Yukon Weekly

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Saskatchewan NDP pushes for increased funding for disability program

The Saskatchewan NDP pushes for increased funding for disability programmes.

Key Takeaways:

  • MLA Meara Conway and also the NDP held a press conference on Monday, pushing the provincial government to increase rates for the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability Program instead of eliminating it (SAID).
  • Barb Sambasivam, whose brother James suffers from myotonic dystrophy, spoke out against the SAID program’s lack of support.

MLA Meara Conway and the NDP held a press conference on Monday, urging the provincial government to stop cutting the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability Program and increase rates (SAID).

“The program’s fundamental amounts haven’t been increased in over seven years,” Conway added. “In Saskatchewan, that translates to a 20% drop in payments for those with impairments.”

SAID is an income-assistance program for those with severe and persistent disabilities. You must be a Saskatchewan resident over 18, lack financial means for basic living expenditures, and have a substantial or enduring permanent handicap that requires help to be eligible for the program.

Barb Sambasivam, whose brother James has myotonic dystrophy, spoke out about the SAID program’s lack of support for him.

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“The Stated program has awarded him $83 per month in benefits,” Sambasivam said. “Jim’s monthly care costs $1850. With these benefits, it’s completely out of reach.”

According to Conway, people with disabilities who apply for the SAID program are often obliged to withdraw from their Canadian Pension Plans early.

“(People) are compelled to apply for early CPP, but they are then eligible for less later in life, and the amount they receive for CPP before they turn 65 is clawed back from their SAID rates anyhow, so they are no better off.” “They are indeed more behind,” Conway stated.

Lori Carr, a member of the Saskatchewan Party, addressed the matter, saying that when people request help, everything of their income is taken into account.

“All money received by individuals, whether earned or pension benefits, is classified as income,” Carr explained. “As a result, those are deducted from payments before they are handed out under our assistance programs.”

“Our financial support programs are certainly a last-resort option. Suppose you have a way to generate money, one of which is your Canadian Pension benefits. In that case, you should apply for that first before applying for income support benefits because you do have a way to receive that money.”

Individuals’ SAID eligibility is influenced by the amount of additional income they get outside the program. If a person’s Canadian Pension benefits are high, they will receive less income support.

The Saskatchewan NDP pushes for increased funding for disability programmes.
The Saskatchewan NDP pushes for increased funding for disability programmes. Image from Eminetra Canada

“In the end, it all balances out,” Carr added. “Our SAID benefits are actually among the greatest in Canada within the province of Saskatchewan.”

The program has not received any budget increases in seven years. Dave Nelson, a senior consultant with the Canadian Mental Health Association and a member of the initial task team that drew out the SAID program, hopes will change soon.

“No one expects this to jump huge amounts in a year,” Nelson added. “However, if you start planning now and say, ‘OK, in five years, we’ll be up to this (amount),’ it’s achievable and should be done.”

According to Nelson, the initiative should be more than just a handout.

“Nelson explained that the SAID program was designed to be an income replacement program, not merely an income supplement,” Nelson explained.

“I’d call it an income-assistance program,” Carr remarked. “While some of the persons on this program have long-term disabilities, others can work despite their limitations.” “Just because they have a disability doesn’t suggest they can’t improve their situation.”

At Monday’s press briefing, Peter Gilmer of the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry said the program is intended to offer a safety net for persons like James. They are unable to afford many basic daily needs.

“I believe SAID does not do that today.”

Source: Global News

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