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 ------------------------------------------------------------ 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.