| May 25, 2006


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ODSP Alert:Major changes to employment rules

by Susan Irwin, Lawyer/Executive Director

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.

The following article appeared in the Peterborough Community Legal Centre (PCLC) May 2006 newsletter and is reprinted here with permission.

People with disabilities who received Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits should be aware of some major changes to employment rules:

1. Requirements for non-disabled spouses: As of April 1, 2006, if you are married to someone who receives ODSP and you are not disabled yourself, you may have to meet Ontario Works (OW) employment assistance requirements. You will have to do upgrading, retraining, volunteer hours, job searches and/or job placements. The goal will be to place you in paid employment.

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How will this work? ODSP offices will review their files to see who should be referred to OW. Referrals will start shortly after June 2006. You may be exempted from the OW employment requirements if you:

are already working or looking for work;

you meet the OW criteria for temporary deferral;

you have to be a caregiver for a young child or for an ill or elderly adult and this makes it impossible for you to look for employment;

there are “special circumstances” so you do not have to meet the OW requirements.

***Important*** The ODSP benefits that your spouse receives will be cut back if OW says that you did not work hard enough to find a job, if you quit a job without a good reason or if you are fired from your job.

2. A new approach to employment supports: If you have a disability, are on ODSP and you want to find a job, you may be able to get Employment Support services.

To get these supports, you have to show that you have the potential to be employable. Examples of Employment Support services are retraining and upgrading, job coaching, specialized equipment and sign language interpreters. Often private individuals or companies are paid by ODSP to provide the Employment Support services.

As of April 1, 2006, the Employment Supports program has new policies to make it easier and faster to get ODSP Employment Supports. The individuals and companies that are hired to provide the services will be paid based on whether you find and keep a job.

What does this mean? As an applicant, you will have to go to an Employment Information Session, you will have to choose a service provider and you will have to sign an Employment Supports Funding Agreement with ODSP. The service provider’s funding will be directly tied to whether you find a job, keep the job and your earnings in the job.

3. Changes to Earnings Exemptions: If you are on ODSP and you or your spouse work, earnings from the job will not be deducted dollar for dollar from your ODSP cheque. ODSP lets you keep a certain amount of earnings each month, depending on your family size, and then allows you to keep 25% of your earnings above that amount. As of November 1, 2006, the earnings exemption rules will change. Under the new formula, your family will keep 50% of all “net” wages (“net” means the amount of the wages after income tax, CPP, EI etc.). On top of this, you will be able to keep $100 for each adult in your family who is earning money from a job or a training program, or who is running a profitable business. ***Important*** Many ODSP recipients will benefit from the new rules, but if your family has only one earner netting between $201 and $305 then you may be worse off under the new rules.

4. Increased employment start-up benefits: You may be eligible for the Employment Start-Up Benefit (ESUB) if you are: getting ODSP income support and accepting a new full or part-time job; starting a training program that leads to a job; starting your own business; or changing to a new job that is a different type of work from your previous job. As of November 1, 2006, the ESUB will be increased from $253 to $500 in any 12-month period. The ESUB will also be available to cover costs related to job searches, job preparation, and volunteer positions that will help you find paid employment. The ESUB will not be issued to cover the costs that you have if you are leaving ODSP for employment, rather these expenses will be covered by the new Employment Transition Benefit.

5. New benefits: These new benefits apply to ODSP recipients who leave ODSP for a job, to do a training program or to run a business. As of November 1, 2006, you will be entitled to new benefits.

The first new benefit, the Employment Transition Benefit (ETB), is $500 which must be paid to you, in these circumstances, once a year regardless of what costs you have in leaving ODSP.

The second new benefit, the Transitional Health Benefit (THB), may be available to your family if you are leaving ODSP but you have no drug, dental and vision care coverage with an employer. Special rules apply as to who may qualify for the THB.

6. Changes to reinstatement on ODSP after periods of employment: As of November 1, 2006 all former ODSP recipients who left ODSP because they got jobs may be “rapidly reinstated” onto ODSP if their employment situation changes.

If you are in this situation you will still have to reapply for ODSP but you will not have to prove again that you are medically eligible. Benefits should be quickly reinstated if you are found to be financially eligible and if you meet all other, non-medical requirements. This reinstatement will happen regardless of how long you have been off ODSP.

With files from the LAO’s Clinic Resource Office and the Income Security Advocacy Centre.

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