Community Update: Changes to Online Application for Disability and Income Assistance

March 2017

At the end of February, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (MSDSI) introduced major changes to the way that British Columbians apply for disability and income assistance. Here are the main changes as explained by the MSDSI:

• People who apply for income and disability assistance are now required to register for the Ministry’s MySelfServe online service and acquire a BCeID to start an application. Applicants need to start the process at myselfserve.gov.bc.ca;

• The new application gives the option to upload documents electronically rather than delivering them to a MSDSI office. People who prefer to deliver documents directly to a Ministry office can still do this;

• The new application is optimized for use on mobile phones;

• People who are unable to apply for assistance themselves can request that a Ministry worker assist them to fill out the application over the telephone. To request help call 1-866-866-0800. The worker you talk to should make a request for someone to call back within 3 days to go through the application on the phone;

• The new application questions will have less redundant information than the old application. For example, people without children will no longer be asked to provide information about the amount of child benefits they receive;

• Some confusing questions from the old application have been clarified;

Disability Alliance BC (DABC) is monitoring the impact of these changes. The former online application had some significant issues, and we are pleased that there have been changes made to help address this. At the same time, we have some concerns that the new system will create confusion and be challenging for individuals and community organizations familiar with the old system.

Some of the concerns that have been identified by DABC and the community about the new process include:

• Some people may find the multi-step process of registering for MySelfServe and BCeID confusing;

• It does not adequately notify people of the option to submit supporting documentation directly to a MSDSI office rather than electronically. This could create time delays and barriers to access for those unfamiliar with the application process or who are not comfortable using computers;

• The Ministry often does not provide adequate support to people who require in-person help to apply for disability or income assistance. As a result individuals may be insufficiently supported and find it necessary to contact a community agency for help.

If you have any questions about how the new system works, please feel free to contact our Advocacy Access Program at 604-872-1278 or 1-800-663-1278 to talk to an advocate. We would also like to hear about any challenges you are hearing from your clients with the new system; please contact Advocacy Access Program Director Sam Turcott. This helps us in our consultations with the Ministry on operational issues.

Thank you

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Community Update: Changes to Disability Tax Credit Certificate

Several changes were recently made to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) Certificate which is used to apply for the DTC.

New Address for DTC Applications

One significant change is that residents of BC are now instructed to send their DTC applications to the Winnipeg Tax Centre. Previously BC residents were instructed to send these applications to the Surrey Tax Centre. The Winnipeg Tax Centre address is:

Winnipeg Tax Centre
66 Stapon Road
Winnipeg MB R3C 3M2

We have some concerns that this change will create inconvenience or confusion for people applying for the DTC. However, we also hope that centralizing the review of DTC applications will result in better and more consistent administration of the DTC over time.

Shorter “Effects of Impairment” Section

The section “Effects of Impairment” on page 5 has also been significantly shortened. This is the only section of the DTC where substantive information about the impacts of a person’s disability can be provided and is very important to establish DTC eligibility. We remind applicants and their doctors that they have the right to attach additional sheets of paper to the application if there is insufficient space in that section to explain the effects of their disabilities.

Other Changes

In addition to these changes there have been a number of other changes to the application including new language in the section for applicants applying under the “Life-sustaining Therapy” category.

The DTC application form can be downloaded from the Canada Revenue Agency website (link) or requested through 1-800-959-8281.
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DABC now provides help and support to apply for the DTC to people in BC who are eligible for the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) through our Access RDSP initiative. We thank the Vancouver Foundation for their generous funding of this work as well as our partner organizations Plan Institute and the BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society. For more information about the DTC and the RDSP please feel free to contact us at 604-872-1278 or toll free at 1-800-663-1278.

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Press Release: Community leaders welcome Budget 2017 as a step forward, but map still needed for the road ahead

DABC and several other organizations have prepared the following press release regarding the 2017 BC Budget:

PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate release

Community leaders welcome Budget 2017 as a step forward, but map still needed for the road ahead

February 21, 2017

VICTORIA, BC— Community leaders welcome the 2017 BC Budget investments in social infrastructure as a positive step forward, while noting the need for further work, including comprehensive plans and more community/government collaboration, to improve the lives of vulnerable British Columbians.

Community Living BC

The 2017 budget increase for Community Living BC will help the provincial agency respond to expected growth in the number of adults with developmental disabilities requiring residential and community inclusion supports for the coming year.

However, remaining challenges include ongoing cost pressures, growing complexity of needs, accumulated waitlists and total caseloads that are projected to continue increasing in future years.

”We welcome the increase as a good step,” said Inclusion BC Executive Director Faith Bodnar. “But it is not enough to address the accumulation of unmet needs, as more youth transition to adult services each year, and families and support agencies struggle with more complex needs.”

The number of adults requiring CLBC supports has been growing by 5 – 6% annually in recent years and CLBC expects that trend to continue. The budget increase for 2017/18  reflects that trend. However, budget increases for the following two years (2018/19 and 2019/20) amount to 0.5% and 1% respectively, far below expected growth in the number of people served by CLBC.

