More than 13,000 people in Saskatchewan rely on the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program, but advocates say the benefits are falling behind.
“Many struggle for necessities,” Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) Chair Alaina Harrison said.
“They’re forced to live month-to-month and are unable to save any money, which can be devastating if an unexpected emergency happens.”
With the election approaching, DISC is calling on all candidates, regardless of their party, to increase the income benefit which has not been boosted since 2015.
DISC would like to see an increase of $100 per month per year, over the next five years.
“Moving into this direction will help us reach a meaningful, socially acceptable level of income for people with disabilities in Saskatchewan,” Harrison said.
For Charlene Eger, who lives with spina bifida, that extra $100 a month means being able to travel to Moosomin to see her father, or being able to buy special dietary requirements needed for her health.
“The extra $100 a month would really help to be able to live more comfortably,” Eger said. “Being able to do more things. Going out with family and friends. It would help a lot.”
Almost everything costs more in 2020 than it did in 2015, and DISC says support for people with disabilities needs to keep pace.
For example, a basket of goods that cost $100 in 2015, now costs $107.62, according to data from the Bank of Canada.
“The program should be linked to inflation,” said Eger.
According to DISC, a single adult living in Regina who qualifies for SAID gets around $1,064 from the government of Saskatchewan for their living income benefit.
“Imagine if all of us didn’t have an increase in our salaries for five years? We wouldn’t be supremely happy about it, and we’d be saying something about it,” said David Nelson, program consultant for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Saskatchewan Branch.
“And yet most of us don’t have a significant and enduring disability and the cost that it has.”
FULL COVERAGE: 2020 Saskatchewan Election
DISC says they are hoping all candidates take this issue seriously as they campaign in the coming weeks.
On Oct. 8, DISC will host an all-candidates forum in Saskatoon that will be streamed on Facebook Live. Harrison says all political parties are invited.
To date, no parties have released platforms with policies that would specifically benefit disabled residents.
Saskatchewan’s 29th general election is on Oct. 26.
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