—FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—
Vancouver, BC, June 13, 2012—The Ministry of Social Development announced on Monday a number of positive changes to disability assistance in BC that include greater income allowances, increased asset limits, flexibility in reporting and financial literacy support, as well as shorter waiting periods.
Last fall, PLAN met with and presented a letter to the Ministry of Social Development entitled Welfare to Wealth: PLAN’s Policy Priorities for Making the Shift. Within which four specific recommendations were given that we believe are key factors that contribute to creating financial security for people with disabilities.
- Harmonize Asset Limits and Regulations Governing Trusts with the RDSP
- Exempt Monetary and In-Kind Support Provided by Family Members from Calculating Disability Benefits
- Harmonize Asset Limits and Regulations Governing Government-Provided Housing, Childcare Subsidies, and Student Loans with the RDSP
- Integrate Financial Literacy as a Key Knowledge Gain for all People with Disabilities Receiving Government Care and Assistance
PLAN is pleased to see our first and last recommendations accepted by the provincial government. The proposed changes to BC disability benefits include:
- Trust enhancements
– People on disability assistance can now invest up to $200,000—double the previous amount—in any trust account they have control over (if they don’t have control, there is no limit). This is the same amount that individuals can keep in their Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)
– Individuals will be able to access up to $8,000 per year (previously $5,484) from their trust account for any cost they believe are related to promoting their independence
- Financial literacy promoted through a Community Benefit Fund
– A Community Benefit Fund is being established to provide additional community level capacity to help people living with disabilities access RDSPs, file their taxes and improve their financial literacy
- Increases to personal asset exemptions
– For single disability assistance clients, their asset limit, including cash, is increasing to $5,000 (from $3,000). This doubles to $10,000 for couples and families receiving disability assistance
- Increases on earnings exemptions for people receiving disability benefits
– Individuals will be able to earn up to $800 per month (previously $500) and still receive their full benefits. Couple who are both collecting disability assistance can earn up to $1,600 per month
- Other improvements to the disability assistance program
– Earnings will be calculated annually rather than monthly to a total exemption of $9,600 per year. This should simplify reporting requirements and provide more flexibility for those with episodic illnesses, those that enjoy seasonal work, or any reason somebody might make more in one part of the year than another
– The waiting period for claiming earnings exemptions for former disability assistance clients who find they have to reapply for assistance will be waived
The Ministry has announced that most of these changes will come into effect later this year.
PLAN is supportive of these improvements and would like to express our appreciation to the province of BC and Ministry of Social Development more specifically for the efforts to support persons with disabilities and families.
We believe the proposed enhancements to earning exemptions are an important step toward recognizing the assets, contributions and resilience of people with disabilities and their families.
At PLAN we look forward to seeing the Community Benefit Fund established and the additional pillars of the Families First Agenda as it unfolds. We also look forward to our ongoing collaboration on solutions that continue to address the issues around poverty, income and disability assistance for vulnerable people in British Columbia.