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For the disabled in our community, trying to survive on $1,169 as provided through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) means chronic hardship and poverty. For families and children, the effects of poverty are significant and long lasting.
Barrie and Innisfil children whose families rely on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), almost always live well below the poverty line. After paying rent in Barrie-Innisfil, one of the most expensive rental areas in Ontario, families are forced to make difficult monthly decisions about food, medications, transportation, and bills.
With children, end of month decisions become increasingly difficult. Many families cannot afford basic educational essentials: school supplies, technology, class trips, team sports, an occasional visit to the zoo, all the materials and stimulating experiences children need as they grow up.
Vision, dental and health checks are often postponed. September means that parents need to make decisions about school milk and lunch programs, new clothes, classroom essentials, and all of the expenses that come along during the school year.
While education is hailed as the great equalizer, education cannot compensate for the effects of poverty. Experts have demonstrated that deferred educational experiences and lack of essentials have a negative impact on student achievement.
“The single greatest driver of student achievement is household income. Allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.” The Atlantic, July 2019.
As a long time educator, I believe that one of the most effective ways to increase student achievement is to raise children out of poverty. The federal government has determined that $2,000 is the standard amount of monthly CERB payment required to keep families afloat through the COVID crisis, yet ODSP recipients are capped at $1,169/month.
For this reason, we must raise ODSP rates to $2,000 monthly and expand the eligibility criteria for ODSP.
Local Barrie advocate Leanne Timmerman has been a vocal critic of ODSP calling on the provincial government to raise ODSP to $2000, matching CERB.
“I found it difficult to survive month to month on ODSP before the pandemic hit; even more so now being a single parent on assistance, and deemed disabled," she says. "The price of food, clothing and the necessities that we all need, all went up with COVID-19.
"Every parent wants the best for their children that attend school and I can understand children's feelings when parents cannot afford lunch programs, open house pizza evening, end of the school year BBQ and sports that they try out and funds for school trips. I am sure that most parents on ODSP cannot afford their children's school photos either. I am calling out the Premier and the Minister of Social Services and the Federal government to have all persons with disabilities match the $2,000 CERB as an income.”
In a wealthy province such as Ontario, children should not have to suffer the enduring consequences of poverty. We call on Premier Ford to raise ODSP rates to $2,000 monthly to ensure that children avoid the enduring effects of poverty.
Pekka Reinio, President, Barrie Innisfil NDP
Leanne Timmerman, Community Advocate