Sask. Social Services still wants cuts, but existing clients to be grandfathered

The Saskatchewan government is backing off from proposed cuts that would have seen some social services recipients receiving less money — but only existing clients will be getting the reprieve.

Province says changes will make system sustainable, simpler

The Saskatchewan government says the changes to its income assistance programs are designed to make the system more 'sustainable,' but critics say they're hurting poor people. (Kevin O'Connor/CBC)

The Saskatchewan government is backing off proposed cuts that would have seen some social services recipients receiving less money.

"This is a really good day for those 2,700 people who were impacted by the budget," said Saskatchewan Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor. "I think we demonstrated that we listened, we heard their concerns and we responded to that."

In August, the province announced a number of changes to its income assistance programs, including some affecting recipients who were receiving income from two or three different programs.

The government said some people, for example, who were on the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program and were also receiving the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement would see some of their benefits reduced.

The idea behind the change was that people should receive income support from one program or another but not both.

On Monday, provincial officials said the government has decided it will continue with its overhaul of income assistance programs, but changes as announced will not apply to existing beneficiaries. Instead, those beneficiaries will be grandfathered. 

The amended plan is that any clients who are new to the programs will operate under the changes.

Changes criticized

When the changes were first announced, there was an outcry from clients and groups working with disabled and lower-income people, some who said the bottom line was that thousands of people would receive less money.

Some 2,700 people received letters that the changes were coming. However, the plans were put on hold while the province took another look.

NDP social services critic Nicole Rancourt said while the party welcomes the reprieve for clients, the redesigning of the income assistance program will still hurt many low-income people.

"I think they're [the government] doing this because they need some money and they're cutting services to our most vulnerable people because they've mismanaged all our money," said Rancourt.

In a news release, the provincial government said the changes "simplify the programs and contribute to their sustainability."


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