Low Income an Extra Burden for Those with Disabilities (The Leader-Post)

Low incomes an extra burden for those with disabilities
By Judy Hannah, The Leader-Post February 1, 2011

The Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) was pleased to see the Jan. 21 article in the Leader-Post about people with disabilities living in poverty (“Benefits low, say recipients”).

DISC, which is comprised of individuals with disabilities and 38 advocacy organizations, is seeking greater enrolment in a respectful income program for people with disabilities in this province.

Saskatchewan is experiencing economic growth, but many people continue to live in poverty.

Currently, a single person with a disability receives, on average, $784 per month from social assistance, while a childless couple receives $1,161. A single disabled parent of one or two children receives just $950 monthly.

Not surprisingly, the majority of this money is put toward life’s necessities, with shelter coming first and food and transportation costs taking whatever is left over. Having a disability can create additional costs, as well, with medication often becoming a major expense.

People with disabilities who cannot work must be supported to live a life with dignity. DISC believes it is time for the provincial government to increase the benefit levels for individuals with disabilities. DISC believes it is time for individuals with disabilities to share in Saskatchewan’s prosperity.

Some progress has been made.

In 2009, the provincial government announced the creation of a new income support program for people with disabilities, called Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID). DISC is pleased to work with the government of Saskatchewan on the development of SAID, but the program was launched with a limited number of people enrolled and no increase in benefit rates. While the development of SAID is a step in the right direction, this program needs to be expanded to improve the lives of more people.

In December 2010, the Ministry of Social Services announced an increase to earnings exemptions for people with disabilities who receive benefits through SAID or through the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP). The Saskatchewan government and Minister June Draude deserve credit for this step forward, which will benefit about 540 people.

Still, there is so much more left to do. The sooner the benefit levels are substantially increased for all individuals with disabilities, the better.

JUDY HANNAH

Hannah is chairperson of the Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC).

Saskatoon

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