The government of Saskatchewan is not implementing the changes it proposed to income assistance programs earlier this year.
This summer, 2,700 people received letters from the Ministry of Social Services, indicating they would be facing cuts to their income. This comes from an announcement the province made in its most recent budget.
The province announced several programs would change to create fairness and increase equity for those receiving help.
The Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program faced the biggest change.
Now, the government said those 2,700 people will not face changes to their benefits until “such time as their individual circumstances change”, like a move.
New applicants to the program will face the new guidelines.
“Our government has listened to the concerns of those who would have been affected by these changes, and we have decided against implementing them for existing clients,” Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor said in a news release.
“We are committed to ensuring that our programs serve those in greatest need, that they are effective, and that they are sustainable. To that end, we will be focusing our efforts on reviewing and redesigning our income assistance programs to support those who need them most and help people participate in the economic and social life of our province.”
Social Services has begun reviewing and redesigning its income assistance programs, but will not focus on SAID or on income supports for people over the age of 65.
Earlier this year, the province announced that a number of changes to its Income Assistance programs would take effect either Sept. 1 or Oct. 1:
- Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID): consider the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement when calculating benefits for families and people with disabilities who receive extra or “excess” living income through SAID;
- Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and SAID: end the grandfathering provision of excess shelter benefits under both programs in communities that previously had low vacancy rates;
- SAP and SAID: end the practice of exempting Seniors’ Income Plan (SIP) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) top-up benefits; and
- Saskatchewan Employment Supplement (SES): end the practice of grandfathering benefits for families with children aged 13 and over.
Beginning Sept. 1 or Oct. 1, these changes have been applied to new program applicants or to existing clients whose circumstances changed in such a way that their benefits would be affected: for example, they moved or began to receive income support for people over 65.
The government said the changes simplify the programs and contribute to their sustainability.
New assessment tool
Social Services is testing an assessment tool developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine the impact of a person’s disability on their daily life.
New applicants to the SAID program can volunteer to be part of the study.
The government will evaluate the WHO Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 to see if it can accurately and effectively measure the impact of disability – how an individual’s disability impacts their daily living activities – for the SAID program.
“The evaluation and pilot of the assessment tool will provide a careful and measured process for determining the best approach for this very important program,” said Merv Bender, SAID program implementation advisory team chair.
“The advisory team looks forward to working with the minister and the government as we continue to support a better quality of life for Saskatchewan people experiencing significant and enduring disability.”
The government expects the pilot to run over the next few months. Results will impact future decisions about the SAID application process.