Province of British Columbia - News Release

Handicapped Status to be Redefined

Ministry of Social Services
1995:34 - May 26, 1995

Last Update: 09.01.1997

VICTORIA -- Proposed changes to eligibility criteria for the handicapped benefits program, under the Guaranteed Available Income for Need Act, would enable persons with disabilities to take their places in the mainstream of society, Social Services Minister Joy MacPhail said today.

"The definition of handicapped used by the ministly has not changed for 20 years," said the minister. "Current policies discourage employment and economic independence by forcing people with disabilities to declare themselves pelmanently unemployable."

By redefining handicapped status to stress the duration, rather than the permanence, of a person's disability, the ministry recognizes the episodic nature of many disabling conditions and the employment potential of those with physical or mental disabilities.

The ministly also recognizes the need to separate the administration of handicapped benefits from that of income assistance and will review other service delivery models.

"I have called for a joint cornmunity/govemment advisory committee whose mandate is to recommend options for delivery of an effective, accountable and affordable benefits program for disabled British Columbians,"
said MacPhail.

Representatives from the AD Hoc '95 coalition, whose organizational mission is to advocate for fundamental reform of income support systems for people with disabilities, say this is an important first step. The three organizations, the B.C. Association for Cornmunity Living, B.C. Coalition of People witi, Disabilities and the Canadian Mental Health Association - B.C. Division, will continue to work towards enabling persons with disabilities to achieve greater independence in their cornmunity.

Government is committed to helping persons with disabilities achieve greater independence through training and employment opportunities offered by the Ministry of Skills, Training and Labour. For example, this year, the public service training program will fund as many as 125 training opportunities in govemment ministries and Crown corporations for persons with disabilities. Other programs, under Skills Now, are increasing post secondary access for students with disabilities and expanding vocational rehabilitation programs in communities across the province.

There are currently 26,000 people in receipt of handicapped benefits at a cost of nearly $200 million a year. It is estimated that an additional 3,000 people could qualify for handicapped benefits as a result of the proposed changes. Eligibility for income support will continue to depend on medical assessment of the condition, in addition to income and asset tests.

The benefit rate for a single person is $771/month. Income assistance clients designated as handicapped also receive basic MSP coverage and additional benefíts including:


         Karen .lohnston
         Communícations Division
         (604) 387-6485 (Victoria)
         Margaret Birrell
         B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities
         (604) 875-0188

         Judy Carter - Smith
         BC Association for Community Living
         (604) 875-1119
         Bev Gutray
         Canadian Mental Health Association
         B.C. Division
         (604) 254-3211

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