Manitoba seniors crime prevention program ending after $150K funding cut

For 14 years the SafetyAid program has been going into homes to make Manitoba seniors safer. The last thing they expected was for their funding to be slashed.

SafetyAid program staff found out they were losing funding at the start of May

The SafetyAid program, which helps seniors increase safety at home, has lost its funding. (CBC)

For 14 years the SafetyAid program has been going into homes to help make Manitoba seniors safer through pretty simple steps — better locks, peepholes in apartment doors and just talking about precautions.

The last thing they expected was for their funding to be slashed, said Amanda Macrae, CEO at Age and Opportunity, the non-profit organization providing specialized services for older Manitobans, including the SafetyAid program.

"We just really had no indication that SafetyAid would be one of our programs that would have funding cut," Macrae said.

At the beginning of May, the non-profit received a letter from Manitoba Justice outlining the terms of how $150,000 in funding for the program would be phased out.

"No real explanation has been provided to date," Macrae said.

The program sees workers go into homes of older Manitobans, particularly those who are low income, and do a crime prevention assessment before working to enhance safety.

It was expanded to include fall assessments and will also install deadbolts, peepholes, swing bars, smoke alarm batteries, non-slip bath mats, night lights, flashlights, fluorescent stair tape, ice melt for sidewalks and ice grip tips for canes for no cost.

"The agency has provided over 7,800 home audits and they've reached out and provided safety presentations and different outreach initiatives at housing expos, booths and health fairs to over 44,000 older Manitobans," Macrae said, adding they also speak about how seniors can avoid online and phone scams.

Throughout the years, it has expanded to service 39 communities in the province.

Amanda Macrae is the Chief Executive Officer at Age and Opportunity, a non-profit organization that provides specialized services for older Manitobans. (CBC)
Macrae said they have reached out to Manitoba Health, who provide some funding for the fall assessments, and were told there is no word on the continuation of that money.

That means the crime prevention portion will be finished in July and the slip prevention's future is completely uncertain.

"It's an incredibly important program and I think something that really provides support to older Manitobans to continue to age in place successfully, to help people maintain their independence and to feel secure and comfortable within their own homes and communities," she said.

NDP justice critic Andrew Swan brought the cuts up in the legislature on Tuesday. Speaking to journalists after question period, he said it's a small program but also a smart one.

"For the $150,000 the Department of Justice is going to cut, I just don't see that being a wise use of money and it's going to wind up costing the government way more in future years," he said.

He said it's better for taxpayers if seniors are prepared to stay in their own homes.  

"This program helps people's grandparents and parents stay in their homes," he said.

NDP justice critic Andrew Swan says its a small but smart program and the cuts don't make sense. (CBC )

In response, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson emailed a statement to CBC which said the government is committed to putting the health and safety of Manitoba's seniors first.

"The justice component of the SafetyAid program was reviewed. It was found that Manitoba Justice's goals for this program were not being met with measurable results," the statement said.

Macrae said she hopes there is an opportunity to speak to the minister about how it was an exceptional program.

"We would like the opportunity to understand maybe why the cut has been made and work with government to look at some solutions," she said.

"Maybe there have been discussions and there are plans to do something different and we would like to be part of that. We just want to make sure that older Manitobans have access to really important programs and services that really support people to age successfully, healthfully and independently."

with files from Sean Kavanagh