This newsletter we offer:
- An Op Ed that addresses the current environment for disability activism and what comes next.
- Updates on our initiatives including the:
- Stories Project
- Political mobilization and Partnerships
- Every Canadian Counts continues its engagement with the:
- Disability and Work Conference
- Disability Inclusion Plan with its focus on the Disability Benefit and the,
- Disability Confidence in Finance Project, a product of the Canada Accessibility Act and lead by the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work
Once again we appeal for your financial support. We are growing and we need your help.
Publicly Funded Disability Insurance: Has the Time Come?
The Canadian federal Government in the last 6 years has done more to provide support and address the needs of persons with disabilities that an any time in the last 40 years. There has been the Accessibility Act of 2019, the pending Disability Benefit passing second reading of in October 2022, the passage of the Autism Strategy also in October 2022, as well as legislation on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD). On top of this was the launch of the Disability Inclusion Plan also in October of 2022. In historical terms this is nothing short of breathtaking1 .
But this legislation, enacted and pending, is only part of the story in two ways. First but significantly, these actions are associated with a change in the disability terrain in Canada, in the collective culture of the sector. Secondly however, it is notable for what issues these actions have not addressed. These shall be
addressed in turn.
That was then
Only eight years ago, 2015, those involved in advocacy and engagement with persons with disabilities at the federal level looked at a landscape that was factious, fragmented disheartened and disillusioned. Starved of resources, most advocates were exhausted, fighting to survive. Noses were to the ground and the capacity to rise above the fray and examine, let alone address, the wider systemic issue in the disability support system (especially collectively) was almost nonexistent. Everyone was fighting their own specialized battles, be it employment, housing, inclusion, transition management for this or that disability.
There was a dearth of data, and jurisdictional coordination was non-existent. Initiatives that had been the focus of attention for up to 35 years were still not being addressed. Accessibility for example, and agenda born of the 1982 Senate Report “Obstacles” and championed for years by the likes of Rick Hansen was
one. Another was the Poverty agenda, led by Al Edmanski and others from British Columbia. While it did have some success with the Disability Tax Credit it was far short of what was hoped for (or needed). Then there was the Autism agenda, born of yet another Senate Report “Pay Now Pay Later’ of March 2007 that even with the championing of the Public Health Agency of Canada found itself stalled.
It was while things were in this state that Every Canadian Counts came along suggesting a complete overhaul and refinancing of the system – advocating for a national disability insurance plan for Canada. The message was not well received in many quarters at the time let alone understood.
This is now
Since 2015, and under the energetic leadership of the Federal Minister for Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough, data on disabilities gathered by Statistics Canada has improved significantly. Organizations and activists have been brought together to engage with the federal government on the creation of the various legislative initiatives, supported by new funding. Networks, like the Include-Me Network, and now the Pan Canadian Disability Alliance have been created, building a level of cohesion and cooperation never seen before. And as we look ahead there is in place an action framework for the sector, the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, the DIAP (2022-2040), which, building on the Disability Benefit Legislation (Pillar 1) and the Accessibility Act (Pillar 3) focuses on Employment (Pillar 2) and improved access and relevance of federal government programs and policies (Pillar 4). In short, 2022 saw the plans, policies and directions that had driven disability community for activism up to four decades meaningfully addressed.
So, are we done?
Not at all, as the Disability Inclusion Action Plan indicates in its call to ‘undertake research to better understand the additional costs of disability and how these costs impact the financial security of persons with disabilities.’
What are these ‘additional costs?’ Across the sector, they are multitudinous. They range from supportive technology, prosthetics, transport, housing accommodations, therapies, day to day care, care giver compensation, and transportation. These are the most obvious additional costs and if we are serious about inclusion of persons with disabilities they will need to be addressed.
But there are also other costs that need to be acknowledged that are significant These are the system costs, and this is the second part of the story. The current disability support systems in Canada are inefficient, inequitable, often onerous, and inconsistent in application and outcomes. Waiting lists for services, in their tens of thousands, exist in every Province. Chronic underfunding reigns and is
getting worse as the population ages, families get smaller and often break down and personal finances get squeezed. Further complicating the picture, in addressing disability issues, policies and actions have come from different major funding envelopes. Employment related programming coming from ESDC while funding for specific strategies on disability such as the Autism and FAST come from Health Canada.
