About 100,000 British Columbians are designated Persons with a Disability (PWD) and receive disability assistance from the provincial government. This number has doubled since 2001.
The system of supports is about more than just rates. B.C. is home to some of the most comprehensive supports for low-income individuals and their families in Canada.
- The disability assistance caseload is increasing at a rate of about 4% a year, due to an aging population and a growing awareness of mental illness.
- The ministry will provide about $1.2 billion in disability assistance in 2017-18. This is a 231% increase from $373 million in 2001-02.
- Budget 2017 includes $199 million in new funding over three years to raise assistance levels for PWDs. This investment builds on the $170 million announced in Budget 2016 to increase disability assistance rates.
- Government will also provide $953.8 million in base funding in 2017-18 to Community Living BC, which supports about 19,000 individuals with developmental disabilities, including individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) or autism who also have significant limitations in adaptive functioning.
- People on disability assistance have access to a wide range of supports:
- Everyone on assistance receives free Medical Services Plan as well as Pharmacare coverage, which provides 100% coverage of eligible prescription costs as well as dental and optical coverage. Families with children can keep this supplemental coverage for a full year after they leave assistance for employment.
- People with disabilities have access to even more support like wheel chairs, orthotics, hearings aids, medical transportation and nutritional supplements.
- People with disabilities who leave assistance for employment or federal programs like Old Age Security are also eligible to keep these supplements.
- B.C. is the only province to provide a subsidized bus pass to low-income seniors and people on disability assistance.
- Recent changes to disability assistance supports include:
- Asset levels have increased to $100,000 for a family with one person who receives disability assistance (up from $5,000) and to $200,000 for families where two people receive disability assistance.
- People on disability assistance can receive cash gifts and inheritances with no impact on their assistance.
- There is no annual cap on payments people on disability assistance can receive from trusts (previous limit was $8,000 per year).
- Earnings exemptions for families with a child with a disability who receive income assistance increased from $300 to $500 a month.
- Child-support payments are now fully exempt for families receiving income and disability assistance.
- Employment Insurance (EI) maternity and parental benefits and EI benefits for parents caring for critically ill children are fully exempt for people on income and disability assistance.
- Earnings exemptions for all individuals receiving disability assistance are now calculated on an annual basis up to $9,600, instead of monthly, providing greater flexibility for those whose ability to earn fluctuates during the year. About 12,500 people on disability assistance keep more of the money that they earn – about $90 million this year, on top of their disability assistance.
- New legislation simplifies the disability assistance application process for some persons with disabilities (PWD) – about 1,000 people each year will benefit from this change. People with disabilities who are already approved for services in certain provincial and federal programs will no longer have to complete an application for the Persons with Disabilities designation.
- The Province has invested an additional $4 million for the Communications Assistance for Youth and Young Adults (CAYA) program to further help improve technology and services for British Columbians who are without functional speech. Since 2005, the Province has provided CAYA with nearly $27 million to support the work of this program.
- Government provided CanAssist with $4.5 million to expand its services for seniors living with dementia, and children and youth with special needs, to ensure people can access unique technologies that help increase their independence and quality of life.
- The Home Adaptations for Independence program provides financial assistance of up to $20,000 per home to help people with disabilities modify their home for accessible, safe and independent living.
- The Home Renovation Tax Credit of up to $1,000 annually has also been expanded to include people with disabilities to assist with costs related to permanent home renovations to improve accessibility, mobility or functionality in a home.
- A vast array of programs and services are available across government for people with disabilities with total funding of more than $5 billion a year. For more information, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/disabilityservices
- Government also provides a wide range of services and supports to help people with disabilities find work, through Employment Program of BC and WorkBC. For more information, visit: www.workbc.ca/Resources-for/People-with-Disabilities.aspx
- Since April 2012, the Employment Program of BC (EPBC) has:
- Served more than 88,000 clients with disabilities.
- Invested more than $217 million in services and supports, including more than $32.5 million to assess needs and provide disability supports, such as assistive technology, to more than 48,500 job seekers with disabilities.
- Supported more than 27,800 people with disabilities who have successfully reached their employment goals using EMBC services.
- $3 million a year has been committed for assistive technologies to help people with disabilities find work through the Technology@Work program. For more information, visit: www.neilsquire.ca/bctechatwork/
- Community Living BC launched a three-year Community Action Employment Plan (CAEP) to increase the number of people with developmental disabilities who are working. Between March 2013 and March 2016, the number of people CLBC serves reporting income grew from 2,200 to 4,000. Moving forward, CLBC has set a new three-year goal to assist an additional 1,000 people to access employment, for a total of 5,000 by 2019.
- Through the Single Parent Employment Initiative (SPEI), single parents on income and disability assistance may be eligible for up to 12 months of funded training for in-demand jobs or a paid work experience placement and child-care costs during their training or work placement and in the first year of employment. Single parents will also be able to remain on assistance while attending a training program as they gain the skills they need to find employment: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/income-assistance/on-assistance/employment-planning/spei
- Through B.C.’s Motor Fuel Tax Refund Program for People with Disabilities, individuals may also be eligible for a refund of up to $500 each year on the motor fuel tax paid for fuel purchases. Individuals with disabilities may also qualify for a 25% discount on their Basic Autoplan Insurance. For more information, visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/sales-taxes/motor-fuel-carbon-tax/fuel-tax-refund
- People with disabilities on income assistance may also be eligible for free camping, along with their camping party, at any BC Parks campground throughout the province. For more information, visit: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/fees/disability.html
- B.C. has set a vision to become the most progressive place for people with disabilities in Canada.
- To achieve this vision, the government released Accessibility 2024 in June 2014, a government-wide 10-year action plan to increase accessibility and decrease barriers for people with disabilities. For more information, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/accessibility
Sean LeslieMinistry of Social Development and Social Innovation