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Posts tagged ‘special diet’

Poor Stuck in the Middle of an Ideological Fight

Poor stuck in the middle of an ideological fight

By Kate Heartfield, Ottawa Citizen January 10, 2011

The long bureaucratic nightmare that is Ontario’s Special Diet Allowance for welfare recipients isn’t over yet, but there’s reason to hope.

The allowance is supposed to help people who receive social assistance and are coping with medical conditions that require them to buy more expensive food.

Just getting a sense of how the allowance works now, and what the problems with it are, requires reading several incredibly boring and confusing reports.

There’s a convoluted Ontario Human Rights Tribunal judgment. The provincial auditor weighed in last year. There’s a report from the Special Diets Expert Review Committee, which waxes on for 79 pages about such matters as the precise difference in cost per serving between gluten-free and non-gluten-free pasta.

All of that detail has been necessary to get the provincial government closer to a rational, fair system — but man oh man, this is one opaque area of public policy.

So imagine what it’s like to know that your ability to eat next week depends on this Byzantine system that seems to be constantly either changing or under threat of change. Imagine what it’s like to know that there are now new changes, and that every person who qualifies for the program now will have to reapply in 2011 — and that there might be further changes after that. “The changes to the special diet allowance have been disastrous from the beginning,” sighs Wendy Muckle, executive director of Ottawa Inner City Health.

The good news is that eventually, we might be able to have confidence that people who need extra money because of medical conditions are getting the amounts they really need. That won’t happen until at least June 2012, when Munir Sheikh — late of Statistics Canada — and Frances Lankin are supposed to complete their review of all social assistance programs in the province.

But to respond to the Human Rights Tribunal decision and the auditor’s concerns, the province had to act on the special-diet allowance before that review begins. It recently announced changes that will increase the amounts for certain conditions, and eliminate others from the eligibility list.

to read more CLICK HERE!


Special Diet Allowance – To Be or not to Be??

So our government has decided to do away with a key, essential service.  The special diet allowance.

The special diet allowance is / was an allowance for folks that have special dietary needs.  These are folks with Diabetes, Cancer, Depression, and many more illnesses.  Too many to count.  People on social assistance were getting extra money to buy the foods that they required in order to live a more healthy life… to try and alleviate some of the issues they faced that went along with their specific illness.  For instance, Diabetes can be controlled, in it’s early stages, with a proper diet.  That diet is a low sugar diet, which means low carbohydrates.  The cycle starts here.  If you are on the system, receiving money, you don’t get enough money to buy the healthy food your body needs.  As a result you end up eating foods you gather from food banks, or from drop ins and these foods are loaded with carbohydrates, and salt!  People need to eat.  This diet aggravates the symptoms and the illness, putting the person in higher risk of the next step of Diabetes.  Diabetes can be very painful.  If you get hurt, you don’t heal properly, and sometimes you have to have parts of your body amputated.  A person with Diabetes  absolutely must have a good diet, it is detrimental in holding this at bay.  If you don’t start out with an illness when you enter into the *system*, you’re pretty likely going to develop one based on the diet you are expected to survive on.

As it turns out, people started to learn of this dietary allowance, and rightfully so – they applied for it.  Even if a person is not sick, has no illness, this dietary allowance becomes sort of a beacon in the night as noone on the system has enough money to eat.  So good for them for applying and doing what needed to be done in order to survive!  If you try to live on $592.00 a month, and that’s got to cover your rent, food, medical needs, transportation, etc, you will soon realize that you cannot do it.  What would you be willing to do, to eat?  Applying for additional funds is a lesser evil than some choices people are faced with.  And a safer choice.  So something has to give when there is no money to survive, and in most cases it is food that gets cut from the budget.  There is nothing dignified, nor healthy about this choice, but you need a roof over your head.  Consider that to rent even one room in Toronto is approximately $450.00 and up – what does that leave you?   Either you starve, you eat what you get from food banks, or drop ins, or you apply for this allowance and have some control over your health.  Health goes much deeper than Diabetes and all the illnesses that people have to suffer.  It affects your energy, your self confidence, your ability to think, to function.  Your desire to get out of bed each day.  Try to find a job when all you can think of is where your next meal is coming from!  Food banks have specific hours and locations that you may or may not be able to make it to.  Consider travelling with this food… or the stigma that goes along with visiting a food bank.  Think on how each time you enter through the doors of a food bank you feel less of a human, more of a beggar.  Then take that food home and try to manage it.  In most cases this food has to last you more than a week, but they give you enough food for three days.

Since people have discovered this avenue for filling their tummies the numbers of people applying have obviously gone up.  The government has decided that folks are abusing the system, aided by their medical professionals. They point to the auditor general’s December 2009 report, which insinuated that many people who receive support – and their doctors, nurses, and dietitians – are purposely abusing the program although no investigation has been done. The government was also ordered by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to increase allowances for people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity – which are widely known to put people at risk for heart disease – and to add low blood protein to the list of conditions covered.

