Friday, November 25, 2005

Special Diet Slashed

What happened? For almost a year, OCAP has been getting people onto the previously little-known special diet supplement, getting up to $250 more per person a month. Since that time, OCAP held 25 community clinics with sympathetic medical practitioners who signed about 5000 people up for the special diet supplement, massively increasing peoples’ monthly incomes. In Toronto alone, over 10 000 more people on welfare started getting the special diet, before that only 2000 people were getting this money. On November 4, the Liberal Government quietly cut the special diet in response to having so many poor people access these desperately needed funds.

How has the Special Diet been changed? Before the changes, people could get up to $250 per person a month if a medical practitioner said that they needed special diets for medical conditions. This allowed medical practitioners to prescribe special diets on the basis that people are not getting enough money to eat properly. Now the government has changed the law so that it is impossible to prescribe special diets on this basis.

Everyone who is getting the special diet right now will be CUT OFF within the next few months. Even if your medical practitioner prescribed PERMANENT special diets. You will be given a new special diet form that makes it VERY DIFFICULT to get special diet money.

What’s wrong with the new special diet forms?

* They force you to disclose your medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, before they could not legally force you to provide this information
* They have replaced the list of special diets with specific medical conditions that are each worth a particular amount of money. If you don’t have any of these conditions (diabetes, cancer etc) you can not get special diet money
* The money you can qualify for is a sick joke: for example, if you have liver disease you get $10/month, cardiovascular disease, $10/month, even people with cancer or HIV/AIDS only qualify for $75 - $240 month depending on how much weight they’ve lost

What should I do when I get the new Special Diet Forms? If you are getting the special diet right now, within the next few months you will be given the new Special Diet forms. You are supposed to be given 90 days to fill them out. If you can’t get them filled out (ie. you don’t have a particular disease, or allergy listed), you will be cut off the special diet after 90 days. WAIT UNTIL NEAR THE END OF THE 90 DAY PERIOD TO GET THE NEW FORMS FILLED OUT BECAUSE YOU WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY EITHER GET LESS MONEY OR NO MONEY AT ALL ONCE YOU SUBMIT THEM.


24 hours after discovering that the Liberal government had quietly slashed the Special Diet, OCAP held a 250 person-strong march to Minister of Community and Social Services, Sandra Pupatello’s, office. People came from as far as Belleville and Kitchener to express their rage at the government for stealing the one tool poor people have to try to eke out some sort of decent living. From mothers from Toronto’s Somali community—who have been the backbone of this struggle—to a couple who scraped gas money together and drove in from north of Parry Sound because they are going to be cut of the special diet, many individuals and communities are mobilizing to fight the Liberals over the right to a decent standard of living.

Demonstrators called Pupatello out for being quoted on CBC Radio only a month ago saying, “I’ll be the first one to stand up and tell you that I don’t believe people can live healthily with the amount that people receive on welfare” and then turning around and slashing the Special Diet. The revised supplement forces people to disclose their medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, to justify getting any type of special diet. Even those with the most serious diseases will only qualify for paltry sums such as $10/month for liver disease, $10/month for cardiovascular disease and up to $240/month for cancer or HIV---but only if you’ve already lost at least 10% of your body weight.

The time has come to join forces and demand that this government raise the rates—and not by 3%. We demand a 40% raise in welfare and Ontario disability rates. It has been 10 years since Mike Harris slashed welfare by 21.6%. The Liberal government, for all its platitudes, has done nothing but continue his “Common Sense Revolution”. Now they have butchered the one program that was actually allowing poor people to get some of the money they need to survive.

We cannot tell you how many horror stories we have heard from people, including many of our own members, about how impossible it was to get by on what they received before they got the special diet. One story that comes to mind is of strategizing with a 24 year old single mom living in Scarborough and spending $5 more a month on rent than the sum total of her welfare cheque. Because she had already faced eviction due to arrears, her entire cheque was on direct deposit to the landlord every month. After spending half an hour trying to figure out what welfare funds she might access other than the special diet, we concluded that she had exhausted every single available fund. Then we spent another 15 minutes figuring out how to get $2.50 to north Scarborough so she could take TTC down to a special diet clinic. Unfortunately, this example is not an exception. We hear of these types of situations far too often, and with the slashing of the Special Diet people are once again being left without the ability to make ends meet.

Come out November 26th, 2005 bring your friends, bring your family, bring your neighbours.

If you can help us by doing outreach, community organizing, or donating money please let us know right away.

One thing is for sure. This Government won’t give us a penny unless we fight for it. The Special Diet has made a difference in the lives of thousands of people and given some hope to tens of thousands more. Now he’s taken it away and must face the anger of those he has returned to poverty and hunger. We are not planning to just ‘protest’ this cutback but to defeat it. Come out on the 26th and fight for yourself, your family and your community.

Raise the Rates!!!