"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

~ Niccolo Machiavelli, historian and writer

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RDSP Information Workshops

Independent Living Nova Scotia (ILNS) is pleased to be offering free workshops throughout Nova Scotia to help you understand the Registered Disability Savings Plan.

Helping you save

The Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) is a long-term savings vehicle to help you, your child, your family and others save for the long-term financial security of a person with a severe disability. Contributions to an RDSP could be supplemented by matching Canada Disability Savings Grants from the Government of Canada. The Canada Disability Savings Bond is also available for low-income families even if no contributions are made. RDSPs can be opened until the year the beneficiary turns 59 and Grant and Bondcan be received until the year they turn 49.

You have questions; we have answers.

To schedule a workshop in your area or for more information please contact ILNS at 453.0004.

We can also be reached toll free from anywhere in Nova Scotia at 1.877.310.4567

Friday, August 26, 2011

2011 RDSP Update

It is a pleasure to announce another new feature to our web site – videos about the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP), the Canada Disability Savings Grant and the Canada Disability Savings Bond in American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ). The Office for Disability Issues developed these videos to provide members of the Deaf and hard of Hearing communities with general Program information. These videos are equipped with closed captioning and voice narration.

Also, as you may have read in the information kit recently mailed to you, the Government of Canada introduced two improvements to the RDSP, the grant and the bond that provide more flexibility to Canadians with disabilities and their families when saving for the future.

  • Effective January 2011, individuals can claim unused grant and bond entitlements from the past 10 years (starting from 2008, the year RDSPs became available). This applies to new and existing plans.
  • · As of July 2011, parents or grandparents will be able to arrange for some or all of their retirement savings to be transferred, tax-free, to the RDSP of their financially dependent child or grandchild when they pass away.
More recently, in Budget 2011, the Government also announced a new provision that gives more flexibility to people with shortened life expectancies when making withdrawals from their RDSP. This measure is effective as of June 26, 2011.

The contents of this information kit have recently been added to the “In Focus” box on our web site.

We invite you to visit www.disabilitysavings.gc.ca to use these tools to promote awareness about the RDSP, grant and bond among your membership. Information about the RDSP, the grant and the bond continues to be available on our web site, or by calling 1 800 O-Canada (1 800-622-6232). TTY users may call 1-800-926-9105. A detailed brochure – available in alternate formats such as large print, Braille, audio cassette, CD, DAISY, and computer diskette – is also available by calling these numbers.

Should you wish to make an inquiry by e-mail, please send your message to rdsp-orgs-reei@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca.

Kindly,

RDSP, Grant and Bond Outreach Team
My apologies for mostly just passing on information received from others recently.  But it is good information and I try to tell myself that it's better to pass along such material then to post nothing at all. 

It's not that I don't have stuff of my own to write about, it's just that life can be ... complicated, at times.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Acceptable?

Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reads as follows:
‘States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community’
But the government of Nova Scotia lacks any current deinstitutionalization commitment with institutions actively being built and/or renovated. This province views institutions as part of the acceptable continuum of residential services for persons with intellectual disabilities.
• In Nova Scotia hundreds of families/individuals are living in near crisis situations while waiting for appropriate residential supports. Many others are living in types of supportive housing unsuitable fortheir needs and detrimental to their health.

• The Riverview Residential Centre (in Nova Scotia) is ‘Home’ to 96 individuals with intellectual disabilities. A Report was commissioned after 22 incidents of abuse were reported at the facility.

• In Ontario, at least several hundred people are living in large congregate care settings such as Homes for the Aged, Psychiatric facilities, Nursing Homes, etc. for no reason other than their label of intellectual disability and the fact that they cannot access the supports they need from a more appropriate source
Meamwhile, as we await the release of the provincial government's report on the Braemore situation, a new incident of abuse surfaces.

Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Right.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Saga Continues

About this and this and that:
On August 8th, the government made very significant changes to the income assistance regulations regarding ‘special needs’ assistance. These changes cut essential health related assistance to people with disabilities. Attached to this email is a chart which makes clear the regulatory changes.

We urgently need your help in letting the government know that the recent cuts to human rights protections and services from income assistance legislation are unacceptable.

Please write/call Premier Darrell Dexter and your MLA. Let them know you are concerned about the rights of the poorest people in Nova Scotia.

