The following is a summary of the improvements our provincial, territorial and federal governments have announced they will be making to disability-related services this year.
Provinces and territories are listed in alphabetical order, with the federal government being last. The information was copied primarily from the links shown—for more complete information or to verify any details, please refer to these websites, or contact the relevant government directly.
In April, Alberta made its sixth set of increases since 2005 to the AISH program’s maximum monthly financial benefits.
- Maximum living allowance will increase from $1,188 to $1,588
- Employment income exemptions will double from $400 to $800 for single clients and from $975 to $1,950 for families.
The Ministry of Social Development announced a number of changes to income assistance policies that will help people with disabilities in BC lead more independent lives, achieve better outcomes, and where possible, avoid the cycle of income assistance dependence. The majority of these will come into effect Oct 1, 2012.
- Increasing the asset limits for individuals to $5,000 (up from $3,000) and for couples and families to $10,000 (up from $5,000)
- Increasing the earnings exemption for singles on PWD to $800/month (from $500) and for couples who both have PWD designation to $1,600/month (from $750)
- Doubling the non-discretionary trust exemption lifetime limit to $200,000
- Increasing the trust disbursement exemption for “promoting independence” to $8,000/year (from $5,484) and allowing the person on PWD—rather than the Ministry—to decide how this money can be spent to promote their independence
- Exempting income tax refunds (previously tax refunds have been exempt to the earning exemption limit)
- Reducing the wait period for earnings exemptions to one month for new applicants, and eliminating the waiting period for PWDs returning to assistance (previously the wait period has been three months)
On June 15, 2012, Manitoba’s Accessibility Advisory Council submitted two recommendations to the provincial government that propose legislation aimed at preventing and removing barriers faced by persons with disabilities:
- The government should ensure that public money spent for public purposes equally benefits persons with disabilities and does not create further barriers. This should be accomplished by undertaking to review policies and develop guidelines on grants, awards and third party agreements
- Persons with disabilities and their representative organizations who are part of a standard development committee should be resourced, as needed, to enable their fair and equal participation in the development of accessibility standards. These resources could be used to fund research activity so that participants are informed on the key issues under discussion. Resources can also be used to fund community consultations undertaken by organizations of persons with disabilities
The government released two action plans this year containing recommendations designed to increase the participation, inclusion and employment of persons with disabilities in New Brunswick:
- Disability Action Plan – The time for action is now advances 41 recommendations designed to create a more inclusive province including making all communities in New Brunswick inclusive places for persons with disabilities
- An Employment Action Plan for Persons with a Disability contains 38 recommendations to change and build policies within government, enhance services, build a culture of true collaboration, engage employers and fundamentally shift how government, organizations and the private sector address disability and employment
Newfoundland and Labrador
The province made a number of increases in program expenditures for people with disabilities in 2012.
- An investment of $29.8 million was allotted to the long-term Social Housing Plan, which will be channeled through a range of initiatives including a Home Modification Program for persons with disabilities
- The government is funding $6.5 million to support a strategy to eradicate barriers and ensure full inclusion for all with a program called Access. Inclusion. Equality. This plan has been designed to take a long-term cross-disability approach to bring about substantive change within provincial policies, services, programs and attitudes
The 2012-13 Budget shows operating expenditures expanding by about 3.7 per cent with emphasis placed on a number of disability-related areas, including:
- Increased governmental program funding and social services delivery in the areas of mental health and addiction
- Health awareness, activities and education program funding for non-government organizations (NGO) focused on counselling and treatment services in the areas of addictions, mental health, chronic disease and child welfare
- Increased grants and contributions for NGO-run residential care programs and services related to mental health, disabilities and chronic illnesses
- $115,000 in grants to support the consulting and related costs to create a culturally relevant adaptation of the Mental Health First Aid Program across all three territories
The government of Nova Scotia made many cuts to provincial spending this year but were able to offer a number of increases to the Services for Persons with Disabilities (SPD) Program.
