This blog was written by Jessica Ang
What is Autism? Autism, also known as, “Autism Spectrum Disorder” is a set of unique strengths and challenges that are characterized from one’s social skills, including one’s verbal and non-verbal communication, to one’s behaviours (Autism Speaks, 2019). Autism is a developmental disorder that I have been learning about for ten years and it continuously remains of significant importance to me. My best friend has 2 brothers – one who has Asperger’s Syndrome and one who has Autism. Since 2009, my best friend and her family have been raising money by hosting an annual garage sale during the last week of April, at their home in Mississauga. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of this wonderful campaign that raises awareness and money for Autism Speaks Canada, in which all proceeds go toward funding and supporting families who require financial aid, in order to support their loved ones who have a disability or special needs.
The discussion around Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, and more generally, disabilities, focuses primarily on emotional and financial hardships. Many often forget or are unaware of the process of estate planning for their children who have a disability. We tend to focus on the circumstances at hand and forget to think about the “next steps”. Today, I want the focus to be on the programs and services that are available for these individuals and families to relieve some of the economic hardships they face on a day-to-day basis.
The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provides financial assistance monthly to individuals with disabilities who require income support. This program supports and funds basic necessities such as, shelter and food. It also aids individuals by supporting their health expenses, including vision and dental coverage, and prescription drugs. Additionally, ODSP also provides employment support that includes helping one find a job, maintaining one’s current position, and helping one advance in their career. Notably, ODSP is known as, “The Last Resort”, as it encourages individuals to seek some possible resources before depending on ODSP support and benefits. The ODSP sounds very promising for individuals and families, however, it is very limited – individuals must be 18 years of age or older, they must be an Ontario resident, they must require financial aid, and they must fit the definition of a person with a disability under the ODSP Act or be a member of a “Prescribed Class” (Ontario, 2019).
The Registered Disability Savings Plan is long-term plan centered on helping individuals with disabilities and their families prepare for the future. RDSP’s are advantageous to people who have a long-term disability and are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). It is important to note that an RDSP does not replace one’s income; therefore it will not affect one’s eligibility for ODSP. Any amount that is being withdrawn from the RDSP must be used within that month, to avoid lowering one’s ODSP distribution. However, setting up an RDSP is quite advantageous, as many RDSPs often receive Canada Disability Savings Bonds (CDSB). CDSBs are grants funded by the government which requires zero contributions. The government simply pays out bonds to a maximum of $1,000 to low-income families with disabilities. However, when these grants are distributed out through the RDSP, payments are recognized in a beneficiary’s income for tax purposes.
Prior to the Budget 2019, contributions were eligible to those under the age of 59; however, the recent Budget has changed this limitation, allowing the RDSP to remain open and accessible even after the date in which the beneficiary becomes ineligible (Government of Canada, 2019). Eliminating this time restriction will allow individuals and families the opportunity to continue receiving grants and bonds, which would’ve been paid back to the Government. Additionally, since Budget 2019, RDSPs are now exempt from seizure by creditors in bankruptcy, but only if contributions are made within the 12 months before the filing (Government of Canada, 2019).
In addition to the aforementioned governmental services and programs, setting up a trust can provide additional financial support for a person with a disability, as well as their families. Henson Trusts have been specifically created to aid individuals with a disability and/or special needs. In a Henson trust, the trustee has full discretion, wherein they have authority to decide when the beneficiary can obtain their payment from the trust.
To sum up, the following options are available: the Ontario Disability Support Program, the Registered Disability Savings Plan, and a Henson Trust – all are tools and services offered, that can assist families in providing a better quality of life for these children, both during their life-time and even after their death.
THE BUSH BUNCH | 10th & FINAL GARAGE SALE
If you wish to attend the garage sale in support of Autism Speaks Canada, it will be held on April 27th, April 28th, May 4th and May 5th, 2019 from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at 2157 Hillfield Court, Mississauga, Ontario.
For additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact the Bush Bunch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at the Bush Bunch.