Thursday, June 23, 2005

Canada's Killer-Care system... continued

Another stellar report on Canada's vaunted social service system... it creates homelessness, according to a Toronto Red Star report, via Canadian Press:
Changes to federal and Ontario government support programs for workers forced off the job because of illness or injury in the 1990s were directly to blame for forcing some people into living on the streets, says a study released today by homeless activists.
"It is absolutely true that the (federal) Liberal government caused homelessness by changing UI to EI for these people," said Sarah Shartal, chief legal adviser for Street Health, a nursing clinic that provides direct care to homeless people. "It is absolutely true that the provincial government has caused homelessness to these people by having disability programs that take nine months to make a decision."
(Emphasis mine)
Shartal said 1996 changes to Employment Insurance made it much harder for workers to get short-term disability payments, while changes to Ontario's long-term support plan in 1997 resulted in delays of up to nine months in processing applications.
"This is not people falling between the cracks," she said. "This is cavernous gaps in the social programs."
Social Services Minister Sandra Pupatello said she wants to review the changes made by the federal government because "there is absolutely a gap there."
While there's no average time for how long it takes for provincial disability applications to be processed, many take too long because of missing information, Pupatello said.
In light of this, the province has made applications simpler, and also improved how quickly they're processed and how soon appeals are heard, she said.
People who become sick but haven't yet been approved for disability can get welfare in the meantime, Pupatello said.
The 800-plus rules
(are you kidding me?) that apply to social assistance are also being reviewed to see which ones can be eliminated while continuing to ensure that only those who truly need help receive it, Pupatello said.
Street Health said its study of homeless people in Toronto found many had a place to live before a sudden illness or disability forced them off the job, and the unexpected loss of income meant they quickly had trouble paying the rent.
"We begin to see the slide to homelessness," Shartal said. "Homelessness for people who are partially disabled, who are sick and who are working, has now moved from something that might happen to something that is very hard to avoid."
Ninety per cent of homeless people surveyed by Street Health had 10 to 20 years of work experience before they became sick and eventually lost everything.
Street Health said the province has made it so difficult to even apply for Ontario's Disability Support Program that half the applications get rejected the first time.
"It is not reasonable that a private insurance company can take three weeks to make a long-term disability decision — and the provincial government takes nine months," Shartal said. "We should not be making poor people who are ill homeless and beggars."