Province urged to increase disability benefit payments

Government seeks suggestions to improve accessibility for the disabled ahead of white paper, summit

Concerns about mobility access for people with disabilities includes access to transit and HandyDart custom transit service.

Concerns about mobility access for people with disabilities includes access to transit and HandyDart custom transit service.

The provincial government is being urged to raise disability benefit rates that advocates say are far too low.

The call comes as community consultations get underway on issues facing people with disabilities to guide the drafting of a white paper on potential solutions that will be unveiled in June.

The disability benefit rate for a single person is currently $900 a month and the B.C. Coalition of People With Disabilities wants that raised to at least $1,200.

“That amount is for housing, food, clothing and all of life’s necessities and it is not enough to live with comfort and security in this province,” executive director Jane Dyson said.

She said the province deserves credit for increasing the amount that people on disability benefits can earn in wages without penalty to $800 about a year ago.

“That’s a positive step,” she said.

Dyson said a further improvement would be to calculate exempted earnings over the course of a year, rather than on a monthly basis.

She said that would allow people with episodic conditions who can work only a few months at a time to retain more of their wages.

Consultations are scheduled in the Lower Mainland from Jan. 28 to Feb. 13. Details can be found at engage.gov.bc.ca/disabilitywhitepaper, where comments are being collected until March 11.

Among the topics being considered are ways to improve accessibility to reduce barriers to mobility and employment.

Just 56 per cent of people of working age with disabilities are employed, compared to 74 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 who are not disabled.

“What would B.C. look like as the most progressive place in Canada for people and families living with disabilities?” asks the province’s terms of reference for the process, which was a BC Liberal election promise.

“What would make it easier for people with disabilities to work or contribute to the community? What needs to be in place?”

Social Development and Social Innovation Minister Don McRae has pledged to hold a summit on the white paper and its findings in early summer.

Dyson said she hopes the process leads to real solutions rather than a document that just ends up “sitting on a shelf collecting dust.”

 

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