Senior & Disabled Social Programs Still Missing the Mark in 2023

Throughout 2022, numerous people contacted my office describing the difficulties they face when trying to navigate Saskatchewan social programs, especially the Senior’s Personal Care Home Benefit and (PCHB) and the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID).
Concerning the PCHB, there is a terrible conundrum facing Private Long Term Care Homes and the many Seniors who are in dire straits because the subsidy no longer covers costs. The average care home fee in Saskatchewan is $2900.00/mo. The subsidy, set over 10 years ago, caps the recipient’s total income at $2,000.00/mo. This means a person, in need of care, must somehow come up with extra money for the fees and then must also find a way to pay for their personal incidentals.
Senior’s who last year were looking forward to a ‘raise’ delivered through federal government programs, discovered their PCHB clawed back. I wrote to the government last April identifying these shortcomings with no movement to be seen yet on this critical issue.
Also, under the umbrella of Social Services, is the SAID program. When introduced in 2009, it was meant to provide income with dignity to those living with disability, without being on the ‘welfare’ role. The government heralded the program as making Saskatchewan “the best place in Canada to live for people with disabilities”.
However, those who have contacted me about this program, disagree. There are some serious flaws that come up repeatedly.
For instance, disabled people on SAID are forced to apply for EARLY Canada Pension Plan. This can effectively reduce their future income for life by approximately 30% after they turn 65 and no longer qualify for SAID. After they start receiving early CPP, the SAID benefit is clawed back.
The program also claws back benefits if recipients receive bank e-transfers from other people, no matter what the reason.
For example, if a grandmother e-transfers gift money through the mom’s bank account to a grandchild, that money is deducted from the SAID benefit. The same rule applies even if the SAID recipient is being reimbursed for a purchase they make on behalf of someone else.
However, the disabled person is allowed to EARN up to $6,000.00 if they can. (Up to $8,500.00 for families.) But it must be earned. Gifts are not allowed to be counted as part of the $6K. Given that many people on SAID cannot supplement their income with earnings, this creates a level of unfairness.
The often slow-turning wheels of bureaucracy can cause even more problems for those depending on SAID funds. When someone’s account is under review for this, the benefit is withheld until the social worker, likely swamped by their caseload, can ‘get to it’. This means the recipient now falls behind on bills, incurs late payment penalties, household stress, and probably needs to access the food bank so their family can eat.
There is nothing dignified about that.
In 2023, I will continue to ask this government to do better when it comes to our societies’ most vulnerable on these and other issues that are failing Saskatchewan people.