Below you will find:

- Background information

- A form letter you can send to the government

- Contact information for the Premier and MLAs

You can also;

Visit the Stop the Special Needs Cutback – Defend Welfare Rights in Nova Scotia Facebook page

See footage from a press conference held Tuesday, August 16 where disabled people and allies spoke out against the cutback here.


:::Background Information:::

On August 8th government announced changes to the Employment Support Income Assistance regulations. These changes mean that special needs assistance that had been available for people who could show that they required items or services for ‘essential’ needs or to ‘alleviate pain and suffering’ have simply been repealed. They’re gone!

Particularly, from the perspective of people with disabilities, this is a significant setback in their enjoyment of human rights. The changes strip people of their right to obtain accommodative special needs services which they could show were either ‘essential’ or necessary to ‘alleviate pain and suffering’. Now, if required items or services are not found in the ESIA Special Needs Policy Manual, they can't and won't be provided.

We would like to respond to some of the arguments we’ve heard from government in the media:

"Nothing has changed"

The Department of Community Services has changed the law. In the past, courts have said that Community Services policy was not consistent with the law. Rather than change their policy to conform with the law, the government has stripped persons with disabilities of their legal rights by repealing the regulation that gave people in need the right to seek essential services.

Rights have been taken away. The government has restricted special needs – particularly in the area of health care. Now the law prohibits special needs assistance for things like "non-MSI insured services.” This is very broadly worded to apply to many health needs "items, services, treatments and substances."

This means that certain dental care including most non-emergency care, massage, physiotherapy, psychological counseling, medical marijuana, and many other health services and treatments cannot be provided prescription drugs unless they are approved as a benefit under pharmacare program

Even though the government's figures show that few people were accessing exceptional special needs assistance, this does not justify taking away the right to obtain accommodative special needs items or services. The fact that so few people were able to obtain their rights on paper does not justify taking those rights away.

Loophole

The government has said that people who received exceptional special needs assistance were exploiting a "loophole". It was not a “loophole”, it was the law. See the chart attached to this email explaining the regulatory amendments.

Level the playing field

The government says that the change was made to "level playing field", to provide the same assistance to all people in Nova Scotia.

Before the law was changed, people in need had the right to seek assistance for essential services. Now no one has the right to seek assistance for essential services. In that sense, everyone is being treated identically. It’s like saying "the law forbids rich and poor from sleeping under bridges".

In fact, the changes limit the items and services people can receive to those listed in policy and take away the ability of caseworkers, boards and courts to grant individualized and accommodative special needs. In fact, it is precisely the attitude of ensuring that everyone will be treated the same that is at the root of why this will be so harmful to people with disabilities whose needs can only be determined in context by and assessment of each person's situation--a limited province-wide list of what is covered can never do this.

"Dal Legal Aid is the cause of the problem"

The regulations were approved by our elected representatives and interpreted by the NS Supreme Court to require DCS to provide access to essential services - the attempt by government to discredit the spokespeople on this issue is a smokescreen and should not be allowed to deflect our attention from the real issue - DCS failure to implement the law, and their decision now to strip people of the rights they had on paper.

:::Form Letter::::

Dear Member of the Legislative Assembly,

I am writing to you to express my concern about the recent changes to the Employment Support Income Assistance regulations. These changes will particularly affect disabled Nova Scotians. This is a significant setback in their enjoyment of human rights. These changes strip people of their right to obtain accommodative special needs services which they could show were either ‘essential’ or necessary to ‘alleviate pain and suffering’.

It is unacceptable to take away basic human rights to “essentials” and services required to ‘alleviate pain and suffering’–especially from people with disabilities who are living in poverty!

Regardless of how many people have accessed these special needs, it is important that our government uphold the human rights and access to items and services that are necessary for them to live with dignity and good health.

I am asking this government to reverse this regressive cutback to essential health services for disabled Nova Scotians.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours truly,
One thought that has occurred to me after reading the Province's press release on this issue - the implication seems to be that perhaps the "special needs budget" may have been abused in some cases.

The statement that "Over the years, the department has received special needs requests for items and services like hot tubs, gym memberships, and humming touch therapy. These were never intended to be covered under special needs, but because the regulations were not clear, about 20-25 of these requests were approved either by a caseworker or through an appeal" sounds like, perhaps, an attempt to show the public that this government is acting responsibility and ending cases of funding being provided in perhaps less than legitimate circumstances.

