On November 14, 2016, Social Services announced important updates to Income Assistance on three different, but related topics.
- We have made a final decision on the Income Assistance policy changes communicated to clients in August. While they will be applied to new clients, existing clients will not have their benefits impacted as a result of these policy changes unless their individual circumstances change.
- We are moving forward with a major Income Assistance Redesign project.
- We are also announcing the start of a pilot project for the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program (SAID).
Income Assistance Policy Changes
A final decision has been made regarding changes to Income Assistance programs that were communicated to clients this past summer. The changes will not be going forward as originally announced.
Beginning September 1 or October 1, these changes have been applied to new program applicants or to existing clients whose circumstances changed in such a way that their benefits would be affected: for example, they moved or began to receive income support for people over 65.
The changes simplify the programs and contribute to their sustainability.
The policy changes previously announced included:
- Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID): consider the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement when calculating benefits for families and people with disabilities who receive extra or “excess” living income through SAID;
- Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and SAID: end the grandfathering provision of excess shelter benefits under both programs in communities that previously had low vacancy rates;
- SAP and SAID: end the practice of exempting Seniors’ Income Plan (SIP) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) top-up benefits; and
- Saskatchewan Employment Supplement (SES): end the practice of grandfathering benefits for families with children aged 13 and over.
Income Assistance Redesign
The Saskatchewan Assistance Program was introduced almost 50 years ago. Since that time, the world has changed. Government has responded to those changes with a host of new policies and programs like the Transitional Employment Allowance, Rental Housing Supplement and Saskatchewan Employment Supplement.
Each improvement was introduced with the best of intentions, but after 50 years of incremental changes, Saskatchewan’s income assistance regime has become convoluted with almost as many different permutations of benefits as we have clients.
Our Income Assistance Redesign project is focused on developing a program and service delivery model that’s easy to understand and navigate. It’s about making sure our program is accessible to citizens in need and better supports them in addressing their barriers towards independence. It’s about having a program that makes sense and will be able to help our most vulnerable Saskatchewan citizens well into the future.
Income Assistance Redesign will not focus on the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program or on income supports for people over the age of 65.
We will be able to share more information as the project moves forward. Right now, it is in its early stages. More information is available on our news release and backgrounder.
Pilot Project for Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability Program
The Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability program is a separate income support program for people with significant and enduring disabilities. SAID is a relatively new program. We are evaluating it to make sure it is working well for the community and meeting the original goals of the program.
Beginning in November, the Ministry will begin a pilot and evaluation of the World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0, or WHODAS 2.0. We want to see if it will prove to be a better tool in determining the impact of disability than our current tool, the Disability Impact Assessment.
WHODAS 2.0 assesses how disability affects different areas of daily living and functioning. The World Health Organization developed it after conducting extensive research and clinical trials. The WHO continuously reviews the tool to make improvements based on reviews of its use. We want to see how well it works to assess applicants for SAID. WHODAS 2.0 has some attractive features such as standardized procedures, is simple to administer and applies equally across different cultures and adult populations.
During the pilot, new applicants to the SAID program will be asked if they are willing to participate in the pilot and complete both questionnaires. This is entirely voluntary and will take about an extra half hour. The pilot has no impact on whether a client is eligible for SAID as we will continue to use the Disability Impact Assessment as the tool for determining eligibility.
More information is available on our news release and backgrounder.