Network calls on Province to Increase Disability Benefit Rates

Changes to disability benefits in B.C. welcome but fail to address the real problem.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Vancouver, B.C., June 11, 2012 – While the government’s changes to income assistance are welcome, they fail to address the real problem, especially for the many individuals with disabilities who are relying on the Province’s Disability Benefits. The Disability Without Poverty Network* is calling on the Province of B.C. to increase the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Benefit to reflect the cost of living in this province.

Some of the changes announced today by the Ministry of Social Development include an increase from $500 per month to $800 per month in the earnings exemption (the amount of money a person can earn from employment before their PWD benefits are clawed back) and greater flexibility around earnings calculations (people receiving PWD benefits will be able to calculate earnings yearly instead of monthly). Monthly assistance rates, however, remain unchanged.

“An increase in the earnings exemption is a positive step forward,” says Jane Dyson, Executive Director of the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities. “It will give people with disabilities who are able to work more opportunities, but without an increase in rates, people with disabilities who cannot work will continue to slide deeper and deeper into poverty.”

“As other provinces across the country increase their disability benefit rates, B.C. is rapidly falling behind,” says Faith Bodnar, Executive Director of the BC Association for Community Living. “People with disabilities are forced to choose between rent and food; the time for an increase in benefits is long overdue.”

The Facts – PWD Rates in B.C.

  • Over the last decade the cost of living has increased dramatically in B.C. but the disability benefit rates have not kept pace.
  • Since 2001, the PWD rate has increased by only $120 per month, while the cost of basic essentials such as food, shelter and basic communication has continued to increase. This means that there is a growing gap between the basic cost of living and what a PWD recipient can afford.
  • A person receiving PWD benefits receives $375 per month for housing and $531 per month for basic living expenses such as food, clothing, housing, and personal care. As shelter costs increase, people are forced to use an even greater portion of their support to pay for housing and cannot afford the basic necessities.
  • In 2005 B.C. the assistance available to people with disabilities was second highest among all of the Provinces. Since 2005, B.C. has continued to fall behind as other provinces and territories make adjustments to their rates. In July, B.C. will have fallen to 4th place among all of the Province’s and 6th place overall in terms of the assistance provided with Alberta, the Yukon and Saskatchewan have recently increasing their rates.
  • Research produced by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary observed that the level of assistance available to a single person with a disability in B.C. is approximately $300 per month below the income deemed acceptable for a low income senior based on the standards established under the Federal OAS/GIS programs.
  • The Disability Without Poverty Network proposes an increase to the PWD rate to a minimum of $1200 per month to better reflect the actual cost of living in B.C. and to bring the rates in line with other vulnerable groups such as seniors. (Overdue: the Case for Increasing the Persons with Disability Benefit in B.C.)

                                                                           -30-

    Media Contacts:

  • Faith Bodnar, Executive Director, BC Association for Community Living, 604-764-2591
  • Jane Dyson, Executive Director, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, 604-875-0188 
  • Lorraine Copas, Executive Director, Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC), 604-718-7736

*The Disability Without Poverty Network includes the BC Association for Community Living (BCACL), BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD), Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA), Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) and Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC)

Premier announces increase to PWD earnings exemption and asset levels

Today Premier Christy Clark announced a number of changes effective October 1st, 2012 for people receiving the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Benefit. These include an increase to the annual earnings exemption from $500 to $800 per month for a single person and an increase to the allowable asset level for a single person from $3,000-$5,000.

While these changes are positive, they do not address the fact that the disability benefit rate is inadequate. The BCCPD, in partnership with BC Association for Community Living, Canadian Mental Health Association (BC division), SPARC BC and the Community Legal Assistance Society, are calling on the Province to increase the PWD Benefit rate to $1200 per month to better reflect the cost of living in BC.

For more information on the government’s changes, please visit the following link:

http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2012/06/common-sense-changes-encourage-work-protect-vulnerable-families.html

We will also be providing more information when we have reviewed the changes more carefully.

TaxiSaver Community Forum

TaxiSaver Cuts
Community Forum

Tuesday, June 19, 1-3:30pm
Vancouver City Hall
453 West 12 Ave
TownHall Meeting Room

Wheelchair accessible. Sign language interpreters.
Everyone is welcome.

Please join us on Tuesday, June 19, from 1 to 3:30pm, to discuss the importance of TaxiSavers and why they should be re-instated.  Everyone is welcome. 

TransLink Board and staff have been invited, so this will be a good opportunity to voice your concerns and ask questions.

This community forum is co-sponsored by the City of Vancouver Seniors Advisory Committee and the City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee.

We are hosting three community forums about TaxiSavers:

Tuesday, June 19, 1-3:30pm, Vancouver City Hall, 453 West 12, Town Hall
Tuesday, July 3, 1-4pm, Community Centre, 870 Denman, Auditorium
Thursday, July 12, 10am -1pm, Vancouver City Hall, 453 West 12, Town Hall

Please come to any of these community forums, and please let your members and community know about them.

For more information, please contact  taxisaverissues@smartt.com