No One Should Live in Poverty Because of Disability

    Increase Ontario's Income Support Program for People Who Have a
    Disability - Says Community Living Ontario to Election Candidates

    TORONTO, Sept. 17 /CNW/ - Like all Ontario citizens, people who have an
intellectual disability are entitled to a decent and dignified standard of
living. This is one of three important messages Community Living Ontario wants
election candidates to hear loud and clear leading up to election day on
October 10.
    "Many people with disabilities in Ontario are living in an
ever-increasing state of poverty because the Ontario government's Ontario
Disability Support Plan (ODSP) has failed to maintain adequate levels of
income support for people," says Keith Powell, executive director of Community
Living Ontario.
    According to the Ministry of Community and Social Services' website ODSP
is "designed to meet the unique needs of people with disabilities who are in
financial need, or who want and are able to work and need support." The
Ontario government has increased payments through the program in recent years,
but much more is needed. Steven Muir, second vice-chairperson of the
Self-Advocates' Council of Community Living Ontario agrees. "I just want the
politicians to know how important this is to people like me who need this
money the most," says Muir who has long been working with local politicians
and other advocates for ODSP reforms.
    "Even with the increases to the program in 2007 and previous years, ODSP
benefits are still more than 18% below the levels they were at in 1993 after
inflation," adds Powell. "The poverty line for a single person in an urban
setting in Ontario is just over $19,000. The top end payment for ODSP is under
$12,000 per year. That's a huge gap which makes for a really desparate
situation for people who rely on this support to live each day."
    Community Living Ontario wants election candidates to know that ODSP
benefits need to fall in line with the real costs of living for Ontarians.
"The rates should reflect average rent levels, food costs, and should account
for people's other basic needs like transportation," Powells says.
"Furthermore, the employment strategies component of the program needs to
improve so that people can increase their self-reliance through earnings while
reducing their reliance on ODSP."
    The goal of 'full citizenship' for people who have an intellectual
disability sits at the heart of Community Living Ontario's two remaining, but
equally important, election messages besides ODSP.
    "Citizenship is about every person's right to embrace and participate in
society. People who have an intellectual disability can live, work, and
participate successfully in society when they are provided with quality
supports and services. We all stand to benefit from this," explains Powell.
"But these supports are made possible through government-funding. So, our
second message is that the Ontario government must follow through on its
recent commitments to increase funding for community supports that assist
people to live meaningful and productive lives."
    The third message relates to the second. "Government-funded community
supports need to be more than just available, they must reflect people's
unique needs and goals. People who rely on this support, and their families,
don't want to see a cookie-cutter approach," says Powell. "In 2004, the
Ontario government announced a plan to transform services for people who have
an intellectual disability based on people's individual needs and, since then,
the government has been working with communities to plan and proceed with more
progressive reforms. No matter which party or candidates win this election,
we're asking that our government follow through on that transformation plan -
now and in years to come."

    Community Living Ontario is a province-wide federation that promotes and
facilitates the full participation, inclusion and citizenship of people who
have an intellectual disability. More than 12,000 people are members of
Community Living Ontario through membership in 112 affiliated local
associations. Community Living provides direct support and services to people
who have an intellectual disability, helps communities build the capacity to
support people, and advocates for social change toward the full inclusion of
all people in community.

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Abigail Brown, Community Living
Ontario, Office: (416) 447-4348 ext. 224 or Cell: (416) 735-3101

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Community Living Ontario

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Ontario Elections 2011

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