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May 8, 2009
For immediate release
Minister of Social Services and Seniors Introduces New Initiatives in Response to Final Report of Disability Services Review Committee
Social Services and Seniors
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Comprised of Islanders with disabilities and their families, service providers, members of advisory groups, and business people, the committee has been studying the range of supports and services that are available to local residents who have disabilities.
The committee’s final report contains almost 50 recommendations aimed at improving the disability services and supports that are available in PEI in the areas of employment, housing, inclusion, income, recreation and transportation.
“At the beginning of the process, the Government of Prince Edward Island realized the Disability Services Review would be a very complex undertaking. We were prepared to invest the necessary time and energy to support the Committee in developing a thorough document that reflects the needs of all Islanders with disabilities. At the end of the review process, we have received a well-informed summary of ways that our One Island Community can better support people with disabilities,” said Minister Currie.
The committee’s chair, Bridget Cairns, said the recommendations are intended for all levels of government, and all members of the community.
“The provincial, federal, and municipal governments, as well as businesses and community organizations must play a role in improving the quality of life for Islanders with disabilities. The committee’s final report is a road map of how, over time, we will get there together,” Cairns said.
Minister Currie said he supports many of the committee’s ideas and announced his staff would begin implementing several recommendations immediately, including:
• Forming a Disability Action Committee, comprised of government staff, community advocates, and people with disabilities to serve as an advisory body for legislation, policy, programs and services that may affect people with disabilities.
• Hiring a new Disability and Community Development coordinator to guide the committee, as well as non-government organizations (NGOs) that partner with government to extend services to people with disabilities.
• Supporting the creation of a new eight-unit affordable housing facility for people with intellectual disabilities in Alberton, in partnership with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Community Inclusions, a non-profit group. The province is contributing two lots of land with an estimated value of $40,000 to the project, and increasing the group’s annual grant for 2009-10 by nine per cent to $691,800 to assist with staffing for the new facility.
• Addressing housing needs by developing accessibility guidelines for contractors who build new social housing units for families and seniors.
• Developing a public education and awareness campaign to shine a spotlight on the social isolation that can sometimes result from a disability, and encouraging Island businesses to accommodate more people with disabilities in the workplace.
• Continuing to exempt Registered Disability Savings Plans from eligibility criteria for all income-tested social programs.
• Reviewing the allowable asset levels for determining social assistance eligibility.
The Department also fulfilled several of the report’s other recommendations in the new provincial budget, including:
• Increasing the social assistance food allowance by 10 per cent, for the first time in nine years, for an increased annual investment of $500,000.
• Increasing the social assistance shelter allowance by five per cent (corresponding with IRAC’s allowable rental increase) for an increased annual investment of $676,500.
• $205,100 in funding increases to a number of NGOs that partner with the province to extend residential, employment, vocational, transportation, and respite services to people with disabilities. The Department is also following up on the Auditor General’s recent recommendations to improve transparency, accountability and reporting practices among all NGOs, while ensuring the work each organization does is in line with the Department’s mandate, vision, and legislated requirements.
• Increasing the budget of the Disability Support Program by $505,000.
The Disability Services Review committee held extensive consultations with residents last year and summarized the public’s ideas and views in its first report, released last September. The committee also commissioned a scan of service delivery models in five provinces to identify best practices. Using those two documents as the foundation for its work, the committee invited a diverse group of Islanders to form working groups and develop recommendations for the government.
Printed copies of the report, including the full list of recommendations, are available through the Department of Social Services and Seniors by calling 1-866-594-3777, or on the web at www.gov.pe.ca/sss.
Details about the new Community Inclusions housing facility in Alberton will be released at a separate news conference to be held shortly in the community.