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'In my opinion, that is a slap in my face': New Canada Disability Benefit a 'disappointment' to those living in deep poverty


The federal government has allocated $6.1 billion over six years for the long-awaited Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), but according to advocacy groups across the country, it falls short.

“A maximum of $2,400 a year, which for many people with disabilities, that will leave them still well below the poverty line and living in deep poverty,” said Sherri Torjman, a social policy consultant who co-authored a new report titled ‘Dignity by Design: The Canada Disability Benefit.’

According to the report, 10.6 per cent of Canadians aged 16 and over with disabilities (979,000 persons) lived in poverty in 2021.

Torjam, who is also the former vice-chair of the Disability Advisory Committee reporting to the minister of national revenue, said advocates were surprised that the amount came in well below, relative to what had been promised in the 2020 throne speech read by the governor general in the House of Commons.

She said there was reference that the new benefit would be modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement, which would ensure no seniors would live in poverty.

The report outlined a number of different options, including using Canada’s poverty benchmark, which would see the yearly amount come in around $7,200.

“There is such a long wait from the initial announcement until they’ll actually see any money in their pockets,” said Torjam.

The benefit will come into effect by June 2025 and will require a health professional assessment in order to qualify for the payment.

“Depending on where that health provider works, and what jurisdiction they are in, they have to pay several, you know, sometimes several hundred dollars to have a form complete. That’s a cost in itself,” explained Torjamn.

Londoner Jeffrey Salisbury, who is on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) due to a developmental disability, said he was hoping the CDB would help bring him to the poverty line, but that’s not the case.

“It’s only going to be about $200 a month, which amounts to about $6 a day, which really does not do anything to help anybody,” said Salisbury.

Salisbury, who has been on ODSP since 2011, said he receives $1,308 per month.

“Your entire cheque is ate up by the rent, you don’t even have anything for food. You have to go to the food bank every month,” he explained.

“$200, that’s in my opinion a slap in my face,” added Andrew Roberts who also relies on ODSP after having suffered a massive heart attack that left him with several medical issues.

“My rent [is] $1,790 a month, plus utilities, when I’m only getting just over $2,300 a month from disability, literally living off the child tax money to pay my bills, put groceries in my house, feed my children,” explained Roberts.

Torjam said it is important for people with disabilities to understand that they can apply for the benefit.

“There will have to be a lot of work done to help people understand first that they can qualify for this, and second help them gain access to the benefit,” she explained. “It is a fairly long and complicated process, and that’s unfortunate.”

The government held consultations to design the CDB, but despite that process, many are left disappointed with the final numbers.

“The only thing that I can hope is this is just the beginning; that this is just the foundation and it is essential to build on it further. We’ve seen that with other benefits that were introduced in the country that took years to build into an adequate level,” said Torjam. Top Stories

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