Published On Sat Feb 26 2011
Brett Popplewell Staff Reporter
New rules coming into effect April 1 will make it harder for welfare recipients to access public funding for food.
The newly strengthened regulations, meant to crack down on widespread fraud under the province’s special diet allowance, will impact the 165,000 Ontario
residents currently living on disability or welfare who benefit from the allowance due to health issues.
The new rules follow a 2009 report from the auditor general that said fraudulent claims against the allowance were partially responsible for a massive increase in the number of people accessing the fund.
As part of a $3.5 million re-examination of the province’s social assistance program, the Ontario government announced in December that it would keep the
special diet allowance, but said it would tighten the rules involved with accessing the allowance which pays out up to $250 per month per recipient.
“We don’t want to disadvantage people who are receiving this benefit . . . but the minister was very concerned about the level of fraud that was going on
in the program,” said Rebecca Mackenzie, a spokeswoman for Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur.
The special diet allowance, which was valued at $67 million in 2009, has gone from servicing 8,085 people in 2001 to 165,000 at present. It gives extra
money for the purchase of healthy food to welfare and disability benefit recipients with health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
In order to continue accessing the fund, current recipients will have to reapply to the program, complete with a signature from a doctor, registered nurse,
nutritionist or midwife and will have to consent to have their medical records checked by the government.
The latter check comes as a response to allegations that some doctors have inappropriately helped their patients to access the fund in the past.