ODSP and homeschooling

Information for homeschooling families receiving government assistance from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), and for ODSP recipients wishing to educate their children at home.

Parents with disabilities -- eligibility of home-educated dependent children to be included in the benefit unit

Parents with disabilities who are on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) Income Support can homeschool their children under certain conditions. Although the recipient (the parent with the disability) is not expected to have any other source of income, the able-bodied spouse is expected to be employed or self-employed (or to be seeking employment or receiving training) if there are no children under age 6, and will otherwise be referred to Ontario Works.

The Ontario Disability Support Program Act 1997 and its Regulations do not address the issue of school attendance of a recipient's dependent children. There is, however, a Policy Directive which addresses schooling and home schooling: Directive 2.2, Who Is Eligible: Dependent Children, which states that,

"In order for a home schooled child to be included in the parent's benefit unit, the recipient will be required to provide a copy of the Board letter acknowledging the parent's intent to home school his/her child who is under 16. In the case of 16 and 17 year olds, a letter from the parent to the local office advising that their child is being home-schooled will suffice for the 16 and 17 year olds to meet the definition of dependent child and be included in the parent's benefit unit."

"Recipients will be required to submit the Board acknowledgment letter on an annual basis as long as the dependent child under 16 is being home schooled."

This refers to the letter of acknowledgement that the school board sends in response to the letter of intent. If you do not have such a letter and are unwilling to obtain it, you have two options:

  • When your ODSP office asks for verification of homeschooling, you can ask if they will accept a letter from OFTP certifying your OFTP membership, which is what some Ontario Works offices have accepted in the past. Obviously, you would need to be or become an OFTP member in order for OFTP to issue such a letter.
  • You can renounce having your child included in the benefit unit. This does not affect your own eligibility.

If your child is excluded from the ODSP benefit unit because you do not have written verification of your homeschooling status in a form that is acceptable to the ODSP office, it does not mean you cannot homeschool, nor does it affect your own eligibility for ODSP benefits. It simply means that you will not receive additional benefits to cover your child, you will only receive your own benefits as recipient.

If your child is included in the benefit unit, it will increase the amount of financial assistance you receive relative to what you would receive just for yourself as the recipient, but only for the Shelter allowance, not for the Basic Needs allowance if your child is under age 13. As of July 2008, ODSP recipients' children under age 13 no longer receive any Basic Needs allowance even if they are included in the benefit unit. For children 13 to 17, the Basic Needs allowance is $18/month.

Please note: ODSP used to deduct a portion of the Child Tax Benefit for children included in the benefit unit. This is no longer the case. This otherwise good news is offset by the fact that ODSP no longer provides Basic Needs allowances for children under the age of 13, and only $18/month for those 13 to 17. Presumably, the government expects the Canada Child Tax Benefit and Ontario Child Benefit to provide the support needed for children's basic needs not covered by ODSP.

As for the Shelter allowance, it increases by about $70 per person. If you're a single parent, the initial increase beyond your own allowance is $274 for one child, then around $70 per additional child. For the most current amounts, and any possible changes to the calculation formula, see the tables for Basic Needs and Shelter in the General Budgetary Requirements (sections 30 and 31) of the ODSP Regulations.

For a difference of about $70/month per child under age 13 and $88/month per child 13 to 17, it's up to you to evaluate whether it's more important to you to avoid contact with the school board even if it means less money, or have your child included in the benefit unit even if it means sending a letter of intent to the school board and requesting they reply with the letter of acknowledgement that is required by the ODSP office.

Children with Severe Disabilities -- financial assistance and school attendance exemption

Aside from Income Support and Employment Support available to persons with disabilities who are over age 18, ODSP regulations also provide for financial assistance to families who have a child under 18 with a severe disability. The amount of the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities is between $25 and $465 a month for each severely disabled child.

In Directive 2.2 there is mention of dependent children who have their own disabilities under Dependent Children Not Required to Attend School:

The school attendance requirement does not apply to children who are:

  • [...]
  • unable to attend due to severity of disability;

It also says:

Appropriate verification is required that a child is a person with a disability and unable to attend school (a letter from the child's doctor).

Full text of the ODSP Act, Regulations and Policy Directives

Ministry websites