Vernon demanding more funds for disabled

Civic leaders are fuming because the province won’t provide more assistance to the disabled.

Moira Stilwell, social development minister, has informed the City of Vernon that the benefit rate for persons with disabilities won’t increase because the government does not have the financial resources.

“They don’t seem to suggest moving the rate and I want to express my disappointment,” said Coun. Bob Spiers.

In October, council wrote Premier Christy Clark to demand that disability benefit rates be reviewed.

According to the Disability Without Poverty Network, a single person receives a disability benefit of $906 a month, almost $500 below what is needed to cover basic essentials.

“Since 2001, the Persons with Disabilities (benefit) rate has increased by only $120 per month, while the cost of basic essentials, such as food, clothing, transportation, health, personal care and shelter, have increased by 17.2 per cent,” states the network.

“During this period, the cost of food alone increased by nearly 25 per cent.”

Some members of Vernon council have suggested the rate should be increased to $1,200 a month, which is the poverty line.

Stilwell defends her government’s position.

“B.C. has increased the overall funding for persons with disabilities on income assistance by more than 100 per cent since 2002,” she said in a letter.

“The number of persons with PWD designation receiving income assistance in the province is more than 83,000, up 81 per cent from 10 years ago. It would cost about $300 million to raise the monthly disability assistance rate to the $1,200 per month proposed by the Disability Without Poverty Network.”

Stilwell also points out that some disabled individuals receive provincial and federal tax credits, child supports and bonuses.

Rob Sawatzky, Vernon’s mayor, is clearly frustrated with Stilwell’s response to council’s request.

“They have missed the whole point,” he said.

“It (higher rate) is an economically astute thing to do.

“It saves you money in policing and hospital visits.”


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