To which I respond that IF funding has been provided in situations that are not completely on the 'up and up", the solution is to put safeguards in place to ensure that does not occur.

The solution is NOT to take services away from those who legitimately require this assistance and have the medical proof to back up their claims.

And, now, I must go get some work done. But I hope to perhaps pop back later with some more legally-developed thoughts on this situation.

In the meantime, let's get out there and NOT let this happen. You know what to do.

But before you do, make sure to check out the three videos from the press coverage. It will be well worth your time to help you solidify your thinking and the facts around this matter.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Be It Resolved ...

I found this interesting and thought you might, too.

Here are the terms of one of the resolutions adopted at the NSACL Annual General Meeting on  June 25, 2011.
UN Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities

Given that Nova Scotia was the first provincial/territorial government in Canada to approve the signing and ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and Given that the thousands of Nova Scotians who have a disability have yet to have their rights under the Convention become a reality; and Given that the Nova Scotia Minister of Justice has assumed responsibility for the Convention and his government has indicated that it fully supports its im-plementation; and Given that it is open to a government to enact domestic legislation to incorpo-rate and activate the terms of the Convention towards full ratification of the Convention; 

Therefore Be It Resolved:
That the Nova Scotia Association for Community Liv-ing take all reasonable steps that are necessary to develop legislation that will promote the full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities so far as its terms apply to provincial jurisdiction; and That the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living present the legislation modeled on the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act to the Minister of Justice for consideration by the House of Assembly for enactment within the next twelve months; and that the said legislation be entitled an Act to Promote the Full Implementa-tion of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for all Nova Scotians living with a Disability; and That the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living take all reasonable steps to work cooperatively with the Government of Canada through its local MPs to assist the provincial government to secure funds to enable the Province of Nova Scotia to meet its commit-ment under the new legislation and to achieve full implementation of the UN Convention for all Nova Scotians who have a disability.
Submitted by Dulcie McCallum
So. I wonder if NSACL might just be looking for any assistance with developing that legislation ...

Friday, August 19, 2011

AHEM

Appropos our recent conversation, having just returned from a (much too brief) five-night vacation, I found this little missive buried in my inbox.
There will be a press conference tomorrow against the changes to the Employment Support and Income Assistance regulations announced last week. We hope you will attend.

What: People with disabilities and advocates speak out against benefits cuts

Where: North End Community Health Centre, 2101-2103 Gottingen Street

When: Tuesday, August 16, 11:00am

:::Background:::

On Monday August 8, 2011, the Department of Community Services announced a change to the income assistance (Employment Support and Income Assistance) regulations.

The regulatory change was made without advance notice or public consultation.

The regulatory change will eliminate certain special needs assistance for people with disabilities living in poverty, for services and items that are "essential" to their health, or to "alleviate pain and suffering".

The new regulation also prohibits special needs assistance for shelter related costs and personal allowances, certain drugs, and medical treatments not covered by MSI like psychological counseling.

Special needs assistance will be limited to listed items of special needs and a provision that allows the Director to add to the list, through policy. People will no longer be able to qualify for other services or items essential to their health or to alleviate pain and suffering.

Our message is simple:

the effect of the Department of Community Services cutbacks is to target people with disabilities the cutback takes away access to essential health services the cutback takes away measures designed to alleviate pain and suffering it undermines human rights in that it takes away a provision that allowed for accommodation of differences, in favour of a cookie cutter approach In addition to the erosion of human rights, we are concerned about the lack of political and legal oversight and accountability that will result from the changes.

We are asking the Premier to review the matter and restore essential services to persons with disabilities.

We have asked to meet with the Minister of Community Services.

In the meantime, we are asking the Minister of Health for a response, given the gap that has been created in essential health services as a result of the DCS cutback.

--
Cole Webber
Community Legal Worker
---
Dalhousie Legal Aid Service
2209 Gottingen Street
Halifax, NS, B3K 3B5
p: 423-8105
f: 422-8067
The press conference may have already come and gone, but ... just remember:

IT IS NEVER TOO LATE FOR A PHONE CALL AND LETTER TO YOUR MLA
AND THE MINISTER.