“The funding gap creates severe stresses for community agencies and families who support people with developmental disabilities, in some cases resulting in acute crises,” Bodnar added.

Inclusion BC has urged a review of CLBC in light of challenges that include growing costs for aging adults and more complex needs including mental health, homelessness and addiction. “When people with developmental disabilities are forced to live in poverty, their challenges reflect those common to all people struggling with poverty,” Bodnar noted.

Persons With Disabilities (PWD) Benefits

Disability advocates hoped for a more significant increase to PWD rates than the $50 a month in the 2017 budget.

“Any increase to the rates is welcome, and we acknowledge that this is the second in the last 12 months,” Disability Alliance BC (DABC) Executive Director Jane Dyson said. “At the same time, an annual increase of $600 will provide little real improvement to the lives of people with disabilities who depend on provincial assistance and we welcome Finance Minister De Jong’s comments that we should continue to advocate for additional increases.”

BC’s Accessibility 2024 initiative includes both a commitment and a plan to make BC the most progressive province in Canada for people with disabilities by 2024. Advocates are urging that the Province build on this plan to resolve the constant lag between PWD rates and actual living costs.

“We need a plan to ensure that rates increase regularly, with indexing to inflation,” Dyson said. “We are also asking government to establish a stakeholder/government committee that allows us to work together on how such a system could work.”

DABC’s comments were echoed by other advocates, including Neil Belanger, executive director of the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society. “The recent PWD $50 / monthly increase announced by the government was welcomed but unfortunately less than what we and our sister organizations had hoped. We need to continue to work with government to ensure an adequate level of assistance is achieved and the vision of Accessibility 2024 realized.”

“Our concern is that without further adjustments, people with disabilities will continue to live in poverty and that CLBC will continue to serve as a crisis response system instead of proactively building capacity to meaningfully fulfill its mandate to promote real community inclusion,” Bodnar added.

Mental Health

Research shows that almost 70% of BC children and youth living with mental health problems do not receive the treatment they need, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (BC Division).

“Five of the most common mental health problems among children and youth – anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, substance use misuse, conduct disorder, and depression – are also preventable,” said CMHA-BC Policy Director Jonny Morris.

Today, the province announced a package of measures to respond to this treatment gap, improving child and youth mental health in BC schools, homes, and communities. This follows Friday’s announcement that the BC Government has signed on to the federal Health Accord, securing $655 million dollars for mental health and addictions care over the next ten years.

“Recent budgets have not emphasized mental health and addictions as much as Budget 2017,” said Morris. “It is encouraging to see a 20% increase in MCFD’s line item for child and youth mental health services. This is an important incremental step to the boost in funding needed to close the 70% treatment gap for BC children living with mental health and addiction problems.”

Affordable Housing

“As BC’s population surges, it is critical that the province continue to partner in building new rental supply of all types, particularly social housing that addresses homelessness,” said Kishone Roy, CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, speaking on behalf of advocacy group Housing Central:.

However, he noted, increasing that supply is difficult under current rent supplement programs and income assistance that only offers $375 toward shelter for people in the deepest need.

“We believe that both building new supply, and providing more direct support to renters are necessary to tackle the affordable housing crisis,” Roy said.

Community supports

ASPECT BC (Association of Service Providers for Employability and Career Training) offered a similar message.

“Community-based organizations that provide employment services and training to British Columbians looking for work have long been challenged to help their clients with barriers to employment such as mental health, housing, and transportation,” said ASPECT-BC CEO Janet Morris-Reade.

“We are pleased to see increased support for these issues in this year’s budget,” Morris-Reade said. “This gives community-based organizations the resources from which to draw that will ultimately help their clients along the pathway toward meaningful and sustainable employment.”

Indigenous children & individuals living with disabilities

The 2017 Provincial Budget contained a number of positive steps forward for Indigenous children and individuals living with disabilities within British Columbia, said Neil Belanger executive director of the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS).

“However,” Belanger continued. “We need to see continued movement forward by the government to ensure that adequate resources, supports and services are made available for our most vulnerable citizens, and at levels not just to survive but to be able to thrive in our communities.”

Children & Families

“A lift in the Ministry serving B.C.’s most vulnerable children is always welcome,” says Rick FitzZaland, Executive Director of The Federation of Community Social Services of BC.

“This budget includes investments in childcare, services to children with special needs and mental health challenges, and a commitment to do better for children in care,” he added.  “I am hopeful that the investment in children in care services will allow for the continued implementation of the recommendations stemming from our 2012 joint report with MCFD on residential services.”

About us:

Aspect

The Association of Service Providers for Employability and Career Training (ASPECT) provides leadership, education, advocacy, and public awareness in support of community-based workforce development service providers. We work with government and stakeholders to ensure that the needs of those seeking a meaningful and sustainable livelihood are met. Our members are leading experts in the delivery of career training programs to improve chances of employability and job retention for their clients. The focus has always been on making our communities sustainable by promoting the value of using local people who understand the market and can deliver the needed training and services.

