The Income Security Advocacy Centre works with and on behalf of low income communities in Ontario to address issues of income security and poverty.
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Please be advised that ISAC does not provide legal advice to individuals. If you need legal advice and are a low-income Ontarian, please contact your local community legal clinic. You can find your local clinic at the following link: Legal Aid Ontario's website.
- Ontario's 2015 Budget offers little assistance to people who rely on Ontario's two social assistance programs.
- Medical Reviews in ODSP. As noted below, the Ministry of Community and Social Services will be significantly increasing the number of medical reviews done each month, starting April 2015. For that date, we have updated our Medical Reviews Fact Sheet to provide more information about what you can and should do if you receive a medical review letter in the mail.
- ODSP Employment Benefits are changing in 2015. We've prepared resources and background information about these changes. The ODSP Action Coalition wants you to take action to express your concerns.
- ODSP Medical Reviews: The Ministry of Community and Social Services will be significantly increasing the number of medical reviews done each month, starting in April 2015. This means many more people will receive notices that their disability status is being reviewed. Our ODSP Medical Reviews Fact Sheet explains what medical reviews are, how they are done, and what you should do if you get a notice. It also outlines some of the concerns about medical reviews and what we're doing to advocate for a better process.
- Nov 18: Open Letter on Bill C-43: 160 organizations from across Canada have come together to oppose federal Bill C-43. Two sections in this Bill would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance benefits for refugee claimants and others without status in Canada. These sections were first introduced as Private Members Bill C-585 (see below).
- The 2014 Ontario Budget provided for increases to OW and ODSP rates, which start September 30 for ODSP and October 1 for OW. Our latest rates sheet outlines the new Basic Needs and Maximum Shelter rates, the latest Ontario Child Benefit amounts, and increases to other benefits.
Download the rates sheet in English and French below:
- Call to Action: Bill C-585 is a Federal Private Member’s Bill which has serious implications for the income security of refugee claimants and other people without permanent status in Canada. If passed, the Bill would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance benefits for these groups by imposing minimum residency requirements for eligibility. The Bill does this by eroding the existing “national standard” for the Canada Social Transfer which prevents provinces from imposing a minimum period of residency for social assistance eligibility.
- Use our Information and Action Kit to express your concern on this bill. Our Kit is available in both English and French.
- Taking action now is critical. Update: Second Reading on Bill C-585 has been delayed until September 23 - ONE MORE WEEK TO TAKE ACTION! Expressing opposition before Sept 23 could lead to the Bill being defeated or withdrawn.
- Another Update: Bill C-585 has been delayed again! The Bill's sponsor was not in Ottawa on September 23 to speak to the Bill, so it's been delayed for another month. For more information about the Bill, check our Backgrounder in English and French.
- Yet Another Update: This time, the federal government has incorporated Bill C-585 into its omnibus federal Budget Bill C-43. We've again updated our Backgrounder in English and French.
- We're also asking groups to sign on to an Open Letter available here in English and French - send endorsements by November 12 to email@example.com.
- And individuals can sign an online petition here.
- ISAC appeared before a Senate Standing Committee hearing on Budget Bill C-43 on November 6. Read our written submission to the Committee here. And watch the hearing online here.
- The College of Physicians and Surgeons recently asked for feedback on its "Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code Policy" (the deadline was August 5). ISAC responded with this submission, which draws the links between poverty and discrimination and outlines some of the ways that a medical practice that respects human rights should take poverty into account.
- Election Day in Ontario is June 12. Are you organizing in your community during the election campaign? Need to know how to make sure you or the people you work with are on the voters list? Want questions you can ask local candidates at All Candidates Meetings? Get ISAC's Election Kit and Questions for Candidates on our Ontario Election 2014 webpage. We're also posting info from other groups and organizations that you might find helpful. Check the page often for updates.
- Read ISAC's brief submission to Ontario's Minimum Wage Advisory Panel on why the minimum wage is an important tool in the fight against poverty and wage inequality, suggestions for a transparent process for raising the minimum wage, and why a $14 minimum wage and and a number of other labour market protections are needed now. Our submission is here.
- ISAC has made a submission on Ontario's second poverty reduction strategy, focused on
income security and social assistance reform, the need for government to take an equity approach to reducing poverty, and the importance of moving away from austerity and toward making the investments that are required. You can read our submission here. Aussi, la version française est disponible ici.
- On October 16, ISAC and Niagara North Community Legal Assistance will go before the Federal Court of Appeal to argue that 102 seasonal agricultural workers were wrongly denied EI parental benefits. UPDATE: On Nov 19, migrant workers scored a victory on this case at the Federal Court of Appeal. Click here to read our update! Click here for more information, in English, Spanish and French.
- Changes to OW and ODSP rules and new social assistance rates are taking effect September 2013. Four new fact sheets are available to explain the changes - to rates, to exemptions on assets and gifts for people on OW, and to exemptions on earned income for people on both OW and ODSP.
- ISAC has produced a Toolkit for Community Legal Clinics to help prepare for and participate in the provincial government’s consultation on the next poverty reduction strategy for Ontario. The toolkit is also available in French. And we've worked with our partners to provide some key messages for use at consultations in your area. Click here to access all these resources.
- Read ISAC's pre-budget submission to the Ontario legislature's Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on Budget 2013.
- Changes have been made to the Special Diet Allowance program as a result of ISAC's continuing legal work at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Find out more about these changes and what you should do if you are on OW or ODSP have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions.
Budget 2012 eliminated the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit
and the Home Repairs Benefit
. These cuts will hurt people on OW and ODSP across the province. Act Now to Save Housing Supports for People on OW and ODSP
- join our email campaign online
and get important tools for your own advocacy work!
- Read ISAC's reactions to and analysis of the Ontario 2012 budget, which made the largest cuts to direct benefits for people on OW and ODSP since the McGuinty government was first elected in 2003.
- The way that three provincial tax credits are being paid to people with low-incomes is changing. This means these credits are no longer being paid in lump-sum tax refunds. Click here for more information about how and why payment of tax credits is changing, and on avoiding getting into bad contracts with tax filing companies.
- Bringing In Women's Voices! Are you a woman in Ontario struggling to make ends meet? Are you a mother raising kids on your own? Learn more about our project working with low-income moms across the province. And check out our Facebook page!
- If you are currently getting Special Diet and are confused about the changes and the new application process, please read these information sheets:
- The Federal Tax Court has made some recent rulings relating to the Child Tax Benefit in situations of joint custody, custody by someone other than a parent, and spousal separation. For an overview of recent jurisprudence, see ISAC’s April 2011 paper :
- For an update on the procedure for applying for the Child Tax Benefit or appealing a decision to deny or reduce your Child Tax Benefit, see ISAC’s powerpoint presentation prepared for the Northern Regional Training Conference in April 2011:
- Read ISAC's Comment on the 2011 Ontario Budget
- The Ontario government’s announcements of Nov 30 on the social assistance review and special diet allowance program are both welcome steps forward on the road to improved income security for Ontarians. Click here to see ISAC's press release on the government's announcements.
- Short-term rule changes to OW and ODSP could make life better for people receiving support. The Social Assistance Review Advisory Council recommended 14 changes to government in February. Some have been made, but many are yet to be implemented. See the full list of recommendations in PDF here or in Word here.
This site also features materials from CLEONet, an online clearinghouse for legal resources, news, and events produced by community organizations and legal clinics across Ontario.