Don McRae, minister of social development
Don McRae, minister of social development, is gathering input on ways to enhance services for disabled British Columbians at two sessions in Kelowna today. He's open to suggestions on housing, jobs, ways to save money and other aspects of life.
Once information from the Kelowna sessions and others across the province are compiled, ministry staff will compile them in a policy paper to be delivered in June.
About 700,000 British Columbians identify themselves as disabled. They range from people with Down syndrome to seniors with mobility problems.
"We're looking at people who need a lot of government support and how we can support them," McRae said in an interview Wednesday.
The B.C. government is following through on a promise it made during last May's election, when Premier Christy Clark vowed to make the province the most progressive jurisdiction for people with disabilities, McRae said.
One initiative enables them to have a separate bank account that's distinct from daily income support so the holder can save money tax-free. McRae plans to trumpet the Registered Development Savings Plan, which can attract matching dollars from the federal government and grow.
"There's a real lack of understanding about what is the RDSP, who's eligible and how to apply," he said. "They can have some money parked for their future needs without having the threat of income-tax issues."
The provincial government recently reimbursed almost $350,000 to 900 disabled people after they had to wait too long for disability and other benefits.
Ombudsperson Kim Carter concluded the ministry routinely missed its own deadlines after people appealed its decisions to deny, reduce or cancel their benefits.
The sessions take place this afternoon and tonight at the Holiday Inn Express at 2429 Hwy 97. They're almost full, so organizers ask people to register online by visiting engage.gov.bc.ca/disabilitywhitepaper/about/community-consultation/.