COVID-19: Temporary changes to children with special needs programs
Learn about the temporary changes to the Special Services at Home, Enhanced Respite for Medically Fragile and/or Technology Dependent Children and Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities programs due to COVID‑19.
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In response to the COVID‑19 (coronavirus) outbreak, we have made temporary changes to help recipients of:
- Special Services at Home (SSAH) program
- Enhanced Respite for Medically Fragile and/or Technology Dependent Children program
- Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) program
Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities program
Families who have already received pre-approval for expenditures may temporarily, for the duration of the outbreak, use pre-approved ACSD funding to purchase items or services from the list of new eligible expenses without pre-approval. For example, if you’re not using your funding temporarily for a pre-approved expense such as summer day programs, you can use that funding for the new eligible expenses.
These changes came into effect April 1, 2020. If you are eligible to receive program funding in 2022/2023 you can purchase support according to existing program guidelines and these temporary changes.
New eligible expenses
We have temporarily expanded the list of eligible expenses under the Special Services at Home (SSAH) and the Enhanced Respite for Medically Fragile and/or Technology Dependent Children programs, and allowing greater flexibility for families receiving support from the Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) program to better support you during this time. These changes allow you to use funding for goods and services that may make it easier to stay at home and practice physical distancing.
New eligible expenses include:
- sensory items
- items to support home-based recreation and fitness
- personal protective equipment and supplies
- essential service delivery fees
- behavioural support plans and related interventions
- Ability to hire (non-primary caregiver) family members or neighbours/friends to provide respite (change applies to the Enhanced Respite program only, as this expense is already eligible under SSAH and ACSD)
You can purchase sensory items to support children and youth who rely on sensory items to alleviate anxiety and stress and/or support any clinical or behavioural plans, for example multi-sensory related products and technologies.
You can purchase technology to provide children and youth the means and ability to stay safe, connected, occupied and engaged at home, including in virtual and online learning and skill development activities. For example:
- laptops and tablets
- online educational and e-learning activities and resources
- videogames and videogame systems
- webcams and microphones
- media service subscriptions and platforms, excluding cancellation fees (for example, Netflix, Xbox Live, Disney+)
- e-readers (for example, Kindle or Kobo)
- remote monitoring devices and medical alert services and devices.
The approval of technology will also support the virtual engagement of people with disabilities and connections for families, providing some relief from caregiving requirements and alleviating some of the impacts of physical distancing.
Items to support home-based recreation and fitness activities
You can you purchase supplies to support home-based hobbies and activities that your child would otherwise access through day programs, school and other community-based programs. For example:
- arts and craft supplies
- hobby supplies
- puzzles and games
- books for leisure and learning
You can purchase supplies to support home-based physical activity and fitness. For example:
- indoor items and equipment (for example, skipping rope, yoga mat, resistance bands)
- fitness and sport equipment and supplies that may be used on your property (for example, basketball net, trampoline, frisbee, badminton set)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies
You can purchase personal protective equipment so you, your children or youth and/or their support worker(s) can be more safe at home and in the community. This might be more important to children and adults who are immunocompromised. Examples of PPE include:
- cleaning supplies (for example, disinfectant wipes, sprays, and hand sanitizer)
- goggles and face shields.
Essential service delivery fees
If you are unable to leave your home for groceries or pharmacy needs because of the vulnerability of someone in your family and/or because of your care requirements, service delivery fees for essential items such as groceries and medication will be an admissible expense. This does not include the actual cost of the groceries and/or medications, just the service fee for delivery.
Delivery fees for takeout food from restaurants are not included.
Behavioural support plans and related interventions
You can purchase behavioural supports and interventions that are intended to help you more safely support your child at home. This may include:
- development of behavioural support plans and recommended interventions (delivered in person, remotely or virtually)
- support strategies to reduce challenging behaviours or potential crisis situations
This does not include physiotherapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy.
This change applies to the Enhanced Respite for Medically Fragile and/or Technology Dependent Children program.
