The BC Government tabled its 2016 budget on February 16, 2016. Inclusion BC has responded to the budget, including to the changes to PWD benefits and transportation costs.
Changes to PWD benefits and transportation costs for people with disabilities
People with disabilities received a small increase to their disability benefits but there was a catch. The $77 per month increase was tied to the cost of a person’s transportation. These are the changes, effective September 1st, 2016:
- People with disabilities will receive a $77 per month increase to their benefits.
- People receiving PWD benefits will no longer be able to purchase an annual bus pass for a $45 annual fee.
- The cost of the bus pass will go up from $0 to $52 per month, plus an annual $45 administration fee.
- For people with a bus pass, the new change means a $25/month PWD benefit rate increase. After a nine-year rate freeze, this is an insult.
Inclusion BC launched a petition to “Raise the rates, leave our bus pass alone.”
Disability Alliance BC has created a background document with more information.
Community Living BC expected a 6.6% caseload increase for 2015/16. This is forecasted to continue each year (5-6%). There are currently 18,870 people receiving services from CLBC.
In 2014/15, CLBC listed the average annual cost for services per individual in the Developmental Disabilities program at $45,400 while those within the Personalized Supports Initiative were $20,200.
Even with a modest increase in caseload of 5% each year, the increase to CLBC’s budget will not cover individuals who are new to CLBC as well as those currently receiving supports and whose needs increase due to aging and health. Inclusion BC is well aware of individuals who are receiving insufficient levels of funding that does not address their current level of support needs.
These new funding levels will entrench waitlists and desperation, a common message that we heard from families in our 2015 survey:
- Inclusion BC is seeing more and more families across BC in a desperate struggle to support their members with developmental disabilities. They are often bullied and beaten down over long periods of time, some falling apart. This is taking a huge toll on families.
- Inclusion BC previously provided numbers of $75 million to address waitlists and annualized funding increases of $45 million to keep up.
Inclusion BC continues calling for the creation of Community Inclusion Advocates program as a way to prepare families to navigate the systems and to ensure they can plan effectively for their children.
View the CLBC service plan here.
The government announced $217 million over three years for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The funds will be allocated as follows:
- $152 million for children in care and related programs
- $51 million for children and youth in care with special needs
- $11 million for child care centres
- $3 million for helping adoption of children in care
While this funding is welcome and long overdue, there is still not enough new funding to significantly address the unacceptable wait times for children who require early intervention services such as infant development, supported child development and other therapies. We know that there is, on average, a wait time of seven months for such services. Sadly, without funding to address this, many young children will continue waiting so long for critical early intervention supports that by the time the wait is up, they have aged out of the very supports they need to succeed in school and in life.
The Ministry of Education saw a flat-lined budget, but with a 15% increase in funding to independent schools. A thriving public education system is essential to an inclusive society and we worry that as school budgets are stretched, students with special needs will be the first to feel the impact. A well-funded education system is essential to support all educators to teach to all students, in regular classrooms.
While we are encouraged by the potential of the new BC curriculum and the Learning Improvement Fund, we must ensure that use of these funds are monitored and tracked for outcomes, ensuring a quality education for all students, including those with special needs.
BC saw a significant investment in housing, with the creation of 2000 new units of social hosing in BC. This is an important step forward but we continue calling for a rental assistance program for people with disabilities. Access to rental assistance would help to close the gap between the cost of housing and the amount of rent that people with disabilities can afford to pay, relieving the immediate, desperate, precarious living circumstances of our most vulnerable citizens.
Access to good quality, affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities is essential to enabling people with disabilities to live with dignity and participate in their communities.
“Under BC’s disability benefits system, a single person with a PWD designation receives $375 per month for housing and $531 per month for other basic living expenses. Any shelter costs over $375 per month must be covered through the support portion of the monthly benefit. As shelter costs increase, PWD recipients are forced to use an ever greater proportion of their support to pay for the cost of their housing.” – Overdue Report.