Financial supports for disabled people in Canada and their families

financial supports for disabled people in Canada

One of the things I have been most frustrated with in terms of trying to access services and supports for my autistic children is the lack of a ‘one stop shop’ for information. It’s not that the information isn’t out there, it’s that there is so much of it – wading through it all to find the details that are pertinent is a daunting task. Some sites have ‘Links’ sections that are just pages and pages of links to other sites with no commentary or guidance. What I’ve been working on for a while is an outline of all the information I’ve found useful in terms of getting financial supports for disabled people in Canada. Please note the following when reviewing this outline:

  • I’m the allistic mother of two autistic children so my personal experience is in getting supports and services that my kids are eligible for. I have indicated when disabled adults are entitled to these same supports but there may be additional funding or programs that apply only to adults which I have missed.
  • If there are benefits or programs which apply only to adults or are offered outside of Ontario and Toronto, please do feel free to add information on them in comments. I’ve only covered the area in which I currently live.
  • This information is current and accurate at the time of posting but may quickly become outdated so please check with the relevant authorities for the most up to date details.

Federal

Benefits finder

The first place to go in determining entitlements for yourself or a relative is here. Input where you live and some information on your personal circumstances and you will receive a customized list of Federal and Provincial government-sponsored programs you may be able to access, together with links to find out more information. This is a terrific resource – remember to use it frequently so if your circumstances change you don’t miss out on benefits you may be entitled to.

Disability tax credit (DTC) and other tax benefits
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? For everyone that meets the criteria, regardless of age.
  • Type of benefit: Tax credit

Three years ago I wrote a guest post for Gingerheaddad (GHD) on the tax benefits you could claim if you have disabled children. Most of that advice holds good so go ahead and take a peek, but some points I’d like to stress:

  • Your starting point is still RC4064. Read it, print it, give a copy to your accountant if you use one.
  • Even if you don’t pay tax, apply for the disability tax credit for you or your children as it is your key to unlocking other benefits.
  • In my guest post for GHD I used the term ASD (autism spectrum disorder) – regardless of how you feel about labels this isn’t the time to wax philosophical. Unfortunately, when you’re applying for benefits for yourself or your child you need to focus on “deficits and challenges” in order to get support.
  • Since I wrote the post for GHD the government has introduced the Family Caregiver Amount. This provides you with increased tax credits if you have a disabled spouse or children.
Child Disability Benefit (CDB)
  • Dependent on your level of income? Yes. Calculated based on prior year net family income and the number of disabled children in the family.
  • For children or adults? For parents of disabled children
  • Type of benefit: Monthly cash benefit

I also cover this in my guest post. This is one of the reasons why, even if you don’t pay tax, you should apply for the DTC and file an annual tax return. CDB is paid with the Canada Child Tax Benefit – you can calculate your entitlement for both here.

Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)
  • Dependent on your level of income? Not for opening a plan but the amount of grant you qualify for from the government is income dependent.
  • For children or adults? For everyone who qualifies for the DTC.
  • Type of benefit: Contributions can be made to a tax-deferred plan and are topped up by government grants. Funds within an RDSP do not impact entitlement to other benefits.

Even if you have no money to make a contribution, please set up an RDSP for yourself or your disabled children. As I often mention, autistic people in particular are affected by very high rates of unemployment or underemployment. Disability benefits are insufficient to keep someone living at anything other than a poverty level. The RDSP is a way to provide some form of financial security. Details can be found here but some key points to note:

  • If you have NO MONEY then the government will put funds into the RDSP for you, without you having to make a contribution. Low income individuals are entitled to a Canada Disability Savings Bond of up to $1,000 a year and you can claim them for up to 10 years prior.
  • In determining a disabled adult’s eligibility for Ontario Disability Income Support (see below for more info), all assets will be taken into account. Certain assets however are exempt from consideration including those within an RDSP.
  • Lifetime contributions to an RDSP are currently capped at $200,000
  • One way of contributing is to rollover funds from an RRSP (and other plans) into an RDSP on a tax free basis. If you have a disabled child then you may want to check with your pension manager about this option and ensure it is put in your will.
  • If you have funds available (for example, from a tax refund) then make a contribution that provides you with the maximum government grant for that year. Earlier this year I used my tax refund to put $1,500 each into Oliver and Owen’s RDSPs – and each of their plans will get a $3,500 matching grant from the government.
  • Currently, you are allowed to catch up on grant amounts for prior years not yet claimed, up to 10 years prior. Last year, when I sold my house, I contributed $6,000 into each of Oliver and Owen’s RDSPs ($1,000 a year for the previous 6 years) which the government matched 100%. As you can see, if you can make a contribution, funds in the plan quickly add up.
Disability Travel Card
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? For all disabled people who require support when travelling
  • Type of benefit: The support person traveling with the card holder is entitled to a discount on their fare. Participating partners include Via Rail, Greyhound bus lines and Coach Canada.