You can hire (non-primary caregiver) family members or neighbours/friends to provide respite. This allows families who cannot hire respite workers, or have concerns about having workers in their homes, to hire trusted family or friends to provide respite.
These measures are part of the government’s action plan to protect vulnerable people and staff caring for them.
Return to regular expenses
These changes are temporary and the existing program terms and conditions continue to apply.
Your local regional office will contact you to tell you when these temporary changes will end. After we provide notice that the program will be returning to regular business, your local regional office will give you as much advanced notice as possible.
These measures are part of the government’s action plan to protect vulnerable people and those caring for them.
Temporary changes to administrative requirements for SSAH and Enhanced Respite
To reduce the administrative burden on families, the following temporary administrative changes have been implemented, effective immediately, for SSAH and Enhanced Respite.
These changes were made to support the administration of the program for families and agencies when physical distancing requirements were in place due to COVID-19.
Claim and invoice signature requirements
With the COVID-19 restrictions that were in place, the signature requirements for SSAH and Enhanced Respite invoice and claim forms are waived until further notice. This includes support worker signatures to confirm that a service was provided.
As accurate record keeping will be essential to help ensure program integrity, Regional Offices and agencies are required to maintain accurate records of verbal and email acceptances.
2021/22 claim submission deadline
In order to help families and recipients who are facing challenges to submit their 2021/22 SSAH and Enhanced Respite claims, the ministry is waiving the 2021/22 submission deadline for families.
Helping people access funding:
The following changes will allow individuals and families to utilize their direct funding more quickly, while also accommodating the operational challenges being faced by ministry regional offices and transfer payment agencies, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eligibility for Enhanced Respite
The ministry is temporarily waiving the requirement for in-person eligibility assessment to be conducted by Home and Community Care Support Services (HCCSS) to ensure that families who were in approved for 2021/22 funding continue to receive their 2022/23 funding without having to be reassessed.
Advance payments of 2020/21 funding amounts for SSAH and Enhanced Respite
Program recipients of SSAH and Enhanced Respite who submitted claims for the 2019/20 fiscal year and continued to be eligible for funding in 2020/21 received a three-month pro-rated amount of their annual authorized allocation in advance, a payment equal to one quarter of their annual funding amount for the period of April to June 2020. This provided families with immediate financial help to purchase services and supports without needing to wait to be reimbursed. This enabled families to purchase the supports they needed while supporting their child/youth with special needs at home while COVID-19 public health measures were in place.
Program recipients can continue to submit claims for reimbursement in addition to their advance payment amount, as long as the total value of claims submitted plus their advance payment does not exceed the person’s annual authorized funding amount for the 2020/21 fiscal year.
Recipients of this advance payment are required to continue to submit claims to the Regional Offices that they have purchased using this funding, for reconciliation.
Advance payments for 2019/20 claims for SSAH
SSAH recipients with outstanding 2019/20 claims are required to continue to submit their remaining claims to be reconciled against the 2019/20 advance payment (up to the maximum of $1,000) of their 2019/20 authorization.
Active SSAH recipients for the fiscal year 2019/20 were provided an advance payment of up to $1,000 from their remaining 2019/20 authorized amount to help ease the financial challenges faced by families. For families with fewer than $1,000 remaining in their 2019/20 authorized amount, they were provided with that amount in full.
Wage enhancement for direct support workers and personal support workers
Funding in July 2022 and onward
The wage enhancement is permanent.
Learn how funding is being delivered for these eligible programs:
- Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities
- Enhanced Respite for Medically Fragile and/or Technology Dependent Children Program
- Ontario Autism Program Childhood Budgets and Interim One-time Funding
- Special Services at Home
Funding before July 2022
If you applied for wage enhancement funding before July 1, 2022, it may take about four to six weeks to review your application. We will contact you if we need more information.
If your application is approved, you will receive a payment based on the total amount approved for each claim in your application. You can then use this funding to pay your worker.
If you received funding for this wage enhancement that you cannot use, you must return it to us. Please contact us to find out how to return unused funds.