While the Government of Ontario has committed to reforming social assistance, CNIB is disappointed to learn the 3% increase for the Guide Dog Benefit that was announced in the Ontario 2018 Budget has been reduced to 1.5%.
The Guide Dog Benefit is an important source of financial support for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW) recipients who are guide dog handlers. This supplement ($82/month) assists with routine costs for the guide dog, which is specially-bred and trained by an accredited facility to provide mobility assistance for someone who is blind or partially sighted. For many, guide dogs instill greater confidence in exploring familiar and unfamiliar environments, as the animals are trained to avoid obstacles and hazards, and help their handlers navigate the world safely and independently.
In 2016-2017, the provincial government estimated there were 400 ODSP recipients who received the Guide Dog Benefit. While the government expenditure for this supplement is minimal, the impact of this financial assistance is significant. Without adequate support, guide dog users are at risk of having to give up their guide dogs and independence.
As the Government of Ontario reforms social assistance over the next 100 days, CNIB will be asking the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to re-consider the rate increase amount for the Guide Dog Benefit.
CNIB has also been working with the province to address the lack of financial support for seniors (65+) who are guide dog users – Old Age Security (OAS) does not provide an equivalent to the ODSP's Guide Dog Benefit.