News Release - May 13, 2009
PROVINCE LAUNCHES NEW PROGRAM FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Beginning this fall, thousands of Saskatchewan people will no longer need to depend on social assistance for their basic living costs, following the announcement today of a new income support program for people with disabilities.
"Our government is taking action to improve the lives of people with disabilities," Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer said. "For years, people with disabilities and their organizations have been telling government that they needed a new, dignified, less-intrusive income support program. In this year's Throne Speech, our government promised to ensure that people with disabilities in Saskatchewan receive the support they need, and today we are keeping that promise."
The new program will begin on October 1, 2009, when the first group of recipients - an estimated 3,000 Saskatchewan people with disabilities - will be enrolled and begin to receive benefits. The initial group will be individuals currently on social assistance with long-standing and well-documented disabilities. Over time, enrollment in the new program is expected to reach between 8,000 and 10,000 people.
"We're pleased that the new program will be collaborative, non-intrusive, and impact based, drawing upon many of the key principles recommended by the Disability Income Task Team," Disability Income Task Team Community Co-chair Merv Bender said. "The disability community greatly appreciates having the opportunity to work collectively with government on the development of this historic new program. The work and direction of the task team was confirmed by our many community discussions with people with disabilities, their families and with other Saskatchewan citizens."
Over the winter, the joint community/government Disability Income Task Team met with more than 400 stakeholders. They recently provided Minister Harpauer with recommendations based on these consultations. The new program, which will be separate from the existing Saskatchewan Assistance Program, will be based on the goals and principles recommended by the task team, including:
"The announcement of this historic new income replacement program is a turning point for people with disabilities in Saskatchewan," Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) Chairperson Judy Hannah said. "The new program is a testament to all of the hard work by government, DISC and by the members of the Disability Income Task Team on this important issue. DISC is pleased to continue our collaboration with the provincial government as this process moves forward."
A new Community Advisory Committee will be created to continue the successful collaborative approach between government and disability stakeholders.
One of the committee's first priorities will be to work with the ministry on establishing criteria to determine who is eligible for the new program, and to ensure that the new process is fair, effective and fully considers the impact on the individuals enrolling in the program.
The committee will also support the work of the ministry on other details of the new program prior to the October 1 implementation date including:
"Giving people a greater opportunity to contribute to their well-being is an important factor in helping them to build self-reliance," Harpauer said. "As a government, we are committed to doing our part to ensure people with disabilities participate fully in our society."
The report by the Disability Income Task Team and information gathered during the community consultations is available on the Ministry of Social Services website at www.socialservices.gov.sk.ca. More information about the new income support program will be available as work continues. Clients may contact their local Social Services office if they have any questions.
For more information, contact: