Changes to Disability Assistance Programs Effective this Fall

In June, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) announced a number of changes to the welfare regulations that will affect people on income and disability assistance. These changes are generally positive steps that include such things as increasing the asset limits and earnings exemptions for most people on assistance. Unless otherwise indicated, these changes take effect October 1, 2012

On July 3, the Minister of Social Development announced that funding for some of the medical equipment and supplies that was cut in April 2010 would be restored. These changes will be implemented in October 2012

Listed below are the new rules and benefits that impact people on disability assistance (PWD):

New medical items that will be covered by MSD: Ventilator supplies, Bariatric Scooters, Standing frames, Positioning Chairs, Non-conventional glucose meters, Inhaler accessory devices, Apnea monitors, Toe orthoses, Underliners for orthoses, Syringes for medication, A second floor-to-ceiling pole, Foot abduction orthosis, Transfer aids, Positioning items on a bed, Tracheostomy supplies, Nebulizers, Humidifiers for tracheostomy patients.

New exemptions and limits for PWD

  • Increasing the asset limits for individuals to $5,000 (up from $3,000)
  • Increasing the asset limits for couples and families to $10,000 (up from $5,000)
  • Increasing the earnings exemption for singles on PWD to $800 per month (up from $500)
  • Increasing the earnings exemption for couples who both have the PWD designation to $1,600 per month (up from $750)
  • Increasing the non-discretionary trust exemption lifetime limit to $200,000 (up from $100,000)
  • Increasing the trust disbursement exemption for “promoting independence” to $8,000 per year (up from $5,484) and allowing the person on PWD to decide how this money can be spent to promote their independence (rather than MSD)
  • Exempting income tax refunds (previously tax refunds have been exempt to the earning exemption limit)
  • Reducing the wait period for earnings exemptions to one month for new applicants, and eliminating the waiting period for PWDs returning to assistance (previously the wait period has been 3 months)

About the earnings exemption

It should be noted that recipients can take advantage of the new earnings exemption as early as August 2012. For example, if someone on PWD earns $700 in August 2012, they are required to report the income on their cheque stub that must be returned to MSD by September 5, 2012; then the new earnings exemption of $800 is applied by MSD to their October disability assistance cheque (sent out in the last week of September) which means that there would be no deductions as $700 is under the new exemption limit.

Furthermore, MSD has agreed to consult with the BCCPD and other members of the Disability Without Poverty Network on a new annual earning exemption for PWDs that will be introduced next year. An annual exemption benefits people who earn high amounts over a short period of time.

Other changes in welfare regulations

Additional changes announced by MSD include:

  • Mandatory income tax filing starting in 2013 – there will be exemptions for those who are at risk, such as fleeing an abusive spouse
  • For people on basic income assistance, a new $200 per month earnings exemption
  • For families with children, an increase in the annual school start up supplement (effective July 1, 2012)
  • Extended work search requirements for new applicants for basic income assistance who are able to look for work. This period will be 5 weeks instead of 3 weeks

For more information

The link to the provincial government’s news release and backgrounder on restoring medical equipment and supplies is:

The link to the news release and backgrounder on changes to earnings exemptions, asset limits, and other regulations is:

Or, you can contact Advocacy Access at 604-872-1278 or toll free 1-800-663-1278