dvocates for the disabled are welcoming the province’s removal of funding caps on a home support program for children and adults with disabilities.
The change announced Wednesday by the Community Services Department will eliminate the current waiting list for the program.
Previously, people who qualified for enhanced family support in the province’s Disability Support Program (DSP) were placed on a waiting list because the funding for this program was capped. As of Wednesday, anyone who qualifies won’t have to wait to receive additional support.
“We’re really pleased with the decision for this service to be enhanced,” said Cynthia Carroll, executive director of the Nova Scotia Autism Society, in an interview Wednesday. “There has been a lot of families who have needed extra support through DSP and through this enhanced program and they have historically been waitlisted” because funding has been restricted to a certain number of families.
“So what that meant was historically families who needed that support but couldn’t access it would potentially be at risk for crisis.”
The program helps families hire support workers who have specialized training, education or experience to help care for people with a range of physical or intellectual disabilities.
Previously, families who met income eligibility received up to $2,200 per month for respite services, the department said in a news release Wednesday. Under the enhanced program, applicants approved as having greater needs may receive up to $1,600 in additional support, bringing the total to a maximum of $3,800 per month.
Without this extra support, some people with disabilities would have to be placed in a setting outside the home, Carroll said.
“Really, what it has done is it’s been able to keep children in homes longer, children with more complex needs so if that support wasn’t available, then many of the children that we’re aware of who are currently receiving the support would not actually be able to live in the family home. And so that’s a game-changer for families.”
The presence of home support staff also allows parents to spend more time with other members of the family and for household errands and activities, which creates a healthier home environment, she said. The enhanced family support program budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year is $1.25 million, a Community Services spokesman said in an email.
“With the addition of those on the waitlist, the funding will increase by up to $345,600,” Bruce Nunn said. “This amount only includes those who were on the waitlist. It does not include anyone who applies and qualifies for the enhanced funding after today.”
As of Tuesday, 18 people were waiting for enhanced support, including five children. This brings the total number of people receiving Enhanced Family Support to 60 adults and 14 children.
“We know there are children and adults with disabilities whose needs are more challenging, and we want to help them and their families,” said Community Services Minister Kelly Regan in the release. “We’re eliminating the waitlist for the Enhanced Family Support program, to provide families with additional support to care for their loved ones at home.”
Carroll said she’s been encouraged by moves in recent months by the province to increase support for the disabled.
“We’ll always be able to say there’s more that can be done. I think there’s a lot of work that we need to be doing collaboratively and we need to keep this conversation open and continue to enhance support and services for families with autism in the province. . . . This announcement today is a great step forward.”