Federal Budget... Welcome Steps, but More Needed to Combat Poverty and Exclusion of Canadians with Disabilities

    TORONTO, March 19 /CNW/ - For some years Canadians with disabilities have
been calling on the Government of Canada to take the steps needed to combat
their deepening poverty and longstanding exclusion. Today's budget provides a
couple of welcome measures. More still needs to be done.
    The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) congratulates the
Government of Canada on introducing a Registered Disability Savings Plan
(RDSP) to provide families greater opportunity to save for the future
financial security of a child with a severe disability. As a national
organization of 420 local associations, 13, provincial/territorial
associations and 40,000 members who work to advance the full inclusion and
citizenship of Canadians with intellectual disabilities and their families we
know all too well their daily struggles and contributions to Canadian society
and our economy. It is estimated that over 75% of adults with intellectual
disabilities live in poverty, among the highest of any group in Canadian
society. CACL is also grateful to PLAN Canada for its years of work in
developing proposals for this initiative and to the Expert Panel on Financial
Security for Children with Disabilities which made formal recommendations to
the Minister of Finance in December.
    The 'Enabling Accessibility Fund' introduced in this budget - $45 million
over three years - is not anywhere sufficient to address extensive barriers to
physical access that people with intellectual and other disabilities face in
Canada. Nonetheless, the Government's intention to develop this new Fund in
collaboration with provinces and community groups should help ensure it
demonstrates innovative approaches to barrier removal that can be built upon
more systemically. We urge the Government to consider establishing
requirements within its much larger Infrastructure initiative to ensure that
municipalities are using federal grants to build fully accessible
infrastructure and retrofit existing infrastructure that continues to pose
barriers to Canadians with disabilities.
    The proposed Working Income Tax Benefit and Disability Supplement will
provide up to $750 per year for low-income working single persons with
disabilities and up to $1,250 for single parents and couples. We congratulate
the Government for recognizing in this program that additional incentives and
coverage are needed to assist people with disabilities over the 'welfare
wall.' However, we are hopeful this new program provides significantly
enhanced benefits in future years. As well, we are hopeful that very soon
program initiatives will be taken to address the income needs of 500,000
Canadians with significant disabilities who are confined long-term to living
on welfare in this country. These are inadequate programs to meet their
disability support and basic income needs.
    Other promising initiatives include the proposed 'Canadian Mental Health
Commission' to implement the recommendations of the Senate Committee Report,
Out of the Shadows at Last. We urge the Government to establish terms of
reference for this Commission to give specific attention to people with
multiple disabilities - who face mental health issues and who also have
intellectual and/or other disabilities. For too long, people with intellectual
disabilities have not been well served by the mental health system in their
communities. For many, their encounters with the system have resulted in
long-term confinement and worse.
    Budget 2007 also proposes to transfer additional funds to provinces and
territories for labour market programming and employment-related benefits and
services for vulnerable groups. The impact on people with disabilities is not
clear. Any new investment would be welcome. Current federal programs and
levels of funding are not adequate to addressing the over 55% of working-age
adults with disabilities who are either unemployed or not in the labour force.
    In summary, Budget 2007 provides some helpful recognition of the needs of
Canadians with disabilities. But a much more comprehensive and substantive
strategy to address what remains unconscionable levels of poverty, lack of
support and exclusion is still needed.

For further information:

For further information: contact, Michael Bach, CACL Executive
Vice-President, at (416) 209-7942.

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