This is because the Tribunal found that the program was discriminating against people with these conditions. But instead of complying with this order, in the last budget in 2010, the government said they were ending the discrimination by eliminating the program entirely.

The fact that people are on the system to begin with puts them in this category.  It makes people sick.  Social Assistance makes people sick. Think on it.  The government has decided that there is no way all these people can be sick.   They created the problem!  It’s systemic and it’s not stopping because they will not provide enough money to eat.  It’s a cycle.  You go on the system, you get sick, you can’t function properly – you are stuck on the system.   Even if you get lucky and find a part time job in this economy they take some of that money from you, ensuring that you will not move forward.

The government says that it isn’t cutting the special diet, but it is replacing it with another program.  Alright, let’s look at that!  No one that is currently on the special diet allowance program is going to be automatically brought into the new program.  You must reapply – under new guidelines.  The application process is going to go through the ministry of community and social services, as opposed to the social assistance programs that provide these monies right now.  So keep that in mind, just because you are on it now, does not mean you are definitely on it with the new program.  To top it off, the list of applicable illnesses will be shortened.  I suppose if you are not visually, noticeably dying, in their eyes, you don’t get coverage.  What do they consider to be worthy enough of being given money to eat?  How sick do you have to be in order that they will provide you with necessary healthy diets?  It’s a good question.  Last, but not least, there are rumors that the amount of money given will be much lower than previously because of where the money is coming from. The government would like us to think that they have to take from one social program in order to support another, when the fact is… the money is there.  They just refuse to pay it and they refuse to support this need.  More than 44 MPs have agreed that the rates of social assistance are inadequate, but that isn’t budging them.  Communities around Ontario are all doing a challenge – it’s called Do the Math Challenge.  They are attempting to live off a food bank basket for a week, as someone on assistance would be forced to do.  They are blogging their experiences, and going to their governments to tell them.  The government says that there is no public support for this need of money for food.

This year, before April, the new papers are being sent out to folks for the new applications to start being filled in and processed.  I don’t think they have mentioned yet, or given a specific list of who qualifies to eat, and that’s likely because they know that there will be public outcry and fury over their choices.  I imagine the choices they make now would be somewhat different if someone they loved were in this situation, but they aren’t.  They have food.  They have money to get the medical attention they need in times of illness.  They have enough nourishment to prevent illness to begin with.

The government has clearly shown that they agree people need food in order to be productive, contributing, healthy members of society.  They have shown this in the fact that they started a program for children to eat at school.  These children have parents.  Every single person should have food, it’s a basic right, as is shelter.  It looks to me like they are just feeding the children to look good…because they starve them as adults.  It’s a crime.  No one should go hungry in a country as rich as Canada is… nor anywhere else.  How can you expect your country to be strong and whole…supportive and functioning at it’s highest levels when you starve them?  You would think this is simple, common sense!  Everyone doing the math challenge has agreed..well over 1000 people and growing, so what does that say about the people in our government?

The conditions that are expected to be removed from the special diet schedule include:

· allergies to egg
· allergies to soya
· chronic constipation
· gout
· cardiovascular disease
· congenital abnormalities of the metabolic type – adults
· congenital abnormalities of the metabolic type – infants & children
· diverticulum/diverticulitis
· hypertension and CHF and Grade 1 and 2 ventricular function
· macrocytic anemia
· malabsorption
· microcytic anemia
· post-gastric surgery
· prediabetes: impaired glucose tolerance
· Kwashikor (weight loss condition)
· Marasmus (weight loss condition)

The conditions that are expected to remain in the special diet schedule include:

· celiac disease
· chronic wounds and burns
· conditions causing unintentional weight loss/body wasting:
– ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s disease)
– anorexia nervosa
– Crohn’s disease
– cirrhosis
– congestive heart failure
– cystic fibrosis
– lupus
– malignancy
– multiple sclerosis
– ostomies (e.g. jejunostomy, ileostomy)
– pancreatic insufficiency
– short bowel syndrome
– ulcerative colitis
· diabetes
· dysphagia requiring thickening liquids
· extreme obesity (BMI > 40)
· food allergy – milk/dairy
· food allergy – wheat
· gestational diabetes
· hypercholesterolemia
· hyperlipidemia
· hypertension
· insufficient lactation to sustain breast-feeding or breast-feeding is contraindicated
· lactose intolerance
· osteoporosis
· renal failure

For Immediate Release – Today

For Immediate Release
August 30th, 2010

OCAP Demands: ‘Drop the Charges, Restore the Special
Diet and Raise the Rates!’

