Ontario Disability Support Program
The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is a means-tested government-funded disability pension paid to qualifying residents in the province of Ontario, Canada who have a disability. ODSP and Ontario Works are the two main components of Ontario's social assistance system. Like most social programs in Canada, the program is funded by the government of the corresponding province. In Ontario, the Ministry of Community and Social Services is responsible for both programs.
Unlike Ontario Works, ODSP does not require recipients to undertake employment-related activities like job searching, or vocational training. This is determined through a subjective evaluation of four criteria that are defined within the ODSP Act:
- The disability is continuous or recurrent;
- It is expected to last for a year or more;
- The disability significantly limits their ability to work, look after themselves, or get out in the community; and
- It has been verified by an approved health professional.
ODSP is meant to replace the income lost due to the recipient's disability making them unable to work enough to gain self-sufficiency and thus has a higher rate of assistance and asset limits then Ontario Works does.
The program is paid monthly to a "benefit unit" which can consist of a single person between 18 and 65 (or a senior citizen who is ineligible for Old Age Security or Canada Pension Plan) and any others who may require the person's support. This can be any corresponding dependent adults who do not qualify for assistance (though they are subject to workfare requirements), children under the individual's care, or a spouse and consists of two main components. One is a fixed basic needs allowance, and the other is a variable, but capped amount for housing. For those who do not have independent cooking facilities and/or cannot provide grocery receipts, a "Board and Lodging" amount is provided instead. All costs are verified through submitted receipts and information sharing among other government agencies.
A range of additional benefits are also available which can include:
- prescription medicine coverage (for medications listed on the Ontario Drug Benefit formulary) - a $2 co-pay may still apply
- free dental care
- routine eye examinations (once every three years)
- assistance with the purchase of prescription eyeglasses (once every three years)
- eyeglass repair costs assistance
- free hearing tests
Estate planning for families with an ODSP recipient
Caring for a family member with a disability, and planning for their support for a whole lifetime poses special problems and challenges. A family has three main options: fully support the relative with a disability, plan for ODSP to take care of all of the relative's needs or leave money in a trust. To fully support a relative, the family would require a very large estate and the relative would not claim ODSP benefits. Families that are not able to provide for their relative or provide very little would most likely plan for ODSP to care for their relative. In that case, the family should consider opening a Registered Disability Savings Plan. If the family has some assets, they should consider setting up a trust to help support the loved one for the rest of his/her life. A trust can usually provide the same support as parents do during their lifetime.
It is important when setting up a trust that it does not affect the relative's ODSP benefits. Two kinds of trusts can help ensure that the relative is still eligible to receive ODSP benefits: a Henson trust and an Inheritance or Shelter Trust.
ODSP cannot count the money in a Henson Trust when they do the asset test to decide if the individual is eligible for ODSP. This is because a Henson Trust is an absolute discretionary trust, meaning that the trustee has complete control to make payments from the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary. Assets set up in the trust to support the person with disability are therefore not considered as that person's assets since someone else makes decision about how to spend the money. The trustee can spend up to $6,000 on the relative during any consecutive 12 month period without affecting ODSP benefits. There is no limit to how much is allocated to a Henson Trust.
An inheritance trust can be set up if a family wants their relative to inherit some money, but less than $100,000 or if the relative is a beneficiary for life insurance benefits less than $100,000. This trust can also be set up after the family member's death by the relative with a disability if they inherit less than $100,000. If there is more than one inheritance or Shelter Trust established for the relative with a disability, the total placed in all such trusts must be less than $100,000 under ODSP rules.
- "About the Ontario Disability Support Program". Ontario Government.
- "ODSP: Who is eligible". Ontario Government.
- "About Ontario Works". Ontario Government.
- "About Social Assistance". Ontario MCSS.
- "Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997 ONTARIO REGULATION 222/98". Ontario Gazette. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
- "Social Assistance Directives". Ontario Government.
- "Employment Supports: What it is". Ontario MCSS. Retrieved 21 December 2013.