Parents with disabilities eligibility of home-educated dependent children to be included in the benefit unit
Parents with disabilities who are on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Income Support can homeschool their children under certain conditions. Although the recipient (the parent with the disability) is not expected to have any other source of income, the able-bodied spouse is expected to be employed or self-employed (or to be seeking employment or receiving training) if there are no children under age 6, and will otherwise be referred to Ontario Works.
The Ontario Disability Support Program Act 1997 and its Regulations do not address the issue of school attendence of a recipient's dependent children. There is, however, a Policy Directive which addresses schooling and home schooling: Directive 2.2, Who Is Eligible: Dependent Children, which states that, "If a dependent child is receiving Board approved home schooling, the child is included in the benefit unit."
In practice, this usually means providing the letter of acknowledgement that the school board sends in response to the letter of intent. If you do not have such a letter and are unwilling to obtain it, you have two options:
- When your ODSP office asks for verification of homeschooling, you can ask if they will accept a letter from OFTP certifying your OFTP membership, which is what some Ontario Works offices have accepted. Obviously, you would need to be or become an OFTP member in order for OFTP to issue such a letter.
- You can renounce having your child included in the benefit unit. This does not affect your own eligibility.
If your child is included in the benefit unit, it will increase the amount of financial assistance you receive relative to what you would receive just for yourself as the recipient, but your ODSP cheque will also be adjusted by the deduction of a portion of the Child Tax Benefit you receive.
If your child is excluded from the ODSP benefit unit because you do not have written verification of your homeschooling status in a form that is acceptable to the ODSP office, it does not mean you cannot homeschool, nor does it affect your own eligibility for ODSP benefits. It simply means that you will not receive additional benefits to cover your child, you will only receive your own benefits as recipient. By the same token, you will not have your ODSP cheque reduced by any amounts relating to the Child Tax Benefit.
The two scenarios are therefore as follows:
- ODSP allowance for yourself
+ ODSP allowance for your child
+ Child Tax Benefit
- ODSP deduction of part of the Child Tax Benefit
- ODSP allowance for yourself
+ Child Tax Benefit in full
Because the amount deducted counteracts part of the amount received, the net difference between the two scenarios can be as little as $50 per month per child. In other words, if your child is included in the benefit unit, you will only have an extra $50 a month per child, in total, than if your child is not included and you receive the full amount of the Child Tax Benefit.
Aside from Income Support and Employment Support available to persons with disabilities who are over age 18, ODSP regulations also provide for financial assistance to families who have a child under 18 with a severe disability. The amount of the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities is between $25 and $375 a month for each severely disabled child.
In Directive 2.2 there is mention of dependent children who have their own disabilities under Dependent Children Not Required to Attend School:
The school attendance requirement does not apply to children who are:
- unable to attend due to severity of disability;
It also says:
Appropriate verification is required that a child is a person with a disability and unable to attend school (a letter from the child's doctor).
Full text of the ODSP Act, Regulations and Policy Directives
- ODSP Act
- ODSP Regulations:
- ODSP Policy Directives
- Ministry of Community and Social Services (Ontario Disability Support Program)
- Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (Assistive Devices Program)
- Ministry of Children and Youth Services (services funded and/or provided by the ministry for children with physical, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, mental health disorders, medical problems or those who need specialized services to participate in daily living activities)
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