between the ODSP shelter allowance and actual rent prices puts this dream out of reach – and, research has found, at risk of homelessness. The discrepancy between ODSP rates and the average market rents in Toronto is stark:
To ensure all Ontarians can live the life of dignity they deserve, we recommend the doubling of ODSP social assistance rates to lift recipients above the poverty line. (In other reports, we have recommended the same for Ontario Works recipients.)
Daily Bread will continue advocating for policy solutions to increase income security for our clients. In order to truly end hunger in Toronto, we must first end poverty.