The good and the bad:  changes to provincial Persons with Disabilities Assistance program 

 

Two recent changes to the BC Persons with Disabilities Assistance (PWD) program increase access while at the same time clawing back transit funding.

On February 11, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI) introduced legislation that will streamline the PWD application 28-page application for people with disabilities in the following programs:

  • Community Living BC (CLBC)
  • The Ministry of Children and Family Development At Home Program
  • BC PharmaCare Plan P – Palliative Care
  • Canadian Pension Plan – Disability

Initially, about 1,000 people each year will benefit from the change, most of whom will be youth transitioning into CLBC services.

The proposed changes will not only reduce red tape for people with disabilities and their families, they will also cut paperwork for doctors and other health care professionals who need to fill out forms on behalf of clients.

They will still need to apply for assistance and meet all other eligibility criteria. The proposed Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Amendment Act changes will come into effect in September 2016.

Four days later, on February 16, the Province of BC tabled a budget that includes a small and long-awaited increase to disability benefits – with a catch.  After a nine-year rate freeze, the PWD benefit will increase by $77 per month, but simultaneous changes to the PWD bus pass program results in a much smaller net increase for those who access the transit subsidy.

Under the new budget, also effective September 2016, people receiving PWD benefits will no longer be able to purchase an annual bus pass for a $45 annual fee. The cost of the bus pass will increase to $52 per month, plus an annual $45 administration fee, for a total of $669 per year.

For those on the PWD benefits program who also purchase a bus pass, the new changes means a meagre $25 per month PWD benefit rate increase.

Having increased by only $120 since 2001, BC disability benefit rate of $906 per month is among the lowest in the country; yet BC continues to be one of the most expensive provinces in Canada.

(with files from Inclusion BC and BC Disability Alliance).

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