REGINA - More money could be coming to the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability income support program in the provincial budget.
That was the indication from Minister of Social Services Gene Makowsky in the legislature Monday.
“As I mentioned in the House, there will be some announcements on some of our major programs within the Ministry of Social Services,” Makowsky told reporters. “So we’ll wait for Wednesday for that, but I understand where folks are coming from.”
The folks Makowsky was referring to were several Saskatchewan SAID recipients who were at the legislature Monday. They were there to bring a petition signed by hundreds across the province, calling on the government to increase SAID rates.
“This program has not seen an increase in seven years, so no increase through obviously a dramatic rise in the cost of living in the pandemic, and this most recent inflationary crisis,” said Opposition Social Services Critic Meara Conway, who spoke to reporters alongside SAID recipients.
Conway also pointed to cuts in the special diet allowance, transportation, and the disability benefit.
“We did do some math and this represents a 20 per cent decrease in amounts since 2012,” Conway said. This referred to the cost of living, and not other items such as the special diet allowance.
“Obviously we’re heartened to hear that the government is planning an increase in SAID rates with this budget, and will be watching closely to make sure it’s an increase that actually reflects reality, given the extent to which this program has been starved, in the last almost nearly a decade now.”
The SAID recipients on hand outlined their plight. They indicated they were struggling in their ability to keep up with the cost of living.
“They just see us as numbers on a page, they don’t see us as human beings,” said Sydney Chadwick, one of the SAID recipients attending the legislature. “And they don’t understand what it’s like to live with a lifelong disability, it’s not going away.”
Going forward, Conway said they wanted to see a transparent way for the SAID rate to be set.
“You know, us as MLAs, we have our salaries tied to the Consumer Price Index. We have a transparent and open mechanism to ensure that our salaries are reflected by the reality of the cost of living. Currently, we have no such thing for SAID rates. It’s not tied to anything, it’s just on the whim of the government. So we want to see some transparent commitments going forward so that folks don’t have to trek down to the legislature and beg and plead for their basic dignity.”
In speaking to reporters, Makowsky said there had been increases four times since the SAID program began in 2009.
He also noted there are actuals paid for under the program that directly pay for utilities, medical supplies, transports, and several others. He also said there is inflation protection built in to the program as well.
Makowsky added he was “not aware of any cuts made to the program,” that he is aware of, but did say to reporters that on a case-by-case basis there may be changes in circumstances and situations.