Questions and Answers about the New Disability Income Support Program

General:

Q: Who is eligible to receive the new disability program benefits?

A: Phase One of implementation scheduled for October 2009 will be targeted at existing clients with long-standing and well-documented disabilities. In the long term, the program will be for people with significant and enduring disabilities and little or no income. The significant and enduring nature of their disability will be based on an impact based assessment that will be done to determine their eligibility. Further details have not been developed.

Q: Who will qualify in Phase One? How will this determination be made?

A: Approximately 3,000 clients will be involved in Phase One. These individuals will be those social assistance clients with long-standing and well-documented disabilities. Further details are still being developed, however, we expect many will be those who live in residential care arrangements.

Q: Why are you making up to 7,000 people with disabilities wait until subsequent phases of the program?

A: The program is to be focused on people with significant and enduring disabilities. At present, the Ministry does not have detailed disability information on clients other than those who will be involved in Phase One enrollment.

The Community Advisory Committee will assist the Ministry in the development and selection of a disability assessment tool. This tool will be used to determine the impact of disabilities for remaining individuals and their potential enrollment in the new program.

Q: Are seniors eligible for the new program?

A: The October 2009 phase of implementation will be targeted at existing social assistance clients with long-standing and well-documented disabilities. Full program eligibility details have not yet been developed.

Q: Are people living on reserve eligible for the program?

A: No, the new program will not be available to on-reserve residents. The Federal Government is responsible for providing basic income support for people living on-reserve.

Q: How do people apply for the program?

A: For the October 2009 enrollment, you will not need to apply for the program. The Ministry will be identifying existing clients who are eligible to transfer to the new program and clients will be notified late in the summer. For the future phases of implementation, the details have not yet been developed on how individuals will apply.

Q: When can people apply for the new program?

A: For the first phase of implementation in October 2009, there will be no need to apply. Individuals meeting the first phase criteria will be identified and contacted by the Ministry later this summer. The exact details around this have not yet been developed.

Q: How much are benefits under the new program?

A: When implemented in October 2009, the benefits and amounts will be the same as those currently provided through the Saskatchewan Assistance Program. Overtime, we will work to develop a new benefit structure.

Q: Why are you implementing the program with the same benefits as SAP?

A: This program is going to take a number of years to implement fully and individuals will be transferred into the new program in phases. In order to ensure equity and fairness, no significant changes to benefits will be considered until all intended clients have been moved into the new program. The timing of these phases is not yet known.

Initially, clients will benefit from a new totally separate program with a different name and identity. The staff they deal with will be specially trained to deliver services to people with disabilities through this program. Clients will notice differences in how their cheque looks, there will be less need for monthly financial reporting and they will not need to reestablish the existence of their disability every year.

Q: What health benefits are provided?

A: People receiving benefits through the new program will continue to receive Supplementary Health Benefits.

Q: Can people still get the Rental Housing Supplement if I get benefits from the new program?

A: Yes, you can still receive other benefits from all other Ministry programs that are available to people with disabilities.

Q: Can people still receive CPP or other disability income benefits and be eligible for the new program?

A: Yes, you can still receive benefits from other programs such as CPP. However, when the new program is implemented in October 2009, these benefits will still be considered income and be included when calculating the amount of your benefits.

Q: Can people still work or seek work if they are receiving benefits from the new program?

A: Yes, you can still work and you may receive benefits from the new program. However, earnings over a certain amount will impact the amount of benefit received.

Q: Will clients still have to report income and expenses to get benefits?

A: Yes, at the beginning you will still need to report your income and expenses, however, changes will be implemented to reduce routine reporting requirements. The exact details have not yet been determined.

Q: How will the new program be less intrusive?

A: The program will be designed specifically for those with significant and enduring disabilities. In recognition the circumstances of this client group change less frequently, the program will require fewer reporting requirements and clients will not have to re-verify their disability status once enrolled in the program.

Q: Where can I get more information?

A: There are a number of ways that you can get information about the new program. General information including recommendations by the Task Team is available on the Ministry website at: www.socialservices.gov.sk.ca.

Social assistance clients and their caregivers may contact the client’s Income Assistance or CLD worker or any Social Services office.

Q: How many people with a disability currently receive Social Assistance?

A: Currently, about 13,000 cases or 60% of the SAP caseload has a disability.

(54% of SAP/TEA caseload).

Q: How will participation be determined for the Community Advisory Committee?

A: Details on membership has not been finalized.

Q: What is the role of the Community Advisory Committee?

A: The new community advisory committee is being created to continue the successful collaborative approach between government and disability stakeholders. The committee will work with the Ministry to select a new assessment tool to determine who is eligible for the new program, and to ensure that the new process is fair, effective, and fully considers the impact on the individuals enrolling in the program.

The committee will also support the Ministry in its work on other details regarding the new program including a new name, reduced reporting requirements, revised benefit structure, staff training, and new service delivery approaches.

Q: How much will the new program cost this fiscal year? What will it cost to fully implement?

A: In the first year we will incur some implementation costs related to communications, technology changes and other incidentals. Details are not yet available.

Q: What is the name of the new disability income support program?

A: No formal name has been determined yet.

Q: Is this new program essentially just a name change?

