Community Services, Municipal Assistance

COMMUNITY SERVICES--MUNICIPAL ASSISTANCE


  Community Services Minister Jim Smith said today that he was
  hopeful that the new Halifax Regional Municipality would
  accept the offer to takeover delivery of all municipal
  social assistance programs on April 1, 1996.
  
  "It's a good deal for the new municipality. At a time of
  federal budget cutting this plan fixes the municipal costs
  at predictable levels."
  
  The pilot program will offer greater efficiency through
  full-service offices.
  
  "Right now someone needing assistance in Dartmouth travels
  to Young Street in Halifax for provincial family benefits
  and to the West End Mall for employment and training
  services. In the new system the client will be able to
  access all services in one location often in their own
  neighbourhood," said the minister.
  
  Other changes include standardized food allowances, and a
  new emphasis on job training and work experience.
  
  "We have to look at people's abilities and potential as soon
  as they come into our system. We have to support and
  encourage people to find their place in the workforce," said
  the minister.
  
  The pilot program moves the province closer to its goal of
  single-tier delivery of social services. "The takeover
  affords us with a golden opportunity. After April 1, 1996 we
  begin to harmonize rates and simplify rules for clients. At
  the same time we will begin a dialogue about the future of
  social services across this province. Losses in federal
  funding make this a priority," said Dr. Smith.
  
  Dr. Smith wants both levels of government to work together
  to protect services for Nova Scotians. "Over the last year
  my department has worked closely with municipalities across
  Nova Scotia. If we continue that kind of cooperation we will
  protect taxpayers and services," he said.
  
  The province is also operating a pilot program in Cape
  Breton. Both programs will be reviewed to determine the best
  approach for a provincial single-tier system to deliver
  social assistance.
  
  Changes will be phased in. On April 1 most clients will see
  the same caseworker at the same location.
  
  -30-
  
  Contact: Margaret Murphy  902-424-4880
  
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  BACKGROUNDER
  
  Provincial Family Benefits is intended for disabled adults
  or single parents, -- people who require long-term
  assistance. Covers basics such as food, shelter and
  clothing. Fifty-six per cent of the caseload is disabled and
  44 per cent is single parents. This program is delivered by
  the province through local offices.
  
  Municipal General Assistance is intended for persons in need
  of shorter term assistance. It provides for food, clothing
  and shelter. Also items of special need can be provided
  including: emergency dental, optical, medical equipment,
  etc. This program is delivered by each municipality and
  varies in each municipality. The province and the
  municipalities also cost-share Home for Special Care,
  housing for people with disabilities, and in-home support.
  
  Many individuals in financial need, first access the
  municipal general assistance program. Many apply and must be
  assessed by the province for the family benefits program.
  Additionally a number of family benefits clients re-apply
  separately to municipal general assistance for special needs
  items. The whole process can involve as many as three
  applications and assessment processes. After April 1, 1996,
  in the areas where single-tier delivery is being piloted,
  this type of bureaucratic duplication will be eliminated.
  
  In metro there are 17,000 people served by the dual system
  of short-term municipal general assistance and provincial
  family benefits. In addition people are supported by Homes
  for Special Care, housing for people with disabilities and
  in-home supports. The total cost of social assistance and
  related programs in metro in 1995 was $197 million. The
  province contributed $91 million in family benefits and its
  related Pharmacare program. The province also contributed
  $83 million toward the cost of municipal short-term
  assistance. That leaves the municipality with a net cost in
  1995 of $23 million. Under the pilot program the province is
  offering to fix municipal costs at the 1995 level. Services
  include food, housing, transportation and clothing as well
  as dental, optical and medical needs. There are programs
  offering job training, housing for people with disabilities
  and Homes for Special Care.
  
  There are 32,500 people in Nova Scotia currently receiving
  family benefits. There are 20,000 people currently receiving
  municipal assistance. The province has already piloting the
  take over social services in the Cape Breton Regional
  Municipality. By initiating pilots in both metro and Queens
  the province will take responsibility for 65 per cent of the
  total municipal caseload.
  
  Most provinces moved to a single-tier system (provincial
  delivery) years ago during periods of healthier finances.
  Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia still have two-tier
  systems.
  
  trp                 Feb. 14, 1996 - 1:15 p.m.

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