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Province makes changes to PWD benefits, BCACL calls for an increase in rates

Summary: 
In response to recently announced changes to PWD benefits in BC, the Disability Without Poverty Network has issued a press release calling for a rate increase.

 

Changes to disability benefits in B.C. welcome but a rate increase is urgently needed.
June 12, 2012

The Disability Without Poverty Network issued a press release yesterday afternoon in response to changes made to Persons with Disability (PWD) Benefits. While these changes are welcome, we continue calling on the Provincial Government to raise PWD rates to reflect the cost of living and lift people out of poverty. The changes will come into effect October 2012 and earnings will start being calculated annually in January 2013. The changes announced yesterday include: 

Changes to Earnings Exemptions

  • Individuals receiving disability assistance will be able to earn up to $800 per month and still receive their full benefits. (Was previously $500)
  • A couple who are both collecting disability assistance can earn up to $1,600 per month without impacting their benefits. (Was previously $750)
  • Earnings are now calculated yearly instead of monthly. This will give people flexibility to work more during certain times of the year and less during others without it impacting their benefits. 
  • The waiting period will be waived for people who need to reapply for assistance after their benefits have been clawed back.
Changes to trust and asset allowances
  • People on disability assistance can now invest up to $200,000 – double the previous amount – in a non-discretionary trust account. 
  • Individuals will be able to access up to $8,000 per year from their trust account for any other cost related to promoting independence – nearly double the previous annual allowance – and make their own choices about how best to use these funds. 
 

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 the assistance available to people with disabilities in B.C. 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.)
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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 (office) or 778-895-6150 (cell)
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)