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Rising cost of living taking toll on Canadians living off disability benefits

While Canadians across the country are drastically adjusting their lifestyles to cope with the rising cost of living, many Canadians with disabilities say too-tight budgets have been their reality for years and it's only become worse.

Canada’s latest inflation spike, rising to 8.1 per cent in June, marked the largest yearly change since 1983. According to Statistics Canada, in 2017 on average, people with disabilities live in households that spent 30 per cent of their overall income on housing, while the rest of the population spent 19.7 per cent.

Affordable housing is the biggest concern for Alyson McCullough's 24-year-old son. She says her son Dylan has had to pay more than half of his fixed income in rent for a single room.

Dylan McCullough, who has been diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia, receives $1,160 a month on Ontario’s Disability Support Program (ODSP). The rent for his current home in Orillia, Ont., where he lives with several roommates, is $825 a month. Alyson says what her son currently pays could have landed him his own apartment a few years ago, but says his disability benefits have failed to keep pace with inflation.

“I know that we're also in a housing shortage but people that are in crisis that don't have the ability to advocate or fend for themselves really need to be prioritized,” she told in a phone interview on Aug. 28.

Rising food prices have also become concerning to many Canadians on disability, including one Vancouver resident who asked to remain anonymous.

“I have to sit there and think about it. Do I really need this? Can I afford this? That's what's happening to me and it's happening to everybody on disability,” he said, explaining that he has to shop strategically to fit his budget, and has started collecting pop cans and empty beer bottles to make ends meet.

He says he currently lives off monthly payments of approximately $918 from his Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) disability and $1,000 from the provincial government’s disability aid. However, after federal deductions are made from his CPP to his provincial aid he’s left with less than $2,000. He says conflicting disability benefits have made it difficult for him to afford his day-to-day needs, which is why he is advocating for additional aid for Canadians living on disability income.

“We're just like a forgotten part of society,” he said.

Conflicting disability benefits is a common issue for many Canadians, says Helaine Boyd executive director of the Disability Alliance in B.C.

Boyd says the deduction of federal assistance from provincial disability aid highlights the different policies and obstacles people with disabilities have to undergo to find financial assistance. Additionally, with ongoing inflation spikes, she says financial aid hasn’t kept up with the consistently rising cost of living.

“The rates haven't been keeping up with how much people actually need to live off of and they have not been indexed for inflation at all,” she told in a phone interview on Thursday.


Across Canada, financial support varies across the provinces and territories, and each program comes with its own policies and criteria to navigate how much an individual or family can receive.


  • Disability assistance for a single resident reaches up to $1,358 a month, which includes a shelter rate of $375 to cover housing, something that has not been increased since 2007.


  • Through Alberta's Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) program, eligible residents can earn up to a maximum of $1,685 however those who sign up for this benefit must also apply for any other income they are eligible for including CPP, EI or WCB or not have income higher than what AISH allows.





  • The Quebec Pension Plan which is offered to individuals under 65 can earn up to $1,463 a month which includes a fixed amount of $524.61 for all beneficiaries.

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • While the province doesn't have a single provincial disability program, there are varying programs that offer financial aid for medical expenses, childcare and housing.

New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia's Disability Support Program includes child support, independent living and housing that covers between $608 and up to $1,393 for individuals with or without children who board, rent or own a home.


  • Aid from the province's AccessAbility Supports program varies based on the individual but the services included in the program aid in job hunting and home and vehicle modifications required for a disability that cover: under $10,000 every 10 years for a home and $6,000 for every eight years for a vehicle.

N.W.T, Nunavut, Yukon

  • The territories offer income assistance for low-income families and people with disabilities. However N.W.T, Nunavut and Yukon offer separate services for certain medical expenses of chronic illness, schooling, and childcare.


In June, the federal government re-introduced intent to create the Canadian Disability Benefit, and while there isn't much detail as to who it would potentially benefit, Boyd says the timing’s right.

“Now is a prime opportunity with the Canada Disability Benefit to get it right in understanding what it is that people with disabilities need,” she said.

In May, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough said the work is "underway" for the benefit. Additionally she said the federal government is working to create a benefit that won't negatively impact other programs.

Boyd says there needs to be a greater understanding of the necessary expenses Canadians with disabilities face for health and social services, including special diets, transportation, or medication not covered by the government.

“There needs to be a better recognition of people with disabilities to provide them with some safety and security in rates by indexing it to inflation so that people who are affected the most like low income people are not feeling like they are having to worry every time there is an inflation spike,” she said. Top Stories


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