The minister is on a celebratory tour of B.C. to mark Community Living Month, but the celebrations don’t include any increase to welfare rates.
Income assistance rates, and disability assistance rates were last set in 2007 and haven’t increased since, and there’s no raise expected any time soon.
“Not in the near future,” Social Development and Social Innovation Minister Don McRae said Wednesday in Maple Ridge.
McRae said the message he heard during the spring’s election was “taxpayers of B.C., they feel they’re tapped out.”
While he realizes people want increases, “our party [priority] was to balance the budget so we’re not indebting future generations.”
For those on income assistance, the rate for single, employable person remains unchanged at $610 a month. A single, employable parent with one child receives a total of $945 a month.
However, the government last year increased the exemptions that people can earn at a job while collecting disability payments. People with disabilities now can earn $800 a month, up from $500 a month, without it affecting their disability payments.
That sum can be spread out over a year to allow people to take seasonal work, recognizing people with disabilities can’t always work an entire year.
That can help people, added MLA Marc Dalton, saying work can be therapeutic. “It’s the right direction.”
McRae was on the second day of a month-long tour of the province for Community Living B.C., the agency that supports people with disabilities.
Earlier in the day, he stopped at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Depot, where Community Living contracts with the recycling depot to provide work for people with disabilities.
That program was in danger of dying before being rescued and funding restored in 2011, before the last election.
Twenty-nine developmentally disabled workers, along with three support workers, were to have been laid off after Community Living said it wouldn’t renew the $270,000 contract. That decision was later reversed, preserving the program.
Later Wednesday, McRae stopped at the Salvation Army Caring Place Shelter in downtown Maple Ridge. The meeting involved a tour of the emergency shelter beds and 15 transitional housing beds, as well as an inspection of the kitchen, where 100,000 meals are served annually.
“We’re at a prominent point in the town, which can be a good thing and a bad thing,” said chef Tim Sarsfield.
But the emphasis is on community awareness.
“People are aware of what we do here.”
Salvation Army worker Mike Emery said the centre has guidelines for how it operates, but those are flexible because the centre does deal with people.
About a third of the people staying at The Caring Place are from out of town, Emery said.
“It’s a touchy issue, for sure.
“We do see people from Vancouver. We do see people from Surrey, all over. It’s a transient lifestyle.”
Usually the shelter is 97 per cent occupied.
McRae said The Caring Place plays a big role in the community, offering needed services in a visible location. “It’s great to see all three levels of government working together for the community.”
The Caring Place also has a community crisis vehicle to help people in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area during emergencies. It provides food and toys for 50 families at Christmas time and school supplies for 176 students in the area.
“Community Living Month is a time to celebrate the many contributions that people with developmental disabilities make year-round.”
“Each October, we have a chance to recognize how far we’ve come in building inclusion, and to plan for a future where we continue to grow acceptance and understanding of diversity in our communities,” McRae said in a news release.
Throughout the month, there will be community events, employment roundtables and forums to raise awareness and celebrate people with developmental disabilities as equal and contributing members of society.
There will be a series of employment roundtables with business owners, employers, community living service providers and local rotary clubs about inclusive hiring. Community Living BC has teamed up with rotary clubs, service providers and other organizations to facilitate these forums throughout the province. An events schedule is available at: www.communitylivingbc.ca.