Saskatchewan

'Stressful' to 'thankful': Sask. Social Services saga weighs on clients

Ian Morrison is one of the 2,700 people who was set to lose his income support until the Saskatchewan government changed its mind.

Government still planning overhaul of income assistance programs, but existing clients to be grandfathered

Ian Morrison says financial support from the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program has made a tremendous difference in his life. (CBC News)

Ian Morrison is one of the 2,700 people who was set to lose his income support until the Saskatchewan government changed its mind.

"It scared me a great deal because I thought I might lose my home, I might have to move to a place where I'm not as comfortable," Morrison told CBC Radio's Morning Edition.

In August, the province announced a number of changes to its income assistance programs. It would have meant less money for about 2,700 people on the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program who were also receiving the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement.

On Monday, the province changed its mind. It will continue to overhaul the income assistance programs, but changes will not apply to existing beneficiaries. Instead, those beneficiaries will be grandfathered.

Morrison would have lost $159 per month, which he said "sounds like a small amount." Such a cut, though, would have forced him to move to a different home.

"It was SAID helping me live my independent life and I got very scared that that was in jeopardy," he said.

Now, he's relieved.

Anticipated cuts still hit some clients hard

Anita Hopfauf, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan, said she's happy the government listened to the concerns expressed over the past few months.

"We're just so thankful now that they have realized that this has really created quite a problem for people," Hopfauf said. "I think they made the right decision and I think a lot of people are so relieved right now."
About 40 protesters gathered outside the Saskatchewan legislature on Oct. 19, 2016, to oppose changes to disability funding. (CBC News)

Despite the government's change of heart, not everyone came out unscathed.

"It's been pretty stressful," Hopfauf said. "Everybody was in a bit of a panic because they weren't sure, 'Do I have to move right away?' And some people even did move right away."

Hopfauf said one person she knows moved in anticipation of the cuts, and had to give up a cat she had for 14 years because her new home didn't allow pets.

The new home was also a downgrade: from a one bedroom to a bachelor suite in a less desirable part of town. On top of that, Hopfauf said the woman had to sell her car to pay for two months rent.

For Morrison, one of the most important elements of the SAID saga was knowing that people are "believing in your disability." 

With files from CBC Radio's Morning Edition

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