This leaves the question, which funding envelope will cover the ‘additional costs’ and address the systemic issues? Shall it be the costs related to employment (funded by ESDC) or to the costs associated with enabling broader social inclusion as per the Autism Strategy (funded by PHAC). And what of the inefficiencies? How will that be addressed? and by whom? If there is any solace in this unfortunate divide, is that performance measures for both funding envelopes emphasize quality of life and improved functionality as desired outcomes. The room to work together presumably does exist.
It is not like we do not know what to do or what works. We have the examples and experiences that show us what works, but they are usually isolated efforts, small or partial in scale and precarious in terms of funding and staffing. There is little capacity to ‘scale up’ and generalize. There is not the funding
The time is fast approaching to consider a national publicly funded disability insurance program. Operational principles have been established in the Autism Strategy. Under the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, the opportunity exists, following assessment of ‘other needs,’ to analytically examine its feasibility,
viability, and desirability.
This is not pie in the sky thinking – the precedent has been set in with the creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia. Of its 569,401 participants, 334,487 are receiving support for the first time, including for employment.
Only such a plan can deal with all the issues and all the solutions, simultaneously and comprehensively. The first step has been taken as noted in the bulletin above. Can this be something the entire sector can rally around?
1 The 1970 and 80’s
Every Canadian Counts continues its campaign for a better service and supports system for Canadian with disabilities: a system that meets need, is reliable and adequately funded, is available when needed and performance based. A National Disability Insurance Plan can provide the funding mechanism and framework to meet those objectives.
How would this work? Go to: https://everycanadiancounts.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Moving-Forward.pdf
How You Can Help: Actions and Engagements
Our Stories Project continues.
Why are these stories important? Because it lets Canadian know that needed services for persons with disabilities are simply not always available when, where, and to the level of quality they should be. Link with us here:
Please consider giving us your story. For guidance, please go here
Or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Partnerships Project
The overwhelming number of our national politicians – our MP’s, have little awareness of the situation that many hundreds of thousands of persons with disabilities face. We want to change that. Working through our Stories Project but looking more widely, we hope to link up every MP in Canada with families that will convey the challenges those families face when trying to support a family member with a disability.
If you are part of such a family and want to send a message to your MP, please contact us at email@example.com or call us at 613-447-8894.
Every Canadian Counts has been engaging national representatives across Parties and with the Senate of Canada. ECC has also harnessed the various political party policy processes with the objective of getting a budgetary commitment for a Public Inquiry into the feasibility, desirability, and viability of a national disability insurance plan. For ECC, the is the End Game for the Disability Inclusion Action Plan.
You can help by contacting your MP and telling your friends about us and telling them to do the same.
The Disability Inclusion Action Plan: Action Item Success
The Disability Inclusion Action Plan was released on 7 October 2022. ECC was a member of the Financial Security Pillar led by Inclusion Canada. Given our objectives we were looking to what comes next following the creation of the Disability Benefit in the realization that more would be needed.
Our request of the process was to undertake research into further needs beyond an income benefit was successful. Under Action to be undertaken one of them is to “Undertake research to better understand the additional costs of disability and how these costs impact the financial security of persons with disabilities “
Disability and Work Conference December 2022. .
ECC has sponsored a Panel at the Disability and Work Conference on Assuring Needed Employment Supports: The NDIS Challenge for Canada Wednesday November 30, 2022, at 12:30-3:30 EST1:10 to 2:05.) Parallel Session 12 (#60). Moderated by Co-Chair of ECC Jonathan Marchand, panelists include Bruce Bonyhady, Founder and first ED of the NDIS and Michael Kendrick well known consultant specializing in Leadership in the disability sector.
ECC has been sustained by a small group of dedicated volunteers, with the occasional summer student
thanks to our good friends at OCAPDD and its Executive Director Dave Ferguson. But as is evident here, and as we noted last time, we are growing and spreading, and with that, is the need for more resources. Also, and more importantly, disability insurance, as a public policy option, is gaining more traction and the need to engage the broader public becomes more imperative. That too requires resources.
ECC on the National Scene
ECCC is looking for donations to help us do all this. Please visit our website at www.everycanadiancounts.com and hit the DONATE button on the top right. Let us know if Paypal does not work for you.
Thank you for your time, attention, and continued support in our efforts to ‘End the Wait.’