Jeff Green | Aug 18, 2005
Legalese - August 18, 2005
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Adult Children Living With Parents (OW and ODSP Rule Changes)
by Peter Graham, staffLawyer
A column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.
On July 1, 2005 there were changes in the rules applying to Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits for adults (18 or over) living with their parents. The rule changes may affect benefit levels for financially independent adult children living with their parents.
As is often the case, the rules for OW and ODSP are not straightforward. A little background is needed to understand the rule changes.
Before July 1, if an adult, without a disability, was living with his or her parents and was not financially independent, he or she was simply added as a member of the parent’s benefit unit and the parent received benefits based on the larger benefit unit. [A benefit unit means a person and all of his or her dependents on behalf of whom he or she is receiving social assistance.] If the same child was financially independent then he or she may have been eligible for benefits directly but at a reduced rate.
After July 1, more adults living with their parents are eligible to receive benefits in their own right (rather than as part of the benefit unit) because the definition of financial independence is expanded. These financially independent adults living with their parents are not necessarily restricted to reduced benefits because the rule that such adults are entitled only to receive reduced benefits became subject to a number of exceptions. Even if the adult child does not fall within an exception to the rule, another rule change gives them the right to elect to receive benefits as part of their parent’s benefit unit.
Expansion of definition of financial independence.
The criteria used to determine whether an adult child is financially independent have been expanded to include the following:receipt of own social assistance for two or more years;having lived away from the parental home for two or more years;five or more years have passed since leaving secondary school;completion of a post-secondary educational program; orbeing a parent.
Exceptions to rule of entitlement to reduced benefits.
If a financially independent adult lives with his or her parents under one of the following situations, he or she is eligible for regular benefits rather than reduced benefits:parent is in receipt of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) or payment under the Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income Act (GAINS);adult child or spouse rents or owns dwelling place;adult child or spouse establishes legal obligation to pay or contribute to shelter costs; oradult child establishes that he or she is required by parent to pay for shelter.
As noted above, a related rule change provides that financially independent adults living with their parents may elect to receive benefits either in their own right as direct recipients or be included in their parents’ benefit unit. Which option is more beneficial to the recipient will depend on the circumstances.
Finally, the new rules remove the requirement that financially independent adults living with their parents and receiving benefits in their own right must pay their parents the amount of assistance received.
The new rules apply to all applicants for social assistance after July 1, 2005. For those on assistance as of July 1, all OW cases will be reviewed on a “touch-the-file” basis no later than the next scheduled participation agreement review.
If you have any questions please call us at the legal clinic.