Apply via Easter Seals here.

Disability Travel Card. Easter Seals Canada.

Access 2 Entertainment Card
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? For everyone who requires support in order to participate in leisure activities
  • Type of benefit: The support person with the card holder is entitled to a discount on their price of admission.

Also administered by Easter Seals who charge an administrative fee of $20 per card to cover costs, you can find more info here. Started in conjunction with Cineplex Entertainment, depending on where you live this card is now accepted at a growing number of locations.

Access 2 Entertainment card

 

Foundations

Don’t forget to find out if there are non-profits and charities in your area that could be sources of funding. An Ontario example includes Jennifer Ashleigh Children’s Charity and President’s Choice Children’s Charity operates Canada-wide.

If you’re in Ontario, respiteservices.com can also assist you in obtaining funds from these sources.

Ontario

respiteservices.com
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? For everyone
  • Type of benefit: Support provided for accessing information and services

If you’re in Ontario then definitely check out respiteservices.com – they provide a variety of services including:

  • Information on their website about respite options and sources of funding
  • If you’re in the Toronto area then they offer workshops or one-on-one appointments to provide assistance with completing benefits application forms. Similar services may be available where you live.
  • If you’re in the Toronto area then you can access the CHAP (Community Helpers for Active Participation) program for help in finding a suitable support worker. Similar services may be available where you live.
Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
  • Dependent on your level of income? Yes – income and assets
  • For children or adults? Adults
  • Type of benefit: Income and Employment Support

For more information about ODSP, click here. You may be eligible for income support depending on your family’s income, the size of your family, your family’s assets and your housing costs. Employment support is available to assist you in either finding work or in setting up a business.

Special Services At Home (SSAH)
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? For parents of disabled children
  • Type of benefit: Reimbursement of qualifying expenses up to a certain amount

Start here for more information. SSAH helps families pay for respite and other services that help their child learn new life skills and foster independence. There is a long wait list so apply as soon as your child is diagnosed if you can. I applied after Owen and Oliver received their autism diagnosis and was approved for funding 4 years later. The current system requires you to have a) paid for and b) received the services before applying for reimbursement. You are also requested to only apply for reimbursement once a month and it can take as long as 30 business days to be reimbursed.

respiteservices.com can assist with your SSAH application.

Passport
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? Adults with a developmental disability
  • Type of benefit: Reimbursement of qualifying expenses up to a certain amount

SSAH used to apply to both children and adults but two years ago the Ontario government split the programs into SSAH for children and Passport for adults. If you receive SSAH funds for your disabled child, once they reach the age of 18 they will need to apply for Passport funding. Find more information here.

Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD)
  • Dependent on your level of income? Yes (caveat below)
  • For children or adults? Parents of disabled children
  • Type of benefit: Benefits paid on a sliding scale, up to $440 a month.

ACSD is designed to help families with the additional costs arising in connection with a child’s disability. This includes expenses like travel costs to doctor’s appointments, the cost of special equipment and respite care. If you qualify for ACSD then your child will also receive coverage under the Ontario Drug Program as well as basic coverage for dental, vision and hearing services. Start here for more information. A few things to note:

  • The amount of ACSD you receive will be calculated by a special agreements officer based on: family income as well as the “severity” and nature of the child’s disability. The application form is extremely cumbersome – respiteservices.com can help you complete the form.
  • The income taken into account is based on the prior year. Sometimes they will calculate grants based on current year income – I applied last year requesting that, but my application has still not been processed 10 months later.
  • If you incur extraordinary expenses and are being denied a grant based solely on your income level, it may be worth filing an appeal. In February of this year one father did just that and won.
Assistive Devices Program (ADP)
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? For everyone who requires equipment due to a physical disability
  • Type of benefit: ADP either pays for the item or contributes a fixed amount or percentage of the cost.

ADP will pay for, or contribute towards, the cost of equipment needed due to a physical disability. Note, this benefit that does not require you to qualify for the DTC – for example, ADP contributed towards the cost of the CPAP machine I need to use because of my sleep apnea. Find out more here.

Incontinence Grant
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? Children over the age of 3.
  • Type of benefit: A contribution towards the cost of supplies

Also managed by Easter Seals but funded by the provincial government, this program provides a grant for all children with chronic disabilities (physical or developmental) that result in either irreversible incontinence or retention problems lasting longer than six months. Note that if your child can use the toilet during the day time but still needs to use incontinence supplies at night, they are not eligible for this grant. For more information go here.

Greater Toronto Area (GTA)

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Support Person Assistance Card
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? For all disabled people who require support when travelling
  • Type of benefit: The support person traveling with the card holder travels for free.

