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7 June, 2024

Statement : Only a fraction of disabled living in poverty will receive Canada Disability Benefit

For Immediate Release

June 7, 2024

New federal government numbers reveal only a fraction of disabled living in poverty will receive Canada Disability Benefit Statement

(Toronto) – When the federal government initially announced plans for a Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), it was accompanied with much fanfare and countless promises to lift Canadians with disabilities out of the cycle of perpetual poverty. 

It gave the disability community a glimmer of hope — that hope has been taken away, first with the spring Budget, and now with a new revelation.

Yesterday, the government revealed in a written reply to questions posed by MP Mike Morrice that the CDB will only ever reach 25,000 Canadians – a fraction of the 1.5 million people with disabilities living in poverty in Canada. 

“We are profoundly disappointed,” says Rabia Khedr, National Director of Disability Without Poverty (DWP), a Canadian grassroots movement led by people with disabilities who have long advocated for a federal role in ending the cycle of poverty for disabled Canadians. 

“This response from the government is simply outrageous. For only 1.7 per cent of those living in poverty to be lifted over the poverty line, and not until 2028, is beyond unacceptable and has broken the intent and the spirit of the Canada Disability Benefit legislation,” says Michelle Hewitt, Chair of DWP. 

“This bombshell written statement reveals the government was never serious when the previous Minister originally promised in Parliament (June 2, 2022) that the CDB would reach “hundreds of thousands of working-age Canadians with disabilities.” 

Ninety-one per cent of Canadians polled recently by Angus Reid agree that people with disabilities should be lifted out of poverty with the CDB.  The federal government should listen to Canadians.

“The disability community worked together in good faith to inform the federal government of the best ways to move forward on such an historic federal benefit,” says Khedr.  “The CDB has much potential, but the benefit becomes almost meaningless if it doesn’t reach the very people it promises to support.”

While provincial and territorial governments provide some financial support to those living with disabilities, none of their disability assistance payments raises people above the poverty line.  

Forty-one per cent of low-income Canadians are disabled and 16.5 per cent of disabled people in Canada live in poverty.

People with disabilities – especially those with severe disabilities – are less likely to be employed than others and have lower incomes even when working full time

“For disabled people, poverty is often a bigger barrier to their participation in society than their disability,” says Khedr. 

A recently released ‘Shape the Benefit’ report by DWP, “Disability With Possibility: What We Learned from Disabled People Across Canada on Shaping the Canada Disability Benefit,” documents the urgent need felt across the country.  The report also reveals that over a third of low-income disabled people are also the carers of other disabled people.

“The federal government needs to go back to the drawing board and deliver what they repeatedly promised – a robust federal disability benefit that is accessible, reaches everyone in need and is significant enough to deliver disabled Canadians from relentless poverty.”

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