When PLAN first began in 1989, the idea that our sons and daughters with a disability could be in relationship with other citizens in viable, lasting and nurturing relationships was not the consciousness at the time. Individuals with a disability were cared for in institutions or segregated settings, and the idea of “inclusion” and “belonging” were unfamiliar concepts.
Through PLAN’s efforts, networks of support, inclusion, belonging, contribution and citizenship are words and ideas that have become fully embedded within the Canadian culture when considering how best to support individuals with a disability.
PLAN was formed in 1989 to assist elderly parents who have a son or a daughter with a disability. The question that brought these families together was – “Who will care for our sons or daughters after we are gone?” These families recognized that for the first time in history, individuals with a disability would outlive their parents.
Eventually PLAN asked a different question – “What is a Good Life?” PLAN identified five components to a ‘good life’:
- adequate financial resources
- the capacity for choice
- a home that is a sanctuary
- the opportunity for contribution,
As a consequence of this awareness PLAN has been instrumental in the formation of an family led organization committed to nurturing all the components of a good life. The core service of PLAN is the facilitation of “networks of support”. Research has validated that individuals who are in nurturing relationships live longer, are healthier, safer, are able to make a contribution to their community, and they experience belonging.
The PLAN model has transformed the lives of thousands of families who have a loved one with a disability. What PLAN discovered is their work not only provides a better quality of life for individuals with a disability, they also change communities into kinder and gentler places for everyone. PLAN was convinced that a “reserve of caring” exists in the community. What was needed was the creation of opportunities for this caring to be expressed. Networks of Support provide these opportunities.
Over the years the PLAN model as grown and impacted other communities. Families across Canada became infected with the ideas of contribution, citizenship, and belonging. They demanded information and support to begin PLAN-like organizations in their communities. As a consequence PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship was formed to share the PLAN philosophy. Not only has PLAN grown across Canada, it has seeded itself around the world. PLAN-like organizations now exist in more the 40 communities worldwide.
PLAN’s most recent success is as the major architect of the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP). The RDSP was unveiled in the 2008 federal budget and became effective December 2008. The RDSP is a financial planning tool that invites the financial contributions of extended families, friends and the community, and thereby enables families to secure for the future of their loved one with a disability.
The RDSP improves the quality of life of more than 500,000 Canadians with a disability. The RDSP is the first financial planning instrument of its kind in the world and represents a significant shift in paradigm in how communities and governments support individuals who are vulnerable. Recently, the RDSP reached a milestone with more than one billion dollars under investment.
This week we celebrated twenty-five years of PLAN’s efforts and inspiration. And we expressed our gratitude to those families who were courageous enough to ask – “Who will care for our sons and daughters after we are gone?”