In fact, if you find yourself strongly moved on this particular issue, you could always make an appointment to go in and speak with your MLA in person.

Hey, it's been known to work before...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Implementation

UPDATE: It's interesting to see that the government acted by regulation and not policy here. Because, as we know, policies per se do not have the force of law. meaning that each individual case must still be looked at on it's own merits. But by changing the regulations under the Act, we don't have that lever.  Think of it more like black letter law. Which is really unfortunate.

I can't say for sure, of course, but I have a sneaking this suspicion that this might just be the end result of this. Or not.  But they certainly do sound related to me.

And although on one hand the changes might make some financial and even common sense, on the other, doesn't this mean the bottom line is that the Department won't cover any medically-related items or services that aren't covered by MSI or listed on the Pharmacare Formulary?  Whether you live in residential care or not?

Even if they happen to be a medically-prescribed seizure medication or type of insulin?

Yup, sure sounds like it to me.  Happy Belated Canada Day!

I'm just asking saying ...

For those more technically-minded, you can find the change to the Regulations here.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

RDSP 3-year Review

I see our good friends at PLAN are conducting a 3-year review of the RDSP.

So if you've opened one (whether for yourself or someone else), please head over there and fill out their Survey.

It'll only you take you but a minute or two. Promise.

And I'm kind of thinking we most likely owe it to them, considering all the hard work they've done for us.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The End of the Road ... or A New Beginning

Regular readers might have noticed that I've been crushing a bit recently. Blog crushing, that is.  On Kilometres for Communication.

Their journey started in April of this year and Skye and Gail officially hit the road on May 20th, with Skye dipping his bike tire in the Pacific Ocean.

77 days later (yes, 77 days of cross country travel), he reached Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the most easterly point in Canada. Yep, that's 77 days of blog posts and trust me when I tell you they all are worth reading. 

But may I direct you to one in particular, Day 76, the second to last day of Skye's and Gail's journey. Skye's words on why he chose to do what he did, what (or more accurately, who) motivated this 18-year-old young man to give over two months of his life (and a good chunk of one of our much-valued Canadian summers) to this project are, might I suggest, profound.

Late last year, I posted a review of a book entitled Being The Other One: Growing Up With a Brother or Sister Who Has Special Needs.  The first part of the book focused on a wide range of issues that effect both siblings and parents when a child in a family has a disability. It then went on discuss ways in which adult siblings can gain understanding, learn to express feeling and gain support; strategies for parents to build stronger families and support younger siblings; and the necessary awareness and strategies that service providers and practitioners can use to help families.  I highly recommend it, it's a good book, written by somebody who has walked the walk.

But perhaps the one thing it could have focused more on (and in all fairness, I am relying on memory as I don't have the book in front of me at the moment) are the absolutely amazing, stunningly beautiful ways that having a sibling with special needs can affect a person.  I don't for one minute mean to downplay the hardship and emotional upheavals for the entire family (which is an issue Skye explores somewhat in his Day 76 post) and yet, let's never forget the positive effect that having a challenged sibling can have on a young person.

Let's face it, without my daughter's challenges, I wouldn't be doing the work I do today.  This blawg, quite simply, would not exist.  For the simple fact that I was naive enough to believe that the needs of people with various challenges were taken care of in Canadian society. Until I learned, the hard way, otherwise.

Without Kerr as a sibling, it is highly unlikely that Skye would have been motivated to make the journey he completed only yesterday.  And yet, as he so rightly recognizes amidst his mental and physical exhaustion and rightful pride over what he has accomplished, the journey he took on earlier this year is far from over.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, this journey is not over. I may be on the eastern coast of Newfoundland, but the journey towards empowering the voices of Canadians who have little or no speech is still back in the Prairies fighting headwinds. We want to expand our network further and create an inter-provincial coalition to advocate with strength. We want to develop our website further and keep it as a resource of stories and educational info on AAC. We want to continue teaching people.
But that we all could have the strength of character, conviction and endurance that Skye has demonstrated these last few months when it comes to taking on the issues that affects our family members.

If nothing else, when we're feeling down, tired and depressed and wondering if we can do much more or if any of it really makes a difference, let us turn our minds to Skye, Kerr, Gail and Burns - a lesson in courage, conviction and love.