When:  Monday, August 30, 9:00 AM
Where: Outside College Park Court (College and Yonge)

Nine of the eleven OCAP members and supporters charged after entering the Liberal Party HQ last month, will be in Court today.  They are facing charges of mischief and forcible entry over a brief office occupation. Two other people, facing trespass summonses over the same incident, have already had a court appearance but will be present on Monday.

The court appearance is intended as one to set a date and, possibly, to provide disclosure around the charges.  However, such heavy-handed charges, coming in the wake of the G20, are seen as a continuation of the process of criminalizing dissent. OCAP is calling on the Attorney General to drop all July 21st and G20 related charges and will be gathering in front of the Court at 9.00 AM to deliver this message publicly.

It is expected that any day now the Liberal Government will announce the sham ‘replacement’ program it will use to justify the end of the Special Diet Allowance. The cut of the Special Diet is the denial of vital income to hundreds of thousands of people on Social Assistance in Ontario. The Attorney General upholds criminal charges against people for walking into an office and putting a banner out of a window, while the Government has taken a measure that will make people homeless, wreck their health and shorten their lives.

“They will not be able to use the courts to silence or intimidate us as we build the challenge to this vicious social cutback” says OCAP Organizer, John Clarke.

Contact: Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Cell: 416-826-4796
Office: 416-925-6939

Drop the Charges! Restore the Special Diet, Raise the Rates NOW!

Drop the Charges!  Restore the Special Diet, Raise the Rates NOW!

When: Monday, August 30, 9:00 AM
Where: Outside College Park Court (College and Yonge)


Nine of the eleven people arrested and charged last
month over a brief occupation of the Liberal Party
headquarters are set to appear in court on Monday.
They are accused of mischief and forcible entry.
OCAP and allies will gather in front of the
courthouse to condemn these charges and demand
they be dropped, along with trespass summonses
that were issued to two
others at the Liberal offices.

This is a ‘set date’ appearance when it is normal
to provide another court date and (sometimes)
provide the accused with ‘disclosure’, i.e. the
evidence the Crown intends to introduce at trial.
We are demanding of the Liberal Attorney General
(Chris Bentley), however, that this date be used
to drop these inflated and politically motivated
charges, just as we
demand he drop all remaining G20 charges.

On July 21st, eleven people went into an office,
delivered an ‘invoice of money owing to poor people
in Ontario’ to the Liberal Party, opened a
window, hung a banner and made a speech to the
crowd outside. In the wake of the G20, cops and
prosecutors are continuing to try and silence anyone
who speaks out against government cutbacks and social
injustice, and instead are working to criminalize
resistance to government austerity. It has become
clear that this era of austerity will be enforced
and backed with lines of cops.

If we are going to talk about crimes, let us
instead look at the reason OCAP went to the Liberal offices.
The McGuinty Government is eliminating the Special Diet that
hundreds of thousands of poor people have used for food
and to preserve their health when forced to live on
despicably inadequate OW and ODSP rates.  We disrupted
the office of the Liberal Party that took this
measure for a brief period.  The Liberal Government,
however, has outright robbed poor people of the ability
to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
We may have somewhat inconvenienced a few Liberal
functionaries while McGuinty’s Government took a measure
that will wreck peoples’ health and shorten their lives.
It will inevitably increase poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

We demand decent income for people on social assistance and the right to a
life with dignity. We challenge those who seek to criminalize our social
movements.  More than anything, we want to make clear that we are not
intimidated and that the struggle against poverty and those to blame for it
will not be prevented.  It will continue and it will grow.

JOIN the Raise the Rates Campaign
Contact: Ontario Coalition Against Poverty / 416-925-6939

DONATE to the Raise the Rates Legal Fund:
Cheques can be made out to the ‘Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’ (with
‘legal fund’ in the memo) and mailed to:
10 Britain St.
Toronto, ON
M5A 1R6

Hard to Have Dignity if You’re Hungry

Hard to have dignity if you’re hungry

July 21, 2010

Janet Gasparini
The Hamilton Spectator
Doris Grinspun and Adrianna Tetley
(Jul 21, 2010)

The McGuinty government’s poverty-reduction strategy is not addressing the needs of hundreds of thousands of Ontario residents. In fact, the most recent Ontario budget heightens the food insecurity people on social assistance experience and undermines the well-being of our communities.

Food insecurity means everything from being hungry to not knowing where the next meal is coming from to being chronically malnourished due to poverty. The decision to cut the Special Diet Allowance threatens access to healthy food for tens of thousands of people. The Ontario budget also reduces the real income of people on social assistance because the 1 per cent increase in social assistance does not keep up with the rise in consumer prices.

Click HERE to read more!

Stop the Special Diet Cut

July 21: Stop The Special Diet Cut
Submitted by ocap on Thu, 06/03/2010 – 14:25.

