Changes to benefit system modeled on systems for seniors and Canada Child Benefit Benefit would replace welfare for working age people with severe disabilities
The Caledon Institute has presented a proposal, Caledon Basic Income Plan, to overhaul Canada’s patchwork and failing system of social supports for working age Canadians who are severely disabled and living in poverty.
The new system would prevent the abject poverty that afflicts Canadians with disabilities where a single adult in New Brunswick is subsisting on roughly $8,000 a year, which is less than half of the LICO (Low Income Cut-Off).
This poverty exists despite the billions being spent at the Federal and Provincial levels.
The proposal is comprehensive but not a system that purposes major increases in social spending.
Instead it proposes to use the existing systems, like the Income Tax Act and Canada Pension Disability Benefit, to streamline and reorganize benefits making them more effective in eliminating poverty for working age Canadians with severe disabilities.
In most jurisdictions in Canada, the majority of people subsisting on welfare are persons with disabilities. Poverty has become their lot in life through no fault of their own.
For example the disability case load in PEI for persons with disabilities is 58.3%. The rate is above 50% in Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, BC, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Social assistance programs are expensive to administer, unlike the Child Benefit Program.
A Basic Income Plan for Canadians with Severe Disabilities is a new report commissioned by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living. Written by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy, the document describes the current situation facing Canadians with severe disabilities and sets out a detailed plan to revolutionize income support and services.
Established in 1992, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy is a private, nonprofit organization with charitable status. It is supported primarily by the Maytree Foundation. The Caledon Institute doesn’t have a high public profile but has considerable influence in developing Canadian social policy, including the National Child Benefit.
Basic Income Plan
The Basic Income Plan is restricted only to those working age Canadians who have severe to very severe disabilities. The Federal government already has two similar systems that qualifying those people – the Disability Tax Credit and the CPP Disability Benefit. Caledon suggests the two be merged into one qualification that eliminates the anomalies between the two.
The Basic Income Plan suggests that the Disability Tax Credit be converted to a $2,000 refundable tax credit. More than half the people who qualify for the DTC have such low income they don’t receive any benefit from the $7,196 non-refundable credit.
The DTC was intended to offset additional costs those with disabilities have related to housing, transportation and medical costs. It doesn’t have much value for those who need it most, those living in poverty. A lawyer in a wheelchair earning $150,000 receives a tax credit of $3,600 whereas someone on social assistance receives none. That is hardly a practical use of taxpayer’s money.
The Basic Income Plan would build on existing systems and replace social assistance. The provincial windfall from ending social assistance in more than 50% of the files could be diverted to disability supports, the other pressing need of those living with disabilities. Disability supports include assistive devices such as wheelchairs, personal services to assist independent living and social inclusion.
Unlike many similar proposals in the past, the Basic Income Plan is comprehensive and includes a clear and relatively simply program transition for the Federal government from today to the new system. While not cost neutral, it can be accomplished with existing infrastructure and relatively minor incremental cost.
More on the Basic Income Plan tomorrow. We recommend anyone in the disabilities, social assistance or related fields take a few minutes to read the Caledon Basic Income Plan.