Click here for more information and for the application form. The application needs to be certified by a healthcare professional. If you can attend in-person then take the completed, certified form and get your pictures and card done all at once. Otherwise (this is what I did), you need to obtain two passport-sized photos – these also need to be certified by the physician – then submit the photos and the application via mail.

TTC Support Person Assistance Card

Note: GO Transit doesn’t have a travel card but if the support person explains that they are travelling with a disabled person then they will endorse (stamp the back of) the disabled person’s ticket and the support person can travel for free.

Toronto Parks and Recreation
  • Dependent on your level of income? No
  • For children or adults? For all disabled people who require accommodations in order to participate in skills-building and recreational programs
  • Type of benefit: Inclusion, adapted programs, modified equipment and facilities.

For more information click here – you need to register in order to take advantage of these programs.

 

I hope you find the above list of financial supports for disabled people in Canada useful. I have captured all the services and supports we have accessed and tried to include all the ones I’m aware of that everyone can take advantage of, regardless of the nature of their disability. If you are aware of any I have missed, please note it in comments.

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12 Responses to Financial supports for disabled people in Canada and their families

  1. Victoria April 15, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    This is amazing. What an absolutely fantastic resource – this is going to help so many people. It’s incredibly frustrating trying to navigate all this stuff, especially when dealing with the emotions of a new diagnosis. Thank you from the many parents who will benefit from this.

    I also thought I’d add this in case it helps someone – it’s details about retroactively claiming disability benefits on your taxes/requesting a T1 adjustment after receiving the notice of determination approving the disability credit (I shared this in a forum last year). Once I figured out how to do it, it was super easy, but I couldn’t find a straightforward answer about this online. If this isn’t appropriate to include in the comments, I apologize!!

    According to a very helpful Revenue Canada employee, after receiving the notice of determination that your dependent is eligible for the disability tax credit, the easiest way to ensure your previous tax years are adjusted is to send a simple letter. The woman I spoke to literally transcribed a letter for me and waited as I wrote it down word for word. I’ve included it below for reference. Three things to note – if it is for a dependent under 18, the parent with the higher income must apply for this. Secondly, the letter must be sent to the Canada Revenue Agency office that processes your taxes (mine is the Sudbury one but that won’t apply to all people). Thirdly, my letter includes an adjustment to medical claims because we weren’t claiming any therapies – that would not apply to everyone – I put that in italics.

    On another note, if you’re applying for the DTC because of a child under 18, you should also apply for the child disability benefit (CCTB) which is separate from the tax credit. I believe this is automatically applied for the previous tax year, but I know that if you are back-filing for more than 1 year, you need to send a separate letter to the CCTB department requesting that they go back further than one year. Again, I included the note that was transcribed to me (by the CCTB Revenue Canada employee) below. That letter doesn’t necessarily have to come from the higher income parent.

    This saved me a bunch of money in tax accountant fees. Hopefully someone else benefits too. It took less than 10 weeks to process.

    LETTER RE: TAX CREDIT

    Date
    Applicant’s Name
    Applicant Full Address
    Applicant phone # and Social Insurance #

    Sudbury Tax Centre
    Attn: T1 Adjustment
    1050 Notre Dame Avenue
    Sudbury, ON P3A 5C1

    Re: 2008 – 2012 Income Tax Return

    Please make an adjustment to my 2008 to 2012 income tax returns on Schedule 1 at Line 318 for the disability credit for my dependent, Full Name (Date of Birth– Month XX, Year) for the maximum claim for each of these years.

    I am also requesting for an adjustment on Line 330 for medical expenses as follows:
    – Tax year 2010 = $X (totals)
    – Tax year 2011 = $X (totals)
    – Tax year 2012 = $X(totals)
    I have attached copies of the receipts for verification (My social insurance number is included at the top right corner of each receipt).

    Thank you very much.

    Sincerely,
    NAME

    LETTER RE: DISABILITY BENEFIT

    Date
    Applicant’s Name
    Applicant Full Address
    Applicant phone # and Social Insurance #

    Your Tax Centre’s Address

    Attn: CCTB Department
    Fax: 705-671-3994 (THIS MIGHT NOT BE THE RIGHT FAX NUMBER FOR EVERYONE – I BELIEVE IT’S JUST SUDBURY)

    Re: 2008 – 2012 Child Disability Benefit

    I would like to apply for the Child Disability Benefit (CDB) going back to 2008.

    Thank you very much.

    Sincerely,

    • OMum22 April 15, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

      Thank you for sharing the additional detail on this issue. The above is exactly what I did when I received the autism diagnosis for my two boys. I think I mentioned it in the post I did for Gingerheaddad. I filed a T1Adjust for each year in order to claim the backdated DTC (because I don’t trust CRA to calculate my revised taxes correctly – heh!). The CDB will automatically be paid on a retroactive basis but only for 3 years. If you want to claim for more than that then you do have to write and request it. Thanks so much for sharing the letter you used!