Contact: Janet Morris-Reade, 250 818-0306 jmoorris-reade@aspect.bc.ca

British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS)

BCANDS is an award winning Indigenous disability and health organization serving Indigenous individuals and families living with disabilities, within BC’s First Nation and non-First Nation communities. BCANDS has provided services for over 25 years and maintains approximately 6,000 client files annually.

Contact: Neil Belanger 250 381-7303 ext 208 exdir@bcands.bc.ca

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA helps people access the resources they need to maintain and improve mental health, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness. Each year in BC alone, CMHA serves more than 100,000 people all across the province. For mental health and addiction information and resources visit www.cmha.bc.ca.

Contact: Jonny Morris 604 764-6226 jonny.morris@cmha.bc.ca

Disability Alliance BC (DABC)

DABC is a provincial organization that assists people with all disabilities. We provide direct services and programs to help ensure that British Columbians with disabilities live with dignity and independence in the community. Each year we assist hundreds of people with disabilities to access income supports, health services, and other programs. We also provide workshops and training, produce self-help and advocates guides.

Contact: Jane Dyson 778 895-6150 jwd@disabilityalliancebc.org

Housing Central

Housing Central brings together the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA), Co-op Housing Federation of BC (CHF BC) Co-op Housing Federation of Canada (CHF Canada), Encasa Financial, Community Land Trust and COHO Management Services Society. Housing Central collaborates on cross-sector partnerships that help impact public, policy, media awareness and deliver world-class education and events to support its vision of a safe, affordable home for everyone.

Contact: Cam McAlpine 250-961-6611 cmcalpine@prmedia.ca

Inclusion BC

Inclusion BC is a provincial federation whose members include community agencies, families and self-advocates, and which has led the movement away from institutions since 1955. We are dedicated to advancing rights, promoting abilities and building awareness as we work to support full citizenship and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Our vision is a world in which we all belong. For more, visit inclusionbc.org.

Contact: Faith Bodnar 604 764-2591 fbodnar@inclusionbc.org

Federation of Community Social Services of BC

The Federation is a group of community-based social services organizations that influence decision-making to improve the wellbeing of communities. We represent more than 140 member agencies serving over 250 communities across B.C. both on and off recognized First Nations territories. Federation members support communities through a wide spectrum of services such as support for those with disabilities, employment programs, early childhood education, homeless outreach and family programs; they employ more than 6000 British Columbians, and represent over $500 million of community investment in B.C.’s social service sector.

Contact: Rick FitzZaland 250 480-7387 rick@fcssbc.ca

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Province Increases Provincial Disability Benefit Rates

From the BC Government website:

“For the second year in a row, government is increasing disability assistance rates by investing $199 million over three years.

This investment is in addition to the $170 million announced last year to increase disability rates. It will benefit about 107,000 people with the persons with a disability (PWD) designation.

“As of April 1, 2017, disability assistance rates will rise by $50 per month, or an annual total of $600. Once the increase takes effect, a single person with the PWD designation will receive $1,033 per month in disability assistance, up from $983. A couple in which both are PWDs will receive an additional $100 per month, for a total of $1,773.

The increase in disability assistance rates complements a number of changes the Province has made over the last few years to further support people with disabilities, including:

  • Raising asset levels for people with the PWD designation to the highest level in Canada (along with Alberta);
  • Annualizing earnings exemptions to $9,600 per year, so people with disabilities can have more flexibility in their work schedule;
  • Exempting child maintenance and federal Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits for people receiving income or disability assistance; and,
  • Launching the Single Parent Employment Initiative to reduce barriers to employment for single parents on income or disability assistance. Since its launch in September 2015, more than 4,375 single parents have become involved in the initiative and more than 830 have already found employment.

The increase also supports Accessibility 2024, government’s 10-year action plan to make B.C. the most progressive jurisdiction in Canada for people with disabilities and continues government’s ongoing efforts to remove barriers for people with disabilities.”

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New paper from the Broadbent Institute: Toward Adequate Income Assistance for People with Disabilities in British Columbia

 

“British Columbia has a long way to go towards providing an adequate and dignified standard of living to persons with disabilities. In Toward Adequate Income Assistance for People with Disabilities in British Columbia, Broadbent policy fellow and Lansdowne Professor of Social Policy, Michael Prince, shows that despite a modest increase in the income assistance rate in 2016, persons with disabilities have seen a stealthy decline in assistance rates since 2007.

Current rates leave those on this assistance unable to meet the basic necessities of living. To tackle the systemic disadvantage and indignity facing persons with disabilities in BC, the report calls for a bold plan of social policy that can close the poverty gap and ensure BC’s income assistance system is the best in Canada by 2024.”

Read the paper here: http://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/adequate_income_assistance_bc

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Step Up for Women’s Equality – CEDAW Implementation Letter

DABC has signed on to West Coast LEAF’s letter calling for BC leaders to commit to implementing the recent United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) recommendations.

The letter can be viewed here: http://www.westcoastleaf.org/stepup/

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