The impetus came from families who wanted to reduce the poverty experienced by their relatives with disabilities. They wanted a way to financially support their relatives without jeopardizing existing government benefits. Many families felt trapped by a welfare system that didn’t allow them to build a nest egg for their relatives.
“[families] wanted a way to financially support their relatives without jeopardizing existing government benefits.”
PLAN’s original proposal was akin to a huge, rough, flawed piece of marble. We could see some kind of disability savings plan in the marble. At first it was fused with two other components, a pooled investment trust and what we called a “no one alone” fund. We couldn’t imagine any of the three proceeding without the other two. Yet our bulky three-pronged proposal confused everyone. We spent years trying to explain our grand idea.
‘The momentum shifted, and in 2008 the world’s first RDSP became a reality.’
We were going nowhere until we learned the truth of the thinking behind a quote that I found in the Waterloo Region Museum’s exhibit Unconventional Thinking: “A new idea is fragile. Its success depends upon the environment in which it emerges.” We started to pay attention to all the players in the environment surrounding our idea: those who would use it as well as those who would finance, promote and implement it. The momentum shifted, and in 2008 the world’s first RDSP became a reality.
Today there are more than two billion RDSP dollars in the bank accounts of people with disabilities. That money doesn’t affect their eligibility for government benefits. It can’t be clawed back, and there are no restrictions on what the money can be spent on. PLAN estimates the eventual RDSP market will be $12 billion, affecting 700,000 Canadians with disabilities and their families.
“Today there are more than two billion RDSP dollars in the bank accounts of people with disabilities.”
Less than eighteen months after the RDSP was approved in principle, public servants in two federal departments and thirteen provincial and territorial bureaucracies had turned traditional welfare systems on their heads; they created new procedures for the world’s first registered financial product for people with disabilities by removing asset limits and eliminating clawbacks. Over the same period, financial institutions put together the infrastructure that now makes it possible for Canadians with disabilities to establish an RDSP in nearly every bank and credit union in Canada.
For more information on the RDSP, visit rdsp.com
This is an excerpt from Al Etmanski’s new bestseller, IMPACT: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation. This fabulously readable book details the process following decades of practice and research, and includes a wellspring of advocacy success stories from across Canada and around the world.