Casey House is pleased that Bill C-22 – Canada Disability Benefit Act has received Royal Assent and is now law. This new federal law establishes the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), to reduce poverty and support the financial security of working-age persons with disabilities – a population “more likely to live in poverty than working-age persons without disabilities, because of economic and social exclusion” and that requires targeted benefits.
Casey House serves clients with disabilities, particularly those with illnesses or conditions that are “episodic” – meaning, they vary in severity and duration and can include periods of wellness. Most clients are HIV+ and contend with multiple chronic conditions – many of which are exacerbated by the drug poisoning crisis, housing crisis, and rising cost of living. Our hospital is committed to understanding our clients’ health concerns in the broader context of their lives – including their income and financial situation, which is an area of high need.
Throughout the legislative process, Casey House appreciated the opportunity to comment on Bill C-22. As outlined in our most recent submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI), we highlighted the importance of ensuring that the CDB is designed and delivered to:
- Support people with episodic disabilities living in poverty: examples of episodic disabilities include chronic conditions and diseases such as HIV, mental illness, and substance use disorder. People with episodic disabilities face unique barriers to financial security and require supports that enable them to meet their basic needs.
- Reach people with disabilities living in poverty who face barriers to filing income tax returns: the CDB will be based on annual income tax returns, however for people living in deep poverty, such as those without housing, it can be difficult to file their taxes regularly. If barriers to tax filing are not addressed, we risk the CDB not reaching those who need it most.
- Ensure that people with disabilities living in poverty continue to have uninterrupted access to health benefits through provincial disability support programs: most Casey House clients receive income support from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), which also provides coverage for life-saving medications. Implementing the CDB will require coordination between different levels of government to ensure people have continued, uninterrupted access to provincial health benefits to meet their health care needs.
As the federal government now proceeds to developing the regulations to guide the design and delivery of this new benefit, Casey House looks forward to continuing to advocate for the CDB to effectively reach all working–age persons with disabilities living in poverty, and critically, for the CDB to be adequately funded to improve the financial security of people with disabilities living in poverty.
Casey House recognizes and acknowledges that systemic inequities deeply affect our clients, and believes it is our responsibility to advocate for compassionate and socially-just health care. Our advocacy seeks to address the structural barriers that prevent optimal health, and improve the well-being of all people living with or at risk of HIV. To learn more, visit Advocacy.