Changes to Ontario Social Assistance Programs

By: Nadine Hiemstra

Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW) have some changes taking effect in the upcoming months, as a result of decisions unveiled in the Ontario Government’s Spring 2017 Budget. These changes are not insignificant, particularly with regards to the ability of families to plan and save money for the long term future.

As things previously stood, individuals with disabilities on ODSP were only allowed to own up to $5 000 in liquid assets. In layman’s terms, this meant that you had to keep your bank account balance below $5 000 in order to continue to be eligible for ODSP. For couples, the limit was $7 500. For individuals on OW, the limit was even lower with up to $2 500 for a single individual and up to $5 000 for couples.

Many families struggled with this limit, which meant that in order to help their family member with a disability save for their future, it was necessary to open a Registered Disabilities Savings Plan or Henson Trust for long term savings. These methods have their benefits, but also have some restrictions that can make accessing money in an emergency difficult or an unfavourable option. With the new laws, an individual can save up to $40 000, or $50 000 as a couple. OW has increased the limits to $10 000 for an individual and $15 000 for a couple. These asset limits will take effect by January 2018.

Though these numbers remain lower than British Colombia’s $100 000 limit on disability recipients, it is still a significant step forward for Ontario. It is also followed by a number of other adjustments on limits that should make finances easier to manage. Where people receiving ODSP could previously receive up to $6 000 in gifts or withdrawals from trusts or Segregated Funds in a 12 month period without impact to their ODSP income, they can now receive up to $10 000. Additionally, a gift of any amount received towards first and last month’s rent, to purchase a vehicle, or to purchase a residence will not be counted as income and no reduction will be applied to the amount of ODSP/OW received.

Finally, the new budget boasts an increase in ODSP/OW rates of 2%. While this is higher than previous increases, it addresses little more than increase in inflation. A single individual receiving ODSP will have an increase of $23 in their cheque, for a total of $1 151. Changes to OW won’t take effect until October 2017, and will be a $15 increase for a single individual to $721.

Too much to remember or read? Check out our fast facts below to get the basic information you need and to refer back for changes that affect you.

Fast Facts:

  • A single individual recieving ODSP can now save up to $40 000 of money in their bank account without penalty. Couples can save up to $50 000. This is up from $5 000 and $7 500 respectively.
  • A single individual receiving OW can now save up to $10 000 of money in their bank account without penalty. Couples can save up to $15 000. This is up from $2 500 and $5 000 respectively.
    • Increases to asset limits will take effect by January 2018.
  • An individual receiving either OW or ODSP can receive up to $10 000 in gifts or withdrawals from trusts or Segregated funds in a 12 month period without it negatively affecting their ODSP income (up from $6000)
    • This change takes effect in September 2017
  • Regardless of the amount, a gift used to help pay first or last month’s rent, purchase a vehicle, or purchase a residence will not affect the income of an individual receiving OW or ODSP
    • Other gifts deemed to be income outside of these uses will continue to be deducted from ODSP/OW income cheques
    • This takes effect in September 2017
  • ODSP increases by 2% starting in September 2017
  • OW increases by 2% starting in October 2017


2017 Ontario Budget. Section D: Building Inclusive Communities and Improving the Justice System.

The Star. Welfare recipients see boost in asset limits in Ontario budget. Laurie Monsebraaten.

Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario. Budget 2017: Impact on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Benefits.


weaving a story of change

The Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project

Prepared by:
David Hasbury, Neighbours International

The following is an extract of the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network (OIFN) document “weaving a story of change“.

There are an estimated 70,000 people with developmental disabilities in Ontario. Fewer than 20,000 have spaces in agency directed residential settings; most of them require day/employment support on weekdays as well. By 2018, 24,000 people will access PASSPORT direct individualized funding to enable people to create more customized support.

Calling For New Collaborations

The Ministry, service providers, individuals, families, advocates all agree new options are needed. Since future options are not yet clear, there needs to be new safe spaces to generate cross boundary agreements on potential options. The boundary issues include health, child welfare, corrections, addictions, mental health, family supports, aging, dementia.. and more. Although indigenous issues add additional layers of jurisdictional complexity – none of these issues will go away or be ignored. Responses limited to narrow silos will only add to the chaos and frustration.

Innovative options such as Independent Facilitation are not ‘THE answer’, but they are a key element in a family of responses – new and old – that desperately need to collaborate so that citizens have genuine opportunities to contribute.

People WANT to be contributing citizens in and of the community. Agencies of all shapes and sizes WANT to support people and families to be fully participating citizens. The Ministry WANTS to liberate and support the capacities of citizens who have historically been excluded to be fully engaged citizens.

To create this feasible future, there must be collaboration on a scale we have not yet seen. It will require mutual trust, respect, transparency – AND funding. Endless ‘projects’ that create glimpses of hope only to fade into oblivion, erase the very energy and trust that can build this desirable future on which we fundamentally all agree.

The Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project’s learning journey to Weave A Story Of Change outlines the history, complexity and possibility of creating and sustaining the contribution of one innovative option of support.

We believe it has enormous potential – if it is funded and supported appropriately. It is NOT a silver bullet. It is only one of the family of new options that we can and must develop to create better and secure lives for disadvantaged citizens.