* Actions and Demonstrations
* Special Diet

…On June 26th the G20 met in Toronto with the government spending over $1 billion on the summit. This money funded the militarization of our city, security fees, promotional stunts involving a fake lake, lavish dinners and hotels for world leaders and their entourages. That weekend, in response to the G20 meeting, tens of thousands of people demonstrated on the streets of Toronto despite police violence and extreme intimidation. We know all too well that these attempts to criminalize and brutalize will continue in the daily violence that poor communities, people of colour, and First Nations communities face.

On June 25th – 27th, we demonstrated not just against the cost of hosting the G20 meetings in our city – but against the plans and decisions that were being made behind the security perimeter inside that armed camp. We protested because we know that the policies of the G20 affect poor people every day: decisions to fund security and prisons instead of schools and community centres, decisions to cut public services, childcare and welfare at the same time as giving huge tax breaks to corporations and banks. Decisions that serve the interests of wealth at our expense.

…..The $1.2 billion dollars wasted on the G20 summit in Toronto could have:
-Funded the Special Diet Allowance for OVER 5 YEARS
-Housed everyone who is currently homeless in Toronto (10 000 people)
PLUS everyone on the waiting list for social housing (70 000) for OVER A YEAR!

When governments choose to spend money on a weekend of meetings and policing instead of housing and social services – it sends a message loud and clear of what their priorities are. At the Toronto meeting, G20 leaders agreed to cut deficits in half by 2013. They have called for ‘austerity measures’, which is code for massive cutbacks. This agreement is going to mean a major attack on our communities in the way of huge social cutbacks, criminalization, and more. In Ontario, austerity measures have already begun – a key example of this is the McGuinty Liberals’ decision to cut the Special Diet Allowance in the name of ‘reducing the deficit’ in this year’s Provincial budget. This government chose to cut a food benefit for people who live on shamefully inadequate welfare (OW) and disability (ODSP) rates – rates that were cut by Harris in 1995 and have never been restored. People today are forced to try to survive on welfare rates that are 55% below what they should be!

What the Special Diet cut means:
-Poor people lose $200 million for food: the entire Social Assistance program will be cut by 3%
-Single people on OW getting the full Special Diet lose 30% of their income, on ODSP, its 19%
-Dalton McGunity has cut welfare for only the 3rd time in Ontario’s history
-We will see a rapid increase in homelessness, hunger, illness, and desperation
-At the same time, corporations have been given a $4.6 billion dollar tax break over the next 3 years!

These are the G20 policies at work in our Province. The time to negotiate with the Liberal Government has come to an end, the time to challenge them is now. We need to keep our Special Diets, and we need to force a raise in welfare and disability rates now so that people can live with health and dignity.

G20 leaders, the Federal Tories, and the Provincial Liberals think that they can offload deficits on to poor people by cutting funding to programs that we need and gutting the public sector. They are trying to force us to pay for a crisis we didn’t create. In the same way that we came together on June 25th – 27th, we can and must do it again as the government begins to implement austerity measures on the local level. We have to resist them every step of the way; when they say cutback – we say FIGHT BACK!

Get involved in July 21st: Contact OCAP to organize outreach in your neighborhood or to build for a bus or contingent on the day.
Click here to listen to OCAP organizer John Clarke interviewed on OCAP radio about the cuts and how they fit into the neoliberal agenda, and why the time is ripe for us to organize and fight back.

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) / 416-925-6939

Who Pays for the Crisis?

Who Pays for the Crisis?
The ‘Special Diet’ Cut – An Injury to One…
John Clarke

The Liberal Government of Ontario’s decision in the spring Budget to eliminate the ‘Special Diet’ will remove the one means by which a major section of people on social assistance had been able to compensate partly for the huge loss of real income that has taken place over the last decade and a half. It is important to understand how this attack is linked to the overall drive to solve the current financial crisis of capitalism at the expense of the working class. The scandalous poverty that people on social assistance experience is frequently viewed, even on the Left, as simply a matter for humanitarian concern. The issue that is often missed, however, is the degree to which an assault on income support systems strengthens the hand of those seeking to weaken unions and increase the employer’s ability of exploit workers.

Before taking up this question, it is necessary to make clear the scale of the cut that Premier Dalton McGuinty and his ‘poverty reduction’ regime have imposed on poor people. In 2005, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) became aware of the Special Diet. It was a program under which, recipients of social assistance could obtain, on the recommendation of a medical provider, up to an additional $250 for food costs. At that time, it was relatively obscure and provided only some $6-million of benefits in Ontario. Based on the efforts of many organizations, the support of progressive health professionals and the incredible determination of poor communities to demand and defend this benefit, the Special Diet became a $200-million program that made a difference in peoples’ lives. At the time of the cut, one person in five on welfare and disability was receiving the food allowance and, thereby, having some prospect of paying the rent while enjoying a reasonably healthy diet.

Click Here to read more!!

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