British Columbia

Broadbent Institute report recommends B.C. boost disability rates substantially

Broadbent policy fellow and professor Michael Prince calls for a substantial funding increase to ensure B.C. meets its goal of being the "most progressive province" for people with disabilities by 2024.

Report author Michael Prince says income assistance rates are at poverty level

The Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation says 117,804 British Columbians suffering from severe physical or intellectual disabilities collected disability payments as of Dec. 2016. (Shutterstock)

A new report from the Broadbent Institute says British Columbia must invest more into making sure people on disability assistance can meet a basic standard of living.

In 2014, the provincial government committed to making B.C. the most accessible province for people with disabilities by 2024 through a 10-year action plan.

The report — penned by professor of social policy at the University of Victoria Michael Prince — recommends the province increase disabilities assistance payments.

According to the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, those payments support 117,804 people in the province who have significant physical or intellectual impairments. Those numbers were taken as of Dec. 2016.

Prince said the annual rates right now are not enough to cover living expenses.

"The rate now for a year is a little over $11,500," he explained.

"I'm looking at getting that up to the neighbourhood of $19,000, or $19,500. To get there, that means a steady, not immodest amount of money — $50 million to $150 million each year — incrementally invested through two governments and eight budgets."

The provincial government did increase the rates in Sept. 2016, but many critics said the increases were not sufficient.

Prince said the major problem for those who rely on disability assistance is the rates aren't indexed and are vulnerable to inflation.

"The last rate increase before Sept. 2016 was back in 2007/2008. Between then and last fall, inflation ate away a significant chunk of the true purchasing power of the benefit, a third of it. The increase last fall did not compensate for all that loss."

Prince said while the government's 2024 objects were laudable, "specific steps" need to be taken to meet its targets.

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Broadbent Institute report recommends B.C. boost disability rates substantially