The York Region Food Network believes that food insecurity – the lack of access to healthy food – is a key, if not the key issue challenging our community. It is an issue with far-ranging implications for the health and welfare of both individuals and the community alike. YRFN accepts food security is defined as, “… a condition in which all people at all times have access to safe, nutritionally adequate and personally acceptable foods in a manner which maintains human dignity (Canadian Dietetic Association, 1991). Increasing and, ultimately, securing access to healthy food is a means by which we can build healthy communities in the truest sense of the word. We believe that the best way to address these challenges is by involving the very people who have experienced such insecurity in the capacity building process. Through collaboration with our community, our partners, our stakeholders and all levels of government we will grow our communities based food action projects and develop models of community empowerment and skill development. Together, we will foster the policy changes necessary to encourage and engender food security in our community both today and tomorrow.
The Special Diet Allowance: What You Should Know
On November 30, 2010, the Ontario government announced they had decided to keep the Special Diet program instead of cancelling it. But, they said, they were going to make some changes to the program. This backgrounder explains these changes and says what you should know if you currently get a Special Diet allowance.
Three big changes are being made starting April 1, 2011
1. The amount of money people get will change.
- For some medical conditions, the amount of money is going up a lot. Some examples are: If you have hypertension, your allowance will go from $10 a month to $86. If you have diabetes, it will go from $42 a month to $81. For obesity, it goes from $20 to $51.
- For other medical conditions, the amount of money is going down. For example, if you have a child between 2 and 8 years old with lactose intolerance, your allowance will go from $97 to $30. If you are over 19 and have celiac disease, it will go from $131 to $97.
- Some medical conditions are grouped together because the diets used to treat them are very similar – for example, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. People with one of these conditions will get the amount for that condition. People with more than one of these conditions will not get the total of all the amounts, but only one amount – the highest of the amounts for the conditions they have. So, for example, if you have both diabetes and hypertension, you’ll get $86, which is the amount for hypertension. (Diabetes is $81.)
2. The list of medical conditions is changing.
- Some new conditions are being added to the list, including congestive heart failure and cirrhosis, and other conditions are being expanded, such as chronic wounds and burns.
- Some of the conditions on the current list are not on the new list. This means some people will lose their Special Diet Allowance. For example, liver failure is not on the new list. People with liver failure will lose the $10 for that condition.
- Some conditions that are not on the new list might be covered under a different condition. For example, the person with liver failure might qualify for the amount for cirrhosis, if they have weight loss or body wasting.
3. There will be new administrative rules.
- Everyone has to fill out a new application form. This will be hard for some people who don’t have good access to a health care provider, who have trouble getting around, or who don’t have good medical records.
- Everyone has to give permission for program officials to get extra information about your medical condition. This is common in some programs, but it’s new for Special Diet. You will only have to give information about the medical condition that makes you eligible for Special Diet. For example, if you get Special Diet for diabetes but you also have depression, you won’t have to give permission for them to get information about your depression – only your diabetes.
What you should think about before you reapply
If you already get Special Diet, you should have received a letter from the government explaining the changes, as well as the new application form.
You do not have to submit the new application form right away. Some people will be better off waiting until the July 31 deadline. So before you get the new application form filled out by your health care provider (doctor, registered nurse – extended, nurse practitioner, registered dietician), here are some things that you should think about:
- The current Special Diet program will end as of July 31.
- The new Special Diet program will be available as of April 1. This means that the new amounts of money based on the new list of conditions can start being paid then.
- Between April 1 and July 31, you will continue to get your current Special Diet amount until you send in the new application form and the government finds you eligible under the new program.
- As soon as you send in the new form and are found eligible, the amount of your allowance will be recalculated. The amount of money you will get will be based on the medical conditions your health care provider checks off on the form, using the new amounts
- If your new application results in more money and you get the form in before the July 31 deadline, you will get a retroactive payment for any increase back to April 1.
- If your new application results in less money, the lower amount will start to be paid as of the month you sent in your new application form. But the Ministry will not go back to April 1 to take money back.
- If you don’t send in the new application form by July 31, your special diet allowance will end.
The most important thing is to figure out whether you will get more money or less money under the new rules.
- If you will get more money, you may want to send in the new application form right away so you can start getting the increased allowance as of April 1.
- If you will get less money, you may want to wait – but remember, your new application form must be in by July 31.
- If you are not sure whether you will get more or less money, you may want to wait to send in your application form until nearer the July 31 deadline. If it turns out that you are eligible for more money, you will get the increase retroactive to April 1 – but only if you apply before July 31.
Get some advice to help you figure what to do:
- Take the new application form to your health care provider and talk to them about which medical conditions you can qualify for;
- Use the chart to figure out how much money you might be eligible for;
- Talk to your local legal clinic about the best strategy for you.
- If you get only a very small amount of money from ODSP or OW because you have other income (e.g., CPP or earnings), you will need to figure out whether changes to your special diet allowance could affect your eligibility for ODSP/OW. Talk to your legal clinic and your ODSP/OW caseworker as soon as you can, if you think that might be a problem for you.
Click here for the complete document, including the new list of conditions and the new amounts
For more information, check these websites:
- How to find and contact your local community legal clinic: www.legalaid.on.ca/en/contact/contact.asp?type=cl
- Ministry of Community and Social Services website information about special diet changes: www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/social/special_diet_change.aspx
For ODSP recipients:
You can call 1-855-390-1642 toll free for the ODSP Special Diet Unit that is handling all the new applications
- PDF copy of the Special Diets Expert Review Committee report: www.accesson.ca/documents/en/mcss/social/publications/special_diet_en.pdf
- ISAC’s backgrounder on Why the Program is Changing: Look under “What’s New” at www.incomesecurity.org
- ISAC’s Social Assistance Review website: www.sareview.ca
ISAC will provide updates as more information is available. Visit their website at www.incomesecurity.org