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Disability Benefit Rate Increase – Equalizing Poverty for BC’s Most Vulnerable Citizens

Summary: 
The BC Government tabled its 2016 budget yesterday, announcing changes to Persons with Disabilities benefits.

Disability Benefit Rate Increase – Equalizing Poverty for BC’s Most Vulnerable Citizens

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Westminster, B.C., February 17, 2016 - People with disabilities living in BC will receive a small increase to their disability benefits, but there’s a catch. Having increased by only $120 since 2001, BC disability benefit rates of $906/month are among the lowest in the country. As our provincial government today touted BC as having the best financial outlook in the country, it was finally ready to announce an increase in benefits. Inclusion BC was incredibly disappointed to learn that the newly announced increase is both inadequate and comes with strings attached, tied to the transportation subsidy that an individual receives.

  • People receiving disability benefits who also receive a transportation subsidy of $52/month will receive a $25/month increase.
  • People receiving disability benefits who also receive a transportation subsidy of $66/month will receive a $11/month increase.
  • People receiving disability benefits who do not receive either a Bus Pass or a transportation subsidy will receive a $77/month increase.

Says Inclusion BC Executive Director Faith Bodnar, “this announcement simply equalizes the hopeless poverty of people dependent on PWD benefits. Minister of Finance Mike de Jong indicated that the rate increase will level the playing field and provide choice for people with disabilities in how they use their transportation funding, with reference to those who sells their bus passes. This disparaging viewpoint and callous attitude is deeply offensive to the poorest and most vulnerable people in BC. People on PWD struggle with impossible pressures including whether to get a bit of extra money to buy food or take the bus.”

Together with recent positive policy changes, this small rate increase means little to those facing a future on PWD Benefits. In fact the lack of real increases to PWD rates since 2001 have meant people with disabilities in BC continue to lose ground, year after year in their fight for even the most basic necessities of life.  

Inclusion BC continues calling for a serious plan to raise people out of poverty and increase and index the PWD rates to reflect the rising cost of living. Touted as the most prosperous province in the country and the most expensive, we have neglected people with disabilities for too long. The consistent failure of our government to address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens is unacceptable.

The Minister is correct when he says, “The measure of any society is reflected in the degree to which it is willing to help the most vulnerable and create the kind of supports that will truly make a difference in their lives” (budget speech). By this measure, BC is failing our most vulnerable. 

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