We must ultimately create support structures that are sustainable so we do not betray the hopes and capacities of people once again. This will not be easy – but it is possible.

who is this document for?

…people with developmental disabilities, their families,and allies — to help them understand what Independent Facilitation is and how it might be able to help them in creating the life they need and want

...the Ministry of Community and Social Services — to support its efforts to transform Developmental Services and make a case for Independent Facilitation as a valuable investment in innovation that supports the MCSS vision to develop services that enable people to be included and belong; to contribute as community members; and live as citizens equal to all other citizens

…DSOs — to provide a clear understanding of what Independent Facilitation is and who may benefit from this type of service offering.

…anyone who is interested in becoming an Independent


A Community for All: The Art of Belonging
By Kim Sproul

Here in Waterloo Region, we have many people, places, organizations and initiatives all vested in a single, shared dream – a Waterloo Region where all experience a warm, inviting sense of belonging. If I were to name only a few, like House of Friendship’s John Neufeld, along with his dedicated Board members, staff and volunteers have made belonging a central tenant to their vision of a healthy community. Then, of course, there is Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership, comprised of organizations and community partners in settlement, health, community, social services, business, and employment and education systems. Within their work, they have focused on three pillars, one of which being belonging.

The Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre completed a survey, polling for data on the importance of belonging on one’s health. We also have a Community Foundation that uses the concept of belonging to better understand the needs in this particular community, publishing Waterloo Region Vital Signs. They have entire granting streams dedicated to projects that strive to address and increase belonging in our beloved community. Then, of course, there is the developmental sector within which I work, where organizations like Planned Lifetime Networks, New Story Group, KW Habilitation, Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region and Bridges to Belonging Waterloo Region, have made a firm commitment to the concept.

What becomes apparent is that this concept of belonging is integral to our community. We seek it, study it, look to increase it, and finally, we are eager to celebrate it. We are eager to hear the stories where people share testimony about how belonging has shown up in their life. How it has made significant impact on their everyday story. This need to celebrate is why we are so excited to bring The Art of Belonging to Waterloo Region.

We are eager to share in the celebration and learning that Partners for Planning is hosting in Toronto, where they invited six very special guests to share their stories. We are eager to engage in this very same conversation, locally, on the power of belonging and community. It is our hope that by tapping into these amazing speakers, we can help continue and further the story of belonging in Waterloo Region. Think new thoughts. Ponder different perspectives. Consider contextual and/or cultural variations.

We hope that many different people, from many different walks of life, will consider joining us on March 30th at The Museum for this free event. With time both before and after the speakers, we hope attendees will feel free to bring a local context to the stories we are hearing – find the parallels, the similar struggles and the powerful victories.

Check out the Eventbrite link to find out more, and to reserve your spot, as space is limited.


Free Webinar Series with Al Etmanski & Vickie Cammack – IMPACT-Ability

On October 24th, Plan Institute, in partnership with Tamarack Institute, will be launching an exciting free Webinar Series with Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack based on Al’s bestselling book IMPACT: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation. The book chronicles more than fifty stories of impact: impact that transforms, that lasts, and that disrupts the status quo. Vickie and Al have spent the last dozen years studying the field of social innovation to learn more about impact.

Please join them for this webinar series as they discuss the ways people who live with disabilities and their families have a distinct talent for continuously inventing and creating ways out of adversity to achieve “impact-ability”.

In each one-hour session, Al and Vickie will focus on one of the patterns identified in his book and interview a special guest whose experience led to the pattern and whose work exemplifies it. In the first session, coming up on Monday, October 24th 2016 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. EST, 9:00am – 10:00am PST, Al and Vickie will interview Honourable Minister Carla Qualtrough to open up the webinar series and discuss the Importance of Being a Wise Traveller.

For an overview of the IMPACT-Ability series and a list of upcoming sessions, visit their site . To register for the first session, please do so here .

Join for one session, all seven, or whatever your schedule will allow and be a part of a virtual learning circle with people from a diverse range of sectors who share your curiosity about strengthening their effectiveness at advancing positive change.

Happy virtual learning!


Leonard Henson was a true hero. Like so many of our cherished advocates he was motivated by trying to protect and plan for his daughter with a disability. Today, the Henson Trust goes the extra mile in not only safeguarding ODSP benefits, but secures great flexibility around estate planning.

What’s in it for you?

Updated tax 2016 rules
Creative and viable scenarios for funding a trust
Information on ODSP-related spending rules
Checklist of important attributes when appointing a trustee

Wed Oct 12 at 12pm
HENSON TRUST ~ with UPDATED information
followed by live Q & A with expert Graeme Treeby
Webcast link remains active for two weeks following the presentation.

Please take a few minutes to respond to our brief survey located on the webcast player following the presentation. Your feedback guides us in developing new and innovative FREE resources to help families.
P4P is a family formed and directed nonprofit organization.

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Please note that PLNWWO provides resources for information purposes only. We do not endorse any treatment, program, product or service. The contents of this website are not medical, legal, technical or therapeutic advice. Information should be reviewed with qualified professionals. We will not be held responsible for misuse of information or for any adverse effects of recommendations mentioned on this website or on any other websites linked to it. Views, opinions or announcements posted by subscribers to any area of this site do not necessarily reflect those of PLNWWO and we do not assume responsibility for any discrepancies or errors.

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