A: No. The new program marks a significant shift in social policy for Saskatchewan. For years, people with disabilities and those who represent them, have been asking for a separate income support program. Today’s announcement is historic in that we are creating a totally separate program for this client group. Over time, we will continue to work with the Community Advisory Committee on design and implementation of the program.

Q: Why did it take so long to provide people with disabilities with such a program?

A: Responding to the concerns of people with disabilities is a high priority of our government and we have acted swiftly. In last year’s Throne Speech we committed to responding to these concerns and today we are announcing the introduction of a new program for those with disabilities.

Q: How much is the average cost per case for a person with a disability today?

A: On average, single persons with disabilities receive about $850 per month through the Saskatchewan Assistance Program.

Q: The Task Team advanced 50 recommendations for consideration. Have you adopted all recommendations?

A: The recommendations will form a framework for the development of the new program that will occur over time. Some of the recommendations will become part of the first phase in October of this year – such as establishing a new Community Advisory Committee, reducing reporting requirements, establishing a new name and identity, and delivering disability-specific training to staff. Other recommendations will be used to guide the work for future phases after October of this year.

Clients/Community:

Q: Will clients get a new worker?

A: Program details, including service delivery approaches and staffing models have not yet been determined. A priority will be placed on ensuring the changes create as little disruption to clients as possible.

Q: How will caregivers and trustees be notified that clients will be transferring to the new program?

A: Clients will be notified by the Ministry that they are being transferred to the new program. Individuals acting on their behalf would receive the information in managing the client’s correspondence.

Individuals who act on behalf of clients as trustees will be notified. Trustees may direct their inquiries on behalf of clients to the client’s Income Assistance Worker.

General information is available on the Ministry website from the client’s Income Assistance or CLD workers.

Additional details will be available over the next couple of months and you do not need to do anything at this point.

Staff:

Q: Who will deliver the program when implemented in October 2009?

A: Ministry staff will deliver the new disability program.

Q: How will you select staff to deliver the new program?

A: Details on the delivery of the new program have not yet been developed and therefore it is too early to provide answers on what specific staff will be involved.

Q: What kind of training will be provided to prepare staff to deliver the new program and when will it be provided?

A: A training plan will be developed that will cover new processes to administer the program, disability specific training and client service training. The Ministry will be working with the disability community to ensure the training supports the needs of the people we serve and is based on best practices.

Q: How will the program be delivered? In the regions or through the Contact Centre?

A: Details on the delivery of the new program have not yet been developed and therefore it is too early to provide answers on what specific staff will be involved. However, for the first phase, we would expect limited changes from today’s model where current long term cases are supported through either the Benefit Administration Services office in Saskatoon or through regional staff.

Over time, additional service delivery approaches will be implemented so that clients have choice as to how to interact with the Ministry. We anticipate that services will be delivered both in person and through other modes.

Q: How will you determine caseloads, particularly size?

A: Detailed implementation is just beginning, and decisions such as this have not yet
been made.

Q: How will you assess eligibility for the program?

A: One of the first pieces of work is to select an assessment tool. The Community Advisory Committee will play a significant role in selecting a new tool. Initial plans on how to do this include researching the potential assessment tools, consulting with the community and recommending a tool. The recommended tool will then be first tested with current SAP clients to determine its effectiveness and appropriateness. The results of this work will result in a new assessment tool that will be used in the future to determine eligibility for the new program.

Q: Who will do the assessments for the October implementation?

A: There will be no assessment ‘per se’ for the October implementation. The first phase will include transferring those cases whose circumstances are already well documented and assessed and clearly make them eligible for this program. Future phases will require more detailed assessment and therefore we’ll need to await the development of a new assessment tool.

Q: How will clients be notified that they are being enrolled in the program?

A: Clients who are being enrolled in the first phase in October will be notified by the Ministry later this summer. The exact details and timing have yet to be determined.

Q: If the benefit structure isn’t changing, how is this any different than SAP?

A: The new program is a major change in social policy for Saskatchewan people with disabilities. Over time it will have many differences. Initially, clients will benefit from a new totally separate program with a different name and identity. The staff will be specially trained to deliver services to people with disabilities through this program. Clients will notice differences in how their cheque looks, and will no longer need to reestablish the existence of their disability every year.

To help manage the amount of change, the Ministry has elected to slowly transition both clients and staff into the new program. Over time there will be many more changes.

Q: You say fewer reporting requirements, but how can you do that when our regulations require paper?

A: Many reporting requirements are defined by policy and can be changed quickly.

Q: Will staff have input into the development of the new program?

A: Yes, that process has already started. Staff have been engaged in the early development of the program and have helped shape the foundation of the new program. Over 100 staff participated in the consultations in March and April. As detailed program design and implementation continues there will be additional opportunities for staff to participate in the planning of this program.

Q: What kinds of services will staff be required to provide in this new program?

A: Details on the new program have not yet been developed. In the early phase of the new program, we would expect minimal changes to services provided by staff.

Q: Will our job descriptions change?

A: Details on the new program have not yet been developed and therefore it is too early to assess what, if any, impact there may be on job descriptions. If roles and responsibilities do change significantly, new job descriptions will need to be developed and reviewed to ensure appropriate classification.

Q: Will the worker positions for the new program be the same classification as the SAP worker?

A: Again, details on the new program have not yet been developed and therefore it is too early to assess what, if any, impact there may be on job descriptions and classifications.

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