    • Sandra April 16, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

      I’m a little confused about applying for previous years…is that only for years you were approved for the DTC or for years before that? In 2012 I was approved for 2011-2027, but my daughter was born in 2009. Are you saying I can send those letters to try and get payment for 2009 and 2010, or just going back for the approved 2011? Thanks!

      • OMum22 April 16, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

        Great question – it allows me to clarify something. Short answer: you can only revise tax returns and claim backdated CDB for years that she qualifies for the DTC.

        Longer answer: a person is eligible for the DTC from the time the disability (and its effects) commenced, not from the time the disability was diagnosed. For example, my children were not diagnosed as autistic until 2009 but because autism is a disability you are born with and they have been effected by since birth, they were eligible for the DTC from 2006 (the year they were born). In your case, if your daughter has been disabled since birth and meets the conditions for the DTC to apply since then, you should contact CRA to request that they approve her DTC claim starting in 2009. They will likely require your physician to certify this.

  2. Mandy April 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    Kerry’s Place has flex funding that can be applied for each year. We seem to get it every other year. It depends on how many with autism in the family etc. There are more people applying than money so of course not everyone gets it but it is recommended to apply every year. It can be used for respite, recreation, camp, mediator etc just not therapy. It is great.
    The problem with DSO taking over Passport funding is that DSO will only work with people who have intellectual delay even though it is supposed to be all developmental disabilities. I receive Passport funding so I was grandfathered in although I will likely never see service since I am low priority. I think it also helps that my IQ subscores are all over the place so they can’t do an overall IQ. My daughter receives SSAH but like likely won’t be able to get Passport unless things change and my husband won’t either.

    • OMum22 April 16, 2014 at 8:49 am #

      Thanks Mandy – I’ve heard great things about Kerry’s Place and I love the idea of flex funding. Anyone living in South/Central Ontario who is autistic or has an autistic child should contact them – here’s the areas in which they operate: http://www.kerrysplace.org/Public/Regions

      I’m disappointed but not really surprised to hear about the difficulties with Passport. It clearly is intended for all adults with developmental disabilities so if anyone is getting pushback about this then I think they have excellent grounds for appeal.

  3. Sarah at Journeys of The Zoo April 15, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    What a thorough article with tons of useful information. A family member had an airline incident this year and we will definitely be making sure that everyone is aware of the support that he needs. A Disability Travel Card will come in handy too as he travels via bus and train.

    Thank you for helping out those that might not even know where to start.

    Besos, Sarah

    • OMum22 April 16, 2014 at 8:50 am #

      Thank you Sarah and thanks for sharing this with your friends and followers.

  4. OMum22 April 18, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    A Facebook commenter wrote the following:

    “In BC there is a disabled parks pass. Allows you to camp in provincial campgrounds with I think it is up to 3 people for free.

    You can set up a disability savings account at any age and in addition to some government matching to encourage people to do that various foundations will match your initial deposit (more of them when it was new but it still happens)

    Foundations should not be overlooked. I was quite upset recently to find while the government will eventually get around to paying for a walker they would not pay for an overbed table that makes it possible for me to maintain my work skills and ensure I eat . In slightly more than a week an OT had funding from a foundations who’s purpose was specific to those needs, It was not hugely expensive but beyond my means and quite vital to my life not just work but everything.”

    “Also I do work in the non-profit sector and there are pools of money sitting there it you know which foundation to ask for what kind of thing. Oh for Canadian sources CMHC is a resource too. Adaptations to the home can be paid for. Normally things like ramps and so on but as some people have autism and several other things for a Canadian list they definitely should be on there. In BC for more severely impacted kids the At Home Program pays the full cost of medical supplies, medications and so on.”

  5. Sophiestrains April 22, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    Awesome resource! I will study it. I found your blog when searching for “diagnostic kindergarten in tdsb” that was a great post too. I also blog about our Sophie who is due to start jk in September (eek!) Just stopping by to say hello to fellow GTA blogger! And will be back to study your resources more in depth. Head spinning from the IPRC meeting this morning :/

    • OMum22 April 23, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

      Yay, thanks so much for commenting. Glad to find your blog too – I see you are using AAC with Sophie. Very exciting.

  6. Emma Leigh May 5, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    To add to the list – wheel trans in Toronto has recently added sensory issues (and other non-physical disabilities) to their eligibility criteria.

    Btw – amazing info here. I wish I had come across this when my first was diagnosed asd. My two kiddos are both on the spectrum too.

    Do you know if ACSD backdates payments?

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