Senate committee urges feds to reform programs to help people with disabilities
Senator Art Eggleton waits to speak during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday November 15, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, June 27, 2018 12:56PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 27, 2018 4:05PM EDT
OTTAWA -- A Senate committee tasked with studying the disability tax credit and a disabilities savings plan says the two programs need to be overhauled and is urging the government to do more to help the disabled.
Sen. Art Eggleton says less than 40 per cent of people living with disabilities can access the two programs, partly because of the strict eligibility criteria.
"Too many of the people these programs are intended to help are simply not getting help," said Eggleton.
The committee says the criteria are unfair because they focus on people with physical disabilities, leaving behind those with neurodevelopmental disorders or mental disabilities.
Sen. Judith Seidman said the deck is also stacked against people with episodic conditions like multiple sclerosis.
The tax credit is intended to help people living with disabilities by reducing their income tax.
The registered disability savings plan helps the disabled or their caregivers save for the future by putting money into a fund that grows tax free until the beneficiary makes a withdrawal.
The problem is that a lot of people can't access the credit or have had their application denied.
In the 2016-17 fiscal year, 45,157 tax credit applications were rejected, compared with 30,235 the previous year.
The report made 16 recommendations aimed at improving both programs, including a call to remove barriers to eligibility.
Eggleton said the report echoes a call from Diabetes Canada to simplify the application process. It also includes Autism Canada's suggestion that the Canadian Revenue Agency needs a "philosophical shift" in dealing with people who cannot advocate for themselves, including children.
"We're calling on the government to do more to ensure that people who are entitled to these benefits receive them."
Kimberley Hanson, director of federal affairs for Diabetes Canada, said the organization is pleased with the recommendation that eligibility criteria be reviewed so "problematic interpretations" are eliminated.
Sen. Chantal Petitclerc said the committee is also suggesting the government develop a guaranteed annual basic income for those with severe disabilities.
A spokesperson for Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said her office welcomes the Senate report and Lebouthillier will review the report and respond "in due time."
"Our government recognizes that living with a disability can have a significant impact on the daily life of individuals and their families," John Power said in a statement. "Our priority is to ensure that all Canadians, especially the most vulnerable, receive the credits and benefits to which they are entitled."
Power pointed out that Lebouthillier reinstated the disability advisory committee, which had been disbanded by the Conservative government.