Group Protests Cut of Special Dietary Allowance

Posted Jun 3, 2010
By James Rubec

EMC News - Over 30 demonstrators from CUPE, OPSUE and Ontario Coalition Against Poverty picketed the office of MPP Madeline Meillure on May 20, to protest the cut funding of the Special Dietary Allowance (SDA) from the Ontario budget.

The allowance was provided to residents receiving funds from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), and the amounts generally vary from $10 to $100 per condition per month. However, the total allowance for any one member of a family would not exceed $250 per month.

To receive this benefit to the SDA applicants had to have signed documentation from a health care professional, but not only a physician can sign these documents. Registered nurses, midwives, and dieticians were also permitted to produce a document stating a particular dietary concern.

The funding cut came after the annual Auditor General's report asked that the SDA be reviewed, to look for ways that the province could limit abuse of the program.

f"People were gaming the system,f" said Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi. f"Originally the program was given $5 million in 2001. After some public advocacy campaigns that number increased over time. But the program is now spending almost $200 million a year and the number of people in the program increased 12 fold.f"

The report found that a significant part of this increase might have been due to a campaign by advocacy groups critical of Ontario Works allowance amounts.

f"At least one such organ ization has organized clinics where health-care pro fessionals have immediately completed special diet allowance applications that entitled each attendee to the maximum $250 monthly supplement,f" the report read.

Applicants didn't automatically receive a $250 bonus to their monthly cheque. An allergy to eggs would give someone $10 a month, while gout would give $32 and celiac disease up to $147.

The Auditor General reviewed 1,000 SDA applications dispensed by 318 health care professionals. The review found that one health care professional was responsible for almost 20% of the applications.

f"Some health care professionals are signing SDA applications that are saying that 99% of their patients have celiac disease. Celiac disease affects about 1% of the Canadian population,f" Mr. Naqvi said. f"The program was not achieving it's intended result.f"

The protest was allegedly organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, according to one of the participating groups, Underpressure. The organization's Web site stated, f"The cutting of the special diet will affect up to one in five welfare or ODSP recipient in Ontario, and some will see as much as 30% taken off their cheques,f"

Representatives of Underpressure could not be reached as of EMC deadline.

f"This isn't the first time they've protested at this office,f" said Theresa Goneau a spokesperson for Madeleine Meillure. f"At least this time around they didn't get onto the roof. Last time they got up there and hung signs over our windows.f"

Mr. Naqvi said the funding cut doesn't spell the end for this type of program, as government officials are looking to create a new version.

f"We are establishing a new program that will be given to individuals through the Ministry of Health and Longterm Care,f" he said. f"I can't say exactly when but it's in the works.f"

Reproduced from http://www.emcottawaeast.ca/20100603/news/Group+protests+cut+of+special+dietary+allowance

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