People receiving old age security pension no longer eligible for SAID benefits
Sask. NDP criticizes change; gov't says few residents affected
The Saskatchewan NDP is voicing concern over a change being made to the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program, which it says will cut some people off from benefits.
Starting Sept. 1, people aged 65 and older receiving the old age security (OAS) pension will no longer be eligible for SAID payments.
People who are currently receiving payments won't be affected.
"It creates a very, very desperate situation for many seniors who rely on SAID, who need that money to live and pay for the things that they need and rely on," said NDP interim leader Nicole Sarauer.
Anne Marie Pinack works at the Phoenix Residential Society, and is helping explain the change to some of its residents.
"I'm just finding that for us and for our residents it's just becoming increasingly more complicated and there's more and more barriers to receive services that seem to be being put into place."
Pinack said many of the people she works with have cognitive disabilities and complex needs, so hearing news of the upcoming change has been stressful.
"This is their livelihood, this is their survival and when they're hearing about cuts and things that are happening, they become very anxious and overwhelmed."
Sarauer also criticized the provincial government for not publicly announcing the change.
"The fact of the matter is the minister of social services hasn't come out and explained why they felt this cut was needed," said Sarauer. "If the minister thinks that this is justifiable the minister needs to come out and explain why she feels that way."
Change 'affects a very small number of people'
In response, Tina Beaudry-Mellor, the minister responsible for social services, said the change "affects a very small number of people."
Beaudry-Mellor couldn't confirm the exact number, but approximated that 10 people will be affected by the change each year.
The minister said the change was made to ensure SAID focuses on helping people with disabilities who don't have access to other financial means.
"When you turn 65 and you are eligible for an OAS benefit, there are a range of programs and services available for seniors out there; there are not for individuals with disabilities. So, it's important for us to maintain the integrity of [SAID]," Beaudry-Mellor said.
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