This Blog post concerns a now-ten year old Ontario social benefit case. It concerns a (then) young girl. Grace lives with a rare condition called Di George Syndrome, which is a complex congenital heart condition. Her family received funding at the purportedly maximum amount available under the Assistance for Children with Severe Disability Program (ACSD). This was approximately $410 a month, according to the case.
Grace’s funding was cut off when Grace’s father (John Wood) was informed by the Director of the ACSD Program that he earned too much money to continue to receive ACSD benefits. It was decided that his income exceeded the upper amount one can earn and still access disability support for one’s severely disabled child.
Mr. Wood appealed internally to the Ontario Ministry and he effectively lost his appeal. He was provided with a drug benefit card of $25 value. However he already had comprehensive drug coverage for his daughter Grace under his plan at work.
He then took the matter to the Ontario Social Benefit Tribunal to have a Hearing Officer there examine his case.
John Wood’s income was $91,924. However, it is notable that his family had spent $23,000 the prior year to care for Grace, which included air fare and accommodation for a life saving and rare surgery undertaken in Edmonton that could not be performed at Sick Kids Hospital. Grace’s mother stays home to care for Grace. They have another child.
Decision: The Ontario Social Benefits Tribunal Hearing Officer held that pursuant to s3(1) of the Act household income was but one factor to be considered by the Director, but so too were other expenses, and that $25 was not consistent with the purpose of the ACSD program.
The ACSD program had what the Tribunal member described as a “self-imposed” guideline and noted that it was not law, but rather, it was discretionary.
Moreover, the Hearing Officer found that the situation warranted the use of discretion so that the flights could be paid for. The Tribunal member further stated that in being bound by the law, the Director must consider all of the issues and she determined that the Wood family ought to receive $430 a month, the maximum amount under the program.
Comment: It has been a stated priority of that Ministry to support families of children with disabilities of all kinds. The issue is on provincial government radar. Yet, policy difficulties that speak to support issues persist. For example, based on my information, the last time quanta of support for eligible children and parents for the ACSD Program was adjusted for inflation was in 1998 and it was at 5.4%. That is over 20 years ago now.
For a child with health and care needs such as Grace, $430 is but a drop in the bucket of needed funding. I will continue with this important issue in other case discussions that will appear on my Blog.
More on this Blog post can be found here, where the photo of Grace is also from: Canadian Journalist and Author Tanya Talaga. The Star July 30 2009 https://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2009/07/30/end_of_benefits_for_disabled_girl_perplexes_dad.html