- Funding to the Independent Living and Alternative Family Support programs is going up by $900,000, helping persons with disabilities to live more independently
- This 2012 budget will increase the disability amount to $7,341 (from $5,035). This non-refundable credit is claimed by ﬁlers who are disabled or who have a dependent with a disability and will provide an average beneﬁt of $75 for about 20,000 Nova Scotians
The territory’s 2012–2015 Business Plan has announced plans to:
- Profile Nunavut’s disabled population and identify the key issues facing persons with disabilities in the territory and then develop a more coordinated government approach to addressing these issues, including disability policy development
- Increased spending on adult Support Services to provide a range of counseling, supports and services to eligible adults with disabilities
- Ongoing tax relief for disabled persons residing within municipal tax authorities
- Continuing to enhance the development and delivery of home repair, renovation, maintenance and adaption programs for disabled homeowners in support of independent living
The Ontario government is increasing their Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works rates by one per cent in the fall of this year.
- This is part of a cumulative increase of 14.9 per cent since 2003
- The initiative will provide about $55 million annually in additional benefits to families and individuals receiving social assistance
Prince Edward Island
Since 2007, spending in PEI’s Disability Support Program has increased by 35% and a number of significant changes were made last year in 2011. This year’s focus has been on balancing an increasingly stretched budget, however the province has managed to still dedicate some new amounts towards funding disability-related programs, including:
- A new eight-week Strength program that offers day treatment and supervised housing to youth who need help with mental health or addictions issues
- An independent expert review of Mental Health and Addictions Services to meet growing needs and to improve the delivery of these important primary health care services
For 2012, Quebec committed $35 million towards intellectual and physical disability services.
- The primary program is supervision services for students between the ages of 12 and 21 who have a physical or intellectual disability or a pervasive developmental disorder. These students can attend a supervised care service in addition to receiving one-on-one assistance. This measure is part of a work/family balance approach aimed at offering parents of children with disabilities conditions that make it easier for them work or pursue studies
For 2012, the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program is increasing a number of benefit levels.
- People in residential care settings will receive an additional $40 in June, increasing to $100 per month over four years
- Single individuals living independently will receive an increase of $200 per month in June, expanding to an average of $350 per month over four years, and couples living independently will receive a $230 per month increase in June, expanding to an average of $400 per month over four years
- Increases will also be provided to the community based organizations (CBOs) that support people with disabilities and $2.4 million in capital funding will provide spaces by March, 2013, for 67 clients, completing the Government’s 440 Waitlist commitment from 2009-10
- In addition, $600,000 in capital funding is being provided in 2012-13 to meet increased demand for residential and day program services for 20 additional people with intellectual disabilities
The territory’s Department of Health and Social Services is increasing its budget by over five per cent to continue or expand initiatives for people with disabilities such as:
- The Challenge program for those with mental disabilities to learn life and job skills at Bridges Café in Shipyards Park
- Adding additional Home Care clients
- Undertaking a feasibility study and functional planning for continuing care
- Maintaining, designing or replacing care centres throughout the territory
The Federal Government has announced a number of initiatives and increased spending on programs for people with disabilities across Canada, including:
- Making a commitment to introduce legislation requiring federally regulated private sector employers to insure, on a go-forward basis, the long-term disability plans offered to employees
- Proposing a number of improvement measures to the Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSP), including to:
- Provide greater access to RDSP savings for small withdrawals by replacing the requirement to repay any grants and bonds paid into an RDSP within the 10 years preceding a withdrawal from the plan with a requirement to repay grants and bonds at a fixed ratio to the amount withdrawn
- Provide greater flexibility to make withdrawals from certain RDSPs by increasing the annual maximum withdrawal limit that applies to these RDSPs, and ensure that RDSP assets are used to support a beneficiary during their lifetime by requiring a minimum amount to be withdrawn from all RDSPs beginning the year a beneficiary attains 60 years of age
- Provide greater flexibility for parents who save in Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) for children with disabilities by allowing investment income earned in an RESP to be transferred on a tax-free basis to an RESP beneficiary’s RDSP
- Provide greater continuity for long-term saving by RDSP beneficiaries who cease to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit in certain circumstances by extending the period that their plans may remain open
- Improve the administration of the RDSP for financial institutions and beneficiaries by amending certain RDSP administrative rules