Saskatoon rally pressures government to reverse social services cuts

Protesters in Saskatoon rallied against cuts to income support programs for people with disabilities on Friday.

The cuts to income support programs will affect about 2,700 people in Saskatchewan

Protesters in Saskatoon rally against provincial cuts to income support programs for people with disabilities. (David Shield/CBC)

Protesters in Saskatoon shared personal stories about their difficulties living on income support payments at a rally panning program cuts for people with disabilities on Friday.  

About 2,700 people will see their benefits reduced when the province enforces changes to social assistance supplement programs being phased in by the provincial government. 

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

It will also stop 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. 

Changes are streamlining: province

The government said it was streamlining the programs to make them fair and equitable, because some clients were currently receiving triple rental supplements from different programs. 

But the changes have been called "cruel" and "abhorrent" by program clients, who said they would struggle to pay their rent and bills. 

Protesters sign a petition against cuts to social services income support programs in Saskatchewan. (David Shield/CBC)

People affected by the changes rallied at City Hall Square in Saskatoon on Friday to pressure the government to reverse the cuts.  

'Not dead yet'

SAID recipient Roberta Fehr questioned how the affected social services clients would continue to pay rent.

"Where are you going to move us to? Where are we supposed to go?" said Fehr. 

"There's not enough affordable housing. There's not enough people policing these landlords who can charge whatever they want."

She added that SAID clients were not dead yet and the government should be investing more to support them. 

Doctor weighs in

Westside Community Clinic family doctor Ryan Meili said the province had ignored recommendations from the Poverty Costs program, which he said had urged the government to invest more in income supports. 

"We did definitely recommend streamlining but streamlining to make it easier to get the benefits for which you're qualified, to get what you really need," said Meili. 

"Not streamlining to cut programs. That doesn't facilitate access, that makes people's lives worse."

Changes delayed

Earlier this month, the province dropped its Sept. 1 deadline for enforcing the changes.

It said it was slowing down the process so that all 2,700 clients would have time to meet and discuss their cases with Social Services individually.