New Westminster, B.C., February 18, 2015 – Another provincial budget has been tabled without any plan to raise disability assistance rates and help lift some of our most vulnerable citizens out of poverty.
While Inclusion BC was pleased to see that child support payments will no longer be clawed back from assistance amounts, this announcement affects only 2% of people receiving social assistance. The only real solution is an increase and indexing of rates, which is long overdue. B.C. has the sixth lowest disability assistance rates in the country but touts the highest cost of living, which continues to escalate at a rate beyond any other jurisdiction.
We have reached a point of crisis and this budget represents a critical missed opportunity to address the abject poverty of 140,000 citizens of BC on social assistance, including the 90,000 individuals who are on Persons with Disabilities (PWD) benefits.
In June, 2014, Premier Christy Clark told reporters, “we should, when we can afford it, raise rates for people who live on disability” (Globe & Mail, June 16, 2014). To boast an $900M surplus and refuse to address assistance rates is unconscionable.
Children and Youth with Special Needs
A flat-lined budget in the Ministry of Children and Family Development puts children and youth with special needs living in care at grave risk. Despite numerous reports, recommendations and warnings from the Representative for Children and Youth, deficiencies in foster care for children and youth with special needs were not addressed in this budget.
Adults with developmental disabilities
Inclusion BC was encouraged to see an ongoing investment of $106M over three years in Community Living BC, including $69 million to maintain existing services and increases in caseloads as well as $37 million for general wage increases for front line staff. The leadership and advocacy of Inclusion BC and our Federation members, including community agencies, families and people with developmental disabilities, continues to drive multi-year investments in adult supports. Inclusion BC member agencies and families work hard to stretch every dollar to ensure maximum impact and though the investment is encouraging and appreciated, significant waitlists continue to grow. Too many families still wait for support, pushing them into crisis.
Community Living BC (CLBC) projects a small increase in their caseloads over three years, yet acknowledged in previous budgets that the waitlists continue to grow at rates that are well beyond their budgeted capacity to respond. This means the majority of those newly eligible for CLBC funding will not receive the supports they need. Inclusion BC calls on the government to work with us and our members, families and individuals with developmental disabilities to address this shortfall and the compounding waitlist issue.
“There is only so much our members can do to meet the needs of those coming forward for support,” says Inclusion BC Executive Director Faith Bodnar. “We are called to work together to resolve the issue of waitlists and to relieve the pressure placed on families as they look at what the future holds for them. We need to come together to give them hope at a time in our province, when despite a growing surplus, they see little.”
“We must take great care to keep our community social serving sector stable and strong. It is the backbone of our communities, responding to the needs of all citizens by building a vibrant social fabric for now and into the future. Now is the time to invest. We see the government taking important steps in that regard, yet we need to find more opportunities to work together to ensure all people with developmental disabilities and their families can look forward to full, well supported lives.”