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Working together to improve lives

MLA Warren Michelson's column for the week of July 3, 2019
Moose Jaw North MLA Warren Michelson

Several community-based organizations in Moose Jaw held their Annual General Meeting in June and reported details on the caring work they do at their respective organizations. I was pleased to attend many of these meetings including the Military Family Resource Centre, Moose Jaw Family Services, Hunger Moose Jaw and the South-Central Early Childhood Intervention Program. Each organization reported on the tremendous work being done by dedicated staff to help fill the needs of our community and improve the lives of individuals and families.

These are among many organizations that quietly go about providing support in a variety of ways; including housing, learning and development, life enhancement, family and mental health supports. The boards of directors, managers, workers, support staff and volunteers of each organization dedicate their work to making life better for others. Their efforts and devotion to our community are greatly appreciated.

Our government depends on partnerships with community-based organizations to provide services and expertise needed in communities across our province. Contracts with these organizations are an integral part of the social supports available to the people of Saskatchewan.

The 2019-20 Budget made a $1.23 billion investment in Social Services, an increase of $55.5 million, or 4.7 per cent, compared to last year. The budget provided an increase of more than $27.7 million to support at-risk children and families. Community-based organizations and those who deliver services to children and families, and provide support for people with intellectual disabilities will receive an additional $5.9 million in 2019-20.

The budget also provides a $6.6 million increase in funding for adults with intellectual disabilities.

Since 2007-08, government funding for income assistance programs has increased by $275 million, or 89 per cent. We continue to look for better ways moving forward to improve delivery of social support services.

Earlier in June, the Government of Saskatchewan appointed members to the new Income Assistance Advisory Group to help Social Services improve income assistance programs and services to best meet the needs of vulnerable Saskatchewan people. Members include representatives from community-based organizations and individuals who have experienced living with a disability.

Most provincial income assistance programs had not been updated in our province for more than 50 years. However, beginning July 15, access to income support will be simpler, transparent, client-friendly and have new features that will help transition clients to greater independence and a better quality of life. Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) will replace the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and the Transitional Employment Allowance. The Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program, introduced in 2009, will remain in place and continue to run alongside the new program.

The new Saskatchewan Income Support Program will allow increased monthly earned income exemptions for clients to keep more of the money they make as they move into the workforce. Applying for assistance will be easier and quicker with the new online application process. A simpler benefit will allow staff to spend more meaningful time with clients, helping them address their challenges, instead of filling out paperwork.  

The new program will be a valuable asset in assisting people to move toward meaningful employment with personal support available to them. It is very rewarding to see the positive results of the people of our province working together with organizations and the government to improve lives.

Thank you to all community-based organizations for the great work you have done and continue to do, to support and strengthen individuals and families in Moose Jaw.