FREDERICTON, NB – Ten disability organizations across New Brunswick have come together to call for changes to current Social Assistance policies, saying that existing supports do not meet the needs of people with a disability.
“Too many people with a disability in New Brunswick are living in deep poverty that is, in part, rooted in current Social Assistance policies and programming,” said Sarah Wagner, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Association for Community Living. “It’s time to end this situation with a new vision centred on people with a disability having a liveable income from fair income support programs and benefits and access to employment opportunities.”
Working together as the New Brunswick Disability Executives’ Network (NBDEN), the group has put together a series of recommendations outlining how Social Assistance can be updated to better reflect the reality of living with a disability today. These recommendations have been endorsed by the Premier’s Council on Disabilities. Broadly, NBDEN is calling for:
- A new and distinct disability income program
- Income security and a liveable income for people with a disability receiving income benefits
- Active measures to encourage and support employment for recipients
Currently, a single person receiving Extended Benefits – provided to individuals with a certified disability – would receive $705 per month. Individuals with a disability without a disability certification would receive either $612, or $571 per month under the Transitional Assistance Program. Despite these amounts, many people receiving Social Assistance are hesitant to seek employment over fears of losing their provincial health benefits should they become employed, and due to partial deductions from their benefits for every dollar of income earned over $500 per month.
“Current Social Assistance policies discourage recipients from seeking employment or entering into marital relationships, effectively keeping them in poverty,” said Wagner. “We should be doing everything we can to encourage and support people to improve their situation.”
People with a disability are one of the populations most impacted by poverty in New Brunswick, with nearly 10,000 receiving Social Assistance benefits, including people with a Long-Term Need designation under the Transitional Assistance Program.
“Many people don’t realize the additional costs that come with having a disability,” said Patty O’Donnell, a New Brunswicker who is blind and receives Social Assistance. “The costs of accessible housing, accessible transportation, nutritious food, extra medical expenses, and other support services adds up quickly.”
The Province has recently established a Task Force to review disability support services and programs offered by the Department of Social Development, including Social Assistance. The task force includes a representative from NBDEN.
“We’re pleased to be a part of the Task Force, and are looking forward to sharing our recommendations with the group,” said Wagner.
About the New Brunswick Association for Community Living (NBACL)
NBACL is a provincial, non-profit organization that works on behalf of children and adults with an intellectual or developmental disability and their families. NBACL leads in the creation of opportunities for individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability and their families to live full and valued lives in all aspects of society.
About the New Brunswick Disability Executives’ Network (NBDEN)
NBDEN is a supportive, professional peer network of executive directors of 10 major disability organizations in New Brunswick who have worked collaboratively for the past 25 years on advancing public policies that support full inclusion for persons with a disability and their families.
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New Brunswick Association for Community Living