Protest serves up anger over cuts to special diet allowance

Protesters voiced their anger with recent Ontario provincial budget cuts to social assistance by marching through the streets of Toronto Thursday.

Organized by the Ontario Coalition against Poverty (OCAP), the rally drew hundreds of supporters from a number of community groups.

The protest wound through Toronto’s downtown core kicking off at Allan Gardens and marching to the provincial administrative buildings, with marchers calling for the return of the Special Diet Allowance and an increase in social assistance rates by 40 per cent.

According to John Clarke, head of OCAP, this is the beginning of a wider effort.

“We see the rally as a kick off to an ongoing campaign that we want to build around income adequacy for people on social assistance, said Clarke. “The demands will be restoration of the Special Diet Allowance, but also the raising of social assistance rates.”

People who suffer from specific medical conditions received the Special Diet Allowance so they could purchase food for nutritional or therapeutic reasons. In order to qualify, applicants had to be approved by a doctor. Funding for the program was cut in the recent Ontario budget, unveiled in March.

In Clarke’s opinion, the allowance made a critical difference in people’s lives. “An increase (in the assistance rates) of the magnitude we’re asking for would at least give some possibilities, which (is) what the Special Diet did,” he said.

“It created a situation where people were extremely poor, but at least there was a possibility of having food in the fridge at the end of the month and for rent to be paid.”

According to Charlotte Wilkinson, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Community and Social Services, the program failed to meet the needs of those it served. She also cites an Ontario Auditor General’s report which documented abuses within the system, leading to the government’s decision to cut the allowance.

“Over the past 10 years, the cost of the Special Diet Allowance has ballooned from $6 million to over $200 million,” Wilkinson said.

“The program is not sustainable and is not achieving the intended results. The Auditor General has noted that there has been misuse and it has been found to be discriminatory by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario,” Wilkinson added.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, believes removing the allowance will end up costing taxpayers more in the end.

“These are people with frail conditions and vulnerable immune systems,” he said.

“If they are not fed properly and don’t get a lot of money on social assistance they are going to wind up hospitalized and institutionalized. It’s going to end up costing more to society but I also think it’s also a very cruel thing to do.”

People with severe disabilities will be hardest hit by the loss of the allowance. Wilkinson says the provincial government has responded to these concerns by promising to introduce a new nutritional supplement program that will be implemented over the next several months.

Ann Abbott, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, was receiving the full $250 of the allowance each month and even with that said she still barely gets by on what she receives from the Ontario Disability Assistance Program (ODSP).

“I feel humiliated, like they don’t care if we starve or have to leave our homes, and it’s not fair,” she said. “They bailed out big corporations so why not help the people who really need it?”

About this article

By: Chris Higgins
Posted: Apr 16 2010 7:20 am
Filed under: News

3 Comments on "Protest serves up anger over cuts to special diet allowance"

  1. Michelle | May 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm |

    I have cerebral palsy and severe pain. I take morphine for pain control and I need a high fiber diet or else my intestines will block up from constipation. I can’t believe they are doing this…again because this is the second time they’ve axed the program. I am very desperate at this point and want to leave Canada because people just don’t give a care whether people like me suffer.

    My life is hell now and the government just added to my suffering. I DON’T NEED THIS!

  2. No one can begin to understand what it’s like to go from a shelter into an apartment until they have been through it.

    I have done just that and you know what supported me and made this possible odsp.

    I am now trying to get some schooling under my belt so that i can find somewhat of a decent job and after hearing this i am now very afraid that i will have to go to the food bank for food instead of eating fresh food that helps me function well.

    I used to eat food from the bank and as a result i felt tired couldn’t concentrate well in the free school program i was in a george brown college.

    I was sick many times and it all had to do with malnutrition.

    These cuts will effect people in very negative ways i am living proof. Their are already tons of people that have to rely on the food bank for food and it’s only going to get worse.

    I have a hard time grasping that people who are sick or have diseases have to suffer even more.

    Where is the caring in this? Why is it that people suffer other people’s mistakes.

    The people that are using it properly like myself should not have to suffer and it’s not fair.

    While you guys sit back and enjoy your $140 meals people who are on odsp are going to the food bank desperately hoping that the food they get will be fresh.

    Because it is not always fresh i have gotten this many times and it does make you sick as well.

    Don’t you care if people are secure enough to live and eat healthy? How do you sleep at night knowing that you will be destroying thousands of people’s lives by making these cuts.

    We don;t have barely anything, and if you take more from us it’s like robbing us blind.

    You can;t live ina very nice place while on odsp anyway, most places are cockaroache infested or have mice and this is how people have to live.

    people who are sick and most in need.

    Since when did the sick become such a burden?

    But yet, you all sit in your expensive homes and cars and don’t have a clue what we go thorough.

    I myself have lived on the streets before not my fault due to abuse that was going on in my home and i suffer from severe anxiety and back pain due to having a metal rod in my back and 4 vertabreas fused.

    Odsp has helped me to be able to do my studies comfortablly so that i can achieve something in the future.

    I am telling you, it does work to help people get by but if you makes the cuts more and more people will get sicker and sicker instead of imporving their lives and it will cause more depression instead of peace.

    So, please have a heart and don’t make the cuts, we are already poor enough as it is.

  3. Franco G. Marino | April 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm |

    We Must Stand Together and Stop This INSANITY … I NEED that Portion of My ODSP Support so I can Just Survive … 464.00 allowance for Rent and My Rent is $725.00 Plus, Plus !!! :(
    We Must Stop This Terrible Move BEFORE IT HAPPENS !!!

    God Bless You All


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