Sask. government dialing back income benefits for disabled people

Changes coming to Saskatchewan’s social assistance supplement programs means about 2,700 people will see a reduction in benefits as early as Sept. 1.

Changes will eliminate two income benefits paying for the same thing

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer. (CBC)

Changes coming to Saskatchewan's social assistance supplement programs means about 2,700 people will see a reduction in benefits as early as Sept. 1.

In the budget, the Saskatchewan Party government announced it would move forward with changes to some of its income supplement programs to increase equity and fairness, as well as addressing the problem of duplicate benefits paying for the same needs twice.

This week, individuals relying on supplemental social assistance started receiving letters saying they will no longer be receiving extra living income benefits beyond the standard living income benefits.

Effective Sept. 1, the government will end the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement's practice of grandfathering benefits for families with children aged 13 and over.

We will do our best to ensure that those clients being affected will get the service and support they need to adapt to any reductions in their benefits- Donna Harpauer, Minister of Social Services

The government will also end the practice of exempting Seniors Income Plan and Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up benefits in the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and the Saskatchewan Assured Income Disability (SAID) program and simplify the provision of Transition benefits for children under SAP and SAID when families are not receiving the Canada Child Benefit.

Effective Oct. 1, Social Services plans to remove the exemption of the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement when calculating benefits for those who are receiving extra or excess shelter benefits under SAP and SAID.

That means, for example, a person in Saskatchewan receiving benefits from SAID and the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement will see a reduction in the benefits they receive, essentially receiving only income benefits from one program, not both.

In a statement, Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer said the government recognizes these changes will result in challenges for some clients who depend on social assistance. It estimates 3.9 per cent of all income assistance and supplement cases will be impacted by these changes.

"We will do our best to ensure that those clients being affected will get the service and support they need to adapt to any reductions in their benefits," Harpauer said.

Opposition slams decision to reduce benefits

The Opposition NDP slammed the government's move, criticizing them for forcing the province's most vulnerable people to pay for the government's mismanagement of the economic boom.

"Programs that help our most vulnerable keep a roof over their heads are not the reason the Sask. Party has run such deep deficits," said the NDP's Social Services critic Nicole Rancourt. She added cutting these funds will create more problems for them.

People in the province receiving funding under the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities (SAID) program were recently notified that they would see their monthly supports cut by hundreds of dollars.

Since 2008, the province has invested $3.4 billion to support people with disabilities, including $502 million in this year's budget for people experiencing disabilities — a 134 per cent increase since 2007-08.

Investments into SAID have quadrupled since its creation. Since 2012, it is up to $350 for single people or parents living independently, up to $400 for couples with no children.