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Trapped in Red Tape

What Happened

Ms. H, who was nearing retirement age and on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), moved from Markham to her own apartment in Toronto. Her ODSP benefits stopped after the move, and she needed compression socks, which are expensive. Ms. H’s daughter stepped in to help. After many calls, she succeeded in getting her mother’s ODSP benefits reinstated. However, no matter how hard she tried, she was unable to find out how to obtain coverage for the prescribed socks. In frustration, Ms. H contacted our office for help.

What We Did

First, in a conference call with the daughter and mother, we obtained permission to make inquiries on behalf of Ms. H. Then we started making calls. It turned out that several events conspired to mire Ms. H’s file in a sea of red tape. While her ODSP file was moving between offices (because of the move to Toronto), ODSP was closing her case and moving it to a different support program (because she was nearing retirement age). Thus, her file was lost in the system.

Compression socks are classed as discretionary items and have to be approved, but this falls under Ontario Works, which the City administers (the province runs ODSP). Ontario Works could not process an application for the socks until ODSP closed the file, which was somewhere in the red tape. We spoke with a supervisor in the City’s Employment and Social Services division, who intervened in the system, found Ms. H’s file, and got the mess untangled.

The Result

After the supervisor untangled the tape, Ms. H’s daughter applied online for the much-needed compression socks. A case worker from the City visited Ms. H the next day to confirm the documents and approve the benefit. Ms. H got her socks.