The Deserving Poor: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Ontario Disability Support Program Application Process
Three policy directives of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) are examined using a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) to help reveal how these directives act as a barrier to the disabled community in Ontario seeking access to social assistance benefits. Arguments are made suggesting that the policy directives help to sustain a system of inefficiency through its adherence to administrative and neoliberal economic discourses rather than one based on social justice. Connections between discourse and the applications process are made using an order of discourse methodology to make links between discourses found in the policy directives and the application process for ODSP. Findings suggest that the policy discourses both procedurally and substantively classify members of the disabled community into those who are deserving of social assistance and those who are not. This classification process has serious implications that relegate those considered undeserving to receive assistance from a much more problematic Ontario Works (OW) program. This paper provides background information on the relationship between OW and ODSP and the implications associated with their overlapping functions. A review of existing literature on the ODSP application process is included and reveals strong connections between the application process and the problems many applicants experience by going through the process ranging from stigmatizing social constructions to having to remain in a low socioeconomic status. Possible reforms are suggested based on reviews of the social welfare system conducted from several sources that advocate a more inclusive and social justice based social welfare program for Ontario. Discussion of how social workers play a role in possible reform efforts is also explored.