TORONTO, July 26, 2022 /CNW/ - Tens of thousands of people who rely on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) are falling further behind because their income has been frozen since 2018. Their ability to find adequate housing, pay for essentials and live with any sense of dignity and hope are being further compromised given sky-high inflation, says the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO).
Scott Ferguson of Ottawa is one of more than 417,000 Ontarians who rely on ODSP to live. Confined to a wheelchair, he is forced to try to cover rent, food and other essentials on a monthly payment of only $1,169. It's an amount well below the poverty line, which is why his mother, a retired registered nurse (non-practising) in Ontario, helps out regularly.
"Living like this makes me feel subhuman. I rely on ODSP for all of my living expenses. I rarely get to go out. If it wasn't for having a roommate I would probably be out of a home and if it wasn't for my mother, I probably wouldn't be eating," says Mr. Ferguson.
Scott's mother, Una Ferguson, says rates that reflect the true value of the cost of living and more affordable and accessible housing are key to making life easier for her son and thousands like him. She helps her son regularly by paying for his utilities and clothing needs. "As a nurse, I am well aware of how debilitating pain can be. To watch your son struggle on a daily basis on top of the pain he has to endure is heartbreaking. I worry what will happen when I am no longer able to help him."
RNAO has launched a campaign urging the provincial government to double rates immediately and index future increases to inflation. It has written a letter to Premier Ford and issued an action alert to drive home the fact that the province's support program is out of step with today's reality. For example, individuals on ODSP receive $1,169 per month, while the average rate for a bachelor apartment in Ontario in 2021 was $1,106. RNAO calculates that since the Ford government came to power in 2018, the real value of ODSP has further declined by 10 per cent, with an overall decline of almost 32 per cent since 1992.
"It's cruel that we force people with disabilities, like Mr. Ferguson, to live in utter poverty. Ontario is a rich province and we can and must do better. All Ontarians deserve to have adequate shelter, to be able to afford a healthy diet and to realize their full potential as individuals," says Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO. "We urge Premier Ford to act immediately by doubling the ODSP rates. This will enable people and families in Ontario who must rely on ODSP to lead dignified lives."
During a media availability taking place in Ottawa this Friday (July 29) Mr. Ferguson will share his story with members of the media. We ask reporters to contact Victoria Alarcon and Marion Zych of RNAO's communications department to make arrangements for one-on-one interviews. Please see contact information below.
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public we serve. For more information about RNAO, visit RNAO.ca or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
SOURCE Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario
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