New Brunswick

Province cuts caregivers benefit to fund home-care workers' wage increase

The New Brunswick government is eliminating an informal caregivers benefit introduced last year and using the money to boost home-care worker wages. The spending will increase average hourly wages to more than $14.

Increase will see average wages climb above $14 per hour

Dorothy Shephard, the minister of social development, says the primary caregiver benefit program has been cut to pay for wage increases for thousands of home-care workers. (CBC)

The New Brunswick government is eliminating an informal caregivers benefit introduced last year and using the money to boost the wages of home-care workers. 

The primary informal caregiver benefit was introduced last May by the former Liberal government.

It provided a non-taxable payment of $106.25 per month to people who informally, and without pay, assist or care for a Social Development client living at home with a physical, cognitive or mental health condition. 

Fewer than half the 9,300 Social Development clients eligible for the program had enrolled to receive it, according to the department. 

"Quite simply, the program wasn't achieving the desired outcome," Dorothy Shephard, the minister of social development, said Friday in Saint John.

"I'm very confident that the wage announcement we're making today will help make us achieve better results."

Haley Flaro, executive director of Ability New Brunswick, said the elimination of the program will hurt informal caregivers.

She said people used the benefit to help cover fuel when transporting someone to a medical appointment or for other household spending, such as snow removal and lawn care.

"This is quite concerning and we see it having significant impact on families," she said. 

Haley Flaro, executive director of Ability New Brunswick, says the elimination of the benefit will hurt informal caregivers, who look after people living at home with physical, cognitive or mental health conditions but aren't paid for it. (CBC)

Ability New Brunswick helped people fill out the paperwork to receive the benefit. 

The minister said there was no accountability for how the money was used and the success of the program couldn't be measured. 

The increased wage for home-care workers, announced as part of the provincial budget, will cost the province $16.1 million. 

The benefit program's $11.2-million budget will help pay for the wage increase.

Wage increase of 50 cents to $2

The increase will bring the average hourly wage above $14 per hour for home support workers, family support workers and attendant care workers. The increases, ranging from 50 cents an hour to $2 per hour, will affect the pay of more than 9,500 workers. 

Shephard said she is optimistic the wage increase effective May 1 will help recruit and retain workers.

While Flaro was pleased home-care workers will see an increase in pay, she said it won't necessarily help all who use home care services. 

About 60 per cent of the people Ability New Brunswick works with hire private home-care workers because they can't get agency workers in their rural locations or workers who can provide the level of care necessary, she said. 

"Those workers won't see